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Arguing the Convention of States

Posted: December 13, 2013 at 8:45 am   /   by

There has been a ration of arguments against the Convention of States from both nervous conservatives and liberals. Here are some examples: Why do we need a Constitutional Convention? Just enforce the laws we already have. Congress will rule any Convention. The Convention will run away and someone will try to highjack the Second Amendment or other ones. Or the Governors will interfere. Or conservatives haven’t won anything since ’04 and now they’re anxious. Conservatives should just control the Precincts and educate the voter and all will be well again.

First, I think the majority of Americans of all parties are frustrated with the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in today. But we’ve continued this madness of voting the rascals in, year after year. Ask yourself, why do they turn into rascals? They sounded so honest and straight forward on the campaign trail. In my opinion, it’s because DC has transformed from the ‘light on the hill’, to the hot kettle of smoldering mush where the game is played by its own select rules. We have all seen good representatives go into government service in DC and, after a short period, become part of the problem. The culture has to change in order to reform the politics. Every elected knight riding in on a white horse has succumbed to the temptations.

History shows that we’ve been leaning left since Woodrow Wilson’s progressive movement began just prior to WW I. Presidents Coolidge, Ike, and Reagan pulled us back toward the center, while Hoover, FDR, LBJ, Bush 2, and finally Obama have pushed us through the door into the left sphere.

Educating America before the ’14 elections is important and I believe we’ll see some successes. What we should do to guarantee that success is to unite and promote the conversion process together. Just like the liberals did successfully in ’08 & ’12. We can try to educate those on the fence by talking to family and neighbors about legislators who support our goals and values. But there has to be more because DC is broken. Doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a different outcome is the definition of insanity. At this point in time, we need to do something larger. Something that will knock the socks off the liberals.

The arguments noted above against the Convention of States Project are incorrect in many ways.

First, the Project is not promoting a Con Con or Constitutional Convention. It’s a Convention of States with quite a different agenda and with a long history. There’s only been one Constitutional Convention and that occurred in 1787. There have been over 400 convention of states called since 1788 however. The most successful one was in 1861, during the Civil War. Even though it wasn’t completed, it worked the way it was supposed to.

The roots of the convention of states go back to 1680’s England and the Glorious Revolution. In Colonial America, calling for a convention of colonies occurred quite frequently and was the way the Colonists governed themselves. Over the years, many states have applied for a convention of states, but none reached the 2/3 states required. All called for a single topic and not a subject. So the process is not new and has established precedents.

The arguments suggest Congress will do this or do that, in essence taking control of the Convention of States. Congress’s only role in the process of amending the Constitution is through Article V and must have 2/3 of both Houses, or upon application of 2/3 of the state legislatures, identify the place and time for a convention to amend. Congress did not call the Constitutional Convention in 1786; Virginia did, followed by New Jersey. The Framers gave the power of governance to the state legislatures because they were closer to the people than a central government.

The purpose of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 was to update the Articles of Confederations and create a federal system, transferring some of the power from the states to a new Republic. Those powers have grown beyond the control of the people. The purpose of the Convention of States today is to transfer some of those powers back to the states through the amendment process of Article V.

Those who don’t understand the history or facts fear the Constitution can be changed by an out of control group. The meeting this last weekend in Mt. Vernon was held for the express purpose of defining the rules of the convention. It was held in secret to discuss the administration of the convention. Exactly the same way the Constitution evolved from the Articles of Confederation in the summer and early fall of 1787, over a 45 or 50 day period. It was held in absolute secrecy, so they could get the thing done and then send it out for approval.

In addition, recent states legislatures have already begun the process of writing laws to control their commissioners. These contain, among other things, jail terms for disobeying them. Only the state legislatures play a role in the process. Governors, Attorneys General, or any other state officials are irrelevant. Delegates or Commissioners, historically, have been chosen by each of the states and each state gets one vote, regardless of number of Commissioners sent to the convention.

Those arguing against the Project don’t understand that the Convention of States only purpose is to propose amendments. Any amendment does not become part of the Constitution until after the thirty-eighth state ratifies it. In other words, it only takes 13 states to say NO.

The idea that any Amendment, much less the Second, is up for grabs as charged is totally untrue. Remember, this is not a Constitutional Convention. It is a Convention of States with the express purpose of proposing amendments under the single subject of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

Some further claim that this Project was born out of conservative frustration for not having won an election since 2004. That the US Congress doesn’t have a conservative majority. Have these folks been locked away in a closet since ‘04? Wasn’t the Tea Party formed in 2010, becoming influential across the country and Congress? Where did the 30 Republican state governors and legislatures come from? Pew estimates that only 20% of the voting public is liberal. You do the math.

One fair argument that comes up when speaking about the Project is, why expand the Constitution? Why not just enforce it the way it is now? I remember hearing design critiques years ago in the engineering department and the response from my wise old boss was, “where were you when the paper was blank?” That’s the easy answer, but it’s true. 1787 was a different time and language and culture. The Framers work has carried us over the last 225 years, but maybe it’s time for a tune up with language that fits our time and culture. Language that, for example, corrects the commerce or welfare clauses to reflect what the Framers had intended. Not what a hundred years of activist lawyers and judges have interpreted it as meaning or attempted to reshape and fit it to their agenda. The Framers assumed that Congress, made up mostly of farmers, would return home after a period—not make long careers out of Congress.

We have four major problems in America today: An untenable debt crisis, a regulatory crisis—the states have become agencies of the federal government, Congressional attacks on State Sovereignty, and a Federal takeover of decision making.

These arguments against the Convention of States lack much of the facts. The folks have also not offered us an alternative to the problems and culture plaguing Washington DC. The way I see it, if you’re happy with what’s going on in DC, then sit back and watch your liberties continue to erode. If on the other hand, if you’re damn mad at what’s going on, then get off your butts and do something. If not now, then when? After we become a state of the European Union? Too late. What have we got to lose?

“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” Ronald Reagan