A Republican legislator is holding a series of public meetings to publicize his effort to convene a "People's Convention to Reform New York" that would rewrite the state constitution. Brian Kolb hopes that public support will encourage legislation authorizing the election of delegates to such a convention, from which he hopes to exclude current elected politicians, "party bosses," lobbyists and "special interests." A report in today's Times Union suggests that this is a Republican initiative, but Kolb himself claims that it's a bipartisan measure and that the convention itself should be non-partisan in nature.
Kolb's good faith can be questioned. In planning a representative convention of New Yorkers, who has the right to define anyone else as a "special interest?" Those two words alone arguably betray a populist-reactionary bias to the plan, but that shouldn't lead people to dismiss the idea of a convention outright. Such a gathering may be the only way to get around the party-system that guarantees if not seeks out deadlocked politics and prevents real progress. If the movement for the PCRNY gathers momentum, vigilance will be our responsibility. Our job will be to make sure that the PCRNY won't be a populist-reactionary or Tea-Party "coup" designed to cripple government, and to make sure that progressive or outright leftist voices aren't excluded from the process. If 64% of New Yorkers like the idea of a convention, according to a Quinnipiac poll, then no one should reject the idea out of hand. Rather, we should make sure that the authorization (to the extent that that's really necessary) and organization of a convention are taken out of partisan or ideologically factional hands. Ideology is as much a "special interest" as anything else, and any effort to use a "people's convention" to push through an ideological agenda that can't otherwise prevail should be resisted with all our power.