This November, Michiganians will be asked to vote yes or no on proposal 1, which will institute a constitutional convention if passed. This proposal is mandatory, since the current Michigan constitution requires voters to vote on whether or not to hold a constitutional convention once every 16 years. Backers and opponents are lining up on either side of this proposal, and I’d like to take a look at the arguments and the merit (or lack thereof) behind them.
I’ll start off with the supporters of the proposal. The supporters I have spoken with claim that Michigan’s current constitution is out of date, as it was drafted at a time (1963) when the state’s economy was heavily manufacturing-based. They feel that the state is so different economically that a new constitution is needed to bring Michigan into the 21st century.
The opposition claims that the problem lies not with the constitution but instead with the politicians who are continually acting irresponsibly. Those I talked with claim that until you get better people in government, no constitution in the world is ever going to make things better. They believe that our energies are better spent getting the right people in office.
Now let me take a look at these arguments and see how much sense they make. On the side of the supporters, it seems to make sense to change something. After all, Michigan is suffering economically in part due to our dependence on manufacturing, particularly automobile manufacturing. If a new constitution can somehow bring in more varied types of jobs, I think most voters would welcome it. However, I don’t believe a new constitution is some sort of magic wand that we can wave that will make Michigan’s economic woes disappear.
On the opposition side, I agree with the assertion that no matter what rules are in place, if you get crooked people in office, they will find a way to break them. In my opinion, however, this has more to due with the failure of a two-party system of government. How can you get good people into office if all you have to vote for are two people that have had to make a ton of shady deals to get their party’s nominations?
So it seems to me that both the opposition and the supporters of proposal 1 have some wisdom in their arguments. I have to ask this question, though: Why can’t both concerns be addressed? A new constitution and less corrupt politicians are not mutually exclusive. They should be able to coexist peacefully. I would suggest to Michigan voters to vote yes on proposal 1 AND get involved in getting more decent candidates on the ballots. Whether or not proposal 1 is passed this fall, however, let’s all hope that Michigan gets some politicians elected that care enough about its citizens to make the tough choices that will get our state moving again.