Embracing the“last resort” option of a national campaign to amend the Constitution is really an admission by “We the People Project” that federal litigation and even legislation approved by Congress can not confer the same rights in territories that citizens have in the States.
Full citizenship rights come with statehood.
Indeed, the only remedy the courts can provide to enhance the constitutional status of the territories is to overturn the 1922 Balzac v. Puerto Rico ruling that the unincorporated territory status doctrine applies even after Congress grants U.S. citizenship. That would restore the historic principles of the Northwest Ordinance and federal court ruling prior to 1922 consistently holding that granting statutory U.S. citizenship incorporated territories into the Union under the Constitution, which then would apply fully upon admission to statehood.
Accordingly, the only legislation Congress can enact to vindicate the promise of equal U.S. citizenship rights in a territory is a statehood admissions act! That is why “We the People Project” litigation seeking judicial rulings are unlikely if not unable to resolve the political questions arising when U.S. citizens remain in a constitutionally temporary and less than equal political status for far longer than intended or expected by the authors of our Constitution.
Congress and the federal courts have failed to resolve the legacy of decades in which denial of full democracy has persisted for territories at the national level. “We the People Project” leader Neil Weare’s retreat from litigation that raised high expectations to the grandiose notion of an amendment under Article V of the U.S. Constitution merely invites the territories to recycle the same old discarded draft constitutional amendments proposed in decades past.
Would an amendment to the Constitution be better than statehood?
Thus, Weare’s endeavors under the “We the People Project” banner have not provided any new answers to one transcendental question: If historically and constitutionally temporary territorial status could be converted into a permanent status, are we altering the more perfect union by our Constitution to form a less perfect union with our last few remaining territories?
Does it serve the national interest or even local interests to create a permanent less perfect union, all because territorial residents want to remain under temporary local civilian government regimes instituted by federal territorial law? Is permanent client regime status better than making a choice between consenting to the status quo, nationhood, statehood or incorporation into an existing State (If a State also consents)?
Should we make a permanent change in the nature of our national government to accommodate American island communities that do not like what they have or what is available under the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Do we really want to form a permanent less perfect union between the federation of States and a confederation sub-state client regimes?
Today, only American Samoa seems to like what it has enough to want no change without local consent. Puerto Rico is the only territory that meets historic criteria for statehood, and is more incorporated into the nation than the 32 territories that became States were at the time of admission.
Even Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy repeats the history of economic underdevelopment that made statehood inevitable for several former territories.
Do we really want to amend the Constitution to spare three small territories from making any hard choices between consenting to the status quo, nationhood (including free association) or seeking statehood (including integration of small territories with an existing State)?
And if territories can acquire the most vital and empowering rights of national citizenship without the duties and burdens of statehood, why should the States remain on an equal footing and operate within the disciplines or bear the burdens of federalism?
What about D.C.?
Of course, by calling for a constitutional amendment for citizens living in the U.S. but not in a State, “We the People Project” now can increase fundraising in the District of Columbia too. We saw how much a constitutional amendment giving Electoral College votes to D.C. did to make the union more perfect for residents of the capital city, right?
Of course, what the D.C. presidential vote amendment really proved is that the more perfect union under the Constitution is a package deal which works because the rights of national citizenship are exercised through State citizenship. Only the States are on an equal footing in the union.
Either you have equality of rights and duties, autonomy and accountability, or you don’t. That – not less than perfect union – is what “We the People” need to defend and preserve.
“We the People Project” exuberance in support of democratization in the territories is admirable. But we need to remember that the Articles of Confederation failed to give the Continental Congress tools adequate to secure government by consent and equal liberty for all as envisioned by the Declaration of Independence.
That is why leaders of our new nation forged a “more prefect union” under the U.S. Constitution. Equal rights of national citizenship through the power of consent by citizens of the States is what made the federal union of States more perfect.
Early on many believed States should be able to nullify federal law, and tried to convert it into a confederation that had to be defeated in a Civil War. Now we have “We the People Project” espousing territorial demands for equal powers and rights of States without statehood.
Instead of a more perfect union of States, Weare’s front organization “We the People Project” is soliciting donor funding for what essentially would amount to a confederation of States and territories. This radical solution to territorial disenfranchisement would make a union other than statehood permanent under the Constitution.
That in turn raises the question of whether the union based on rights reserved exclusively citizens of the States is still more perfect than confederacy or other models of government. We may as well ask how important the equal footing doctrine and equal rights and duties of both national and State citizenship are in the brave new world order of Neil Weare.
Perhaps the “We the People Project” should issue a manifesto proclaiming “We the People of the American nation, in order to form a less perfect union, to ordain to establish a confederacy of vestigial States and subordinate client regimes in the territories, with government by majority rule and consent of all voters possessing national citizenship.”
In other words, is government by consent expressed through the exercise of State citizenship and representation in Congress and the Electoral College really obsolete?
Forget apportionment of voting power and representation among states. Forget the Electoral College. Let’s elect representatives who make laws and govern by national majority vote, who needs States anyway?
Let the biggest concentrations of voters in a few mega cities give consent for all the governed nationwide, making the vote in the small States not to mention the territories irrelevant. What a great idea, where do we send our donations?