Gretchen Lechowich cheer with hundreds of other people gathered in opposition of the Marriage Amendment at the University of Minnesota Campus on Monday, October 29, 2012, in Minneapolis, Minn.

Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

Beware of changes to the state Constitution

  • Article by: DAVID LEBEDOFF
  • November 2, 2012 - 12:20 PM

There are three things that no rational person should ever do:

1) Choose to sit in the middle seat of an airplane.

2) Buy a watch on the street for a dollar.

3) Vote "yes" on a constitutional amendment.

I am talking about (almost) ANY constitutional amendment, though the two on Minnesota's ballot this election are particularly deserving of a "no" vote. Many articles have been written pointing out their serious failings, both in merit and motive.

These are bad constitutional amendments. But the point of this article is that people should hesitate to support even good constitutional amendments, assuming we ever see one. Because a "good" constitutional amendment is like a benevolent dictator. The public loses the right to decide its own future. Constitutional amendments take decisions out of the hands of the voters. Of course, you can always amend the amendment -- but as we can see from this year's race, that's a long, hard and very expensive process.

We fought a revolution to achieve consent of the governed. So let the people govern. At the ballot box. At elections. You count the votes, and the majority wins. People who want to carve in granite something that is already against the law are simply afraid that the majority might someday change its mind. But the right to change one's mind over time is also known as democracy.

Yes, there should be some constitutional amendments. We have some in the federal Constitution that are worth dying for. The First Amendment comes to mind, and the 14th (though the 14th Amendment did come about through a kind of election, the Civil War, in which 600,000 Americans voted with their lives).

When it comes to essential constitutional amendments, though, the oldies are the goodies. We haven't done as well in modern times. Prohibition did not exactly achieve its purpose, and if not for the two-term presidential limit, Bill Clinton would probably still be president.

The great amendments to our national Constitution were meant to strengthen the freedoms and expand the franchise of the people. Today's legislators (who in public approval polls are running neck-and-neck with Bernie Madoff) propose amendments to restrict the public's freedom to choose and its right to vote.

You don't need to flip a coin on Nov. 6. A "no" vote on both constitutional amendments is a vote to preserve our constitutional freedoms.


David Lebedoff is a Minneapolis attorney and author.

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