Arguing the Convention of States

| December 13 2013
Mike Kapic

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?

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“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” Ronald Reagan
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7 comments
dleeper47
dleeper47 moderator

Watchdog:  "If state legislators REALLY wanted to transfer power back to the states, ...  they would merely work to repeal the 17th Amendment."


So, assuming our state legislators had the political will to "work to repeal", how would they do it? Would they try to convince Congress to propose an amendment to repeal the 17th Amendment? Or would they use a state-driven Article V process?


Are you opposed to using a state-driven Article V process altogether? 

PatriotWatchdog
PatriotWatchdog

How exactly are you going to "transfer power back to the states" with an amendment to the Constitution that the states never ceded, and that the 10th Amendment already asserts that they retained?


The Constitution is not the problem. How is amending it the solution? Do spare me your condescending remarks that I don't know the Constitution, or the history, as you arrogantly presume to do throughout your article.


Half-truths are rampant throughout the "Convention of States" talking points, including yours.


If state legislators REALLY wanted to "transfer power back to the states," they wouldn't be salivating over 50+ issue-oriented amendments, they would merely work to repeal the 17th Amendment and restore the original checks and balances afforded the states by virtue of the legislatures controlling the U.S. Senate.


The problem with that is they don't want the responsibility or the accountability of appointing U.S. Senators, and they don't want to be held accountable for authorizing exceeding the enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8.


Under the original Constitution, when the States (via their representation in the U.S. Senate) and the People (via their directly elected Representatives in the U.S. House) were in agreement on an action to be taken by the federal government, they were able to adopt legislation for the President's consideration.


The Article V "Convention for proposing Amendments" crowd want to tinker with the Constitution in ways that are short-sighted and mostly appeal to specific issues, when, if your desire was to chop at the root of the problem, you would be working towards restoring state sovereignty and state representation in the general government. Repealing the 17th Amendment would do that.


This is all hypothetical because the powers that be in state government don't want to be responsible for say, "repealing Obamacare," or passing a balanced budget. Currently, most state legislators would rather through their hands in the air proclaiming "It's not my job." when approached about violations of the Constitution by federal actors.


Be careful what you wish for. Progressive Communists on the left and Secular Fascists on the right are both "pushing buttons" on legislators and the People to garner our trust and support for their gathering to propose amendments to a Constitution they rarely support, let alone defend.


I say again: The Constitution is not the problem, so why is amending it the solution?


If you're a state legislator, demonstrate first that you are willing to uphold the Constitution as written, you know... the one you took an oath to that most likely ended with "...so help me God?"


Demonstrate that you have the faith and courage to uphold the Constitution, and then uphold it. As I mentioned above, I am totally opposed to an Article V "Convention for proposing Amendments" until we actually apply the one we already have. Until then, there is no way in Hell I would trust an such convention to tinker on the Constitution, which includes the Bill of Rights.


Will this newly-amended Constitution give state legislators the courage to uphold it? They don't have it now as evidenced by the fact they refuse to support it.


Call it a constitutional convention, con-con, convention of states, or whatever you want to call it, if we are talking about an Article V "Convention for proposing Amendments," it will not be populated by statesmen, it will be populated by partisan DEM and GOP hacks and special-interest-controlled operatives: A Convention of SNAKES by any other name.


http://patriotcoalition.com/docs/Convention-of-Snakes.pdf

dleeper47
dleeper47 moderator

Great post, Mike. I know some misplaced fears still linger about Article V, but I'm baffled why some powerful state legislators are still opposed to pursuing the state-driven amendment process. 

State legislators have both the authority and the responsibility to use what the framers gave them to rein in a runaway federal government. 


As citizens, we need to hold them to account on this matter and get them moving.  They may feel that confronting the federal govt is something they "didn't bargain for" when they ran for state office, but these are times when they have to either step up or step aside.

JackDurish
JackDurish

I harbor many of the fears expressed in this article, however, I recognize that it appears that only an aggressive intervention by the states is going to turn back the tide of progressivism that has been demoralizing the people and diminishing the full force and effect of the Constitution. Hopefully, the growing public awareness of the failures of progressivism may yet make a Constitutional Convention unnecessary before it can get off the ground. If not, then we will have to take our chances, won't we?

PatriotWatchdog
PatriotWatchdog

@dleeper47I am opposed at this point because they aren't trustworthy. There is NO evidence that the state legislatures can be trusted to protect our God-given Unalienable Rights at an Article V "Convention for proposing Amendments" or in the ratification process assuming Congress didn't recommend ratification "Conventions."


Approaching Congress to initiate an amendment to repeal the 17th will never happen. That option is off the table except in fantasy land.


A state-driven method via Article V is the only way it could happen. My point is that if the proponents of an Article V Convention were serious about restoring state sovereignty, that rather than focus on a plethora of "issue-based" amendments, they would focus on seizing the power they gave up nearly 100 years ago: control of the U.S. Senate.


They could address all these other issues once they regained control of the Senate. There is NOTHING partisan about repealing the 17th.


Having said that, they don't want the responsibility, and certainly don't want the accountability. So they are either extremely short-sighted, or they have other reasons for wanting to trigger an Article V "Convention for proposing Amendments."


All this "convention of states" rhetoric, as if it is something other than an Article V "Convention for proposing Amendments" is marketing/branding to steer folks away from the constitutional convention / con-con warnings out there.


Even that is a red herring in the sense that no matter what you call it, no matter who controls it, no matter what amendments they propose, the Constitution is NOT the problem. We the People are the problem.


We need to "amend" ourselves such that we adopt a zero-tolerance policy for oath breakers.


As North Carolina Governor Zebulon Baird Vance said in the 1876 gubernatorial campaign:


"When you find you have scoundrels and scalawags in office, you need to vote them out, and you need to keep voting them out until you send honest men to Washington."


That same advice applies to state and local government.


Trust is something that is earned. My state legislature in North Carolina has a veto-proof super-majority of Republicans, and a Republican Governor, Lt. Governor, and Republican-controlled state supreme court.


Over the past two sessions they have consistently blocked NDAA resolutions, and the Restoring Constitutional Governance Act legislation prohibiting "indefinite detention" and the application of the international "laws of war" in my state.


If you're not familiar with the 2012 NDAA, visit http://theintolerableacts.org and http://pandaunite.org to learn how this one law violates over 14 provisions of the Constitution including over half the Bill of Rights.


If these wannabe powdered-wig-wearing state legislators gave a damn about their oath, or about protecting the rights of the people, they would have at least held hearings and/or allowed a vote. They did not.


This scenario is echoed across the country where state legislature after state legislature has refused or made excuses why they wouldn't support or uphold the Constitution within their sovereign authority. Some, like Virginia, California, Alaska, and Michigan passed warm-fuzzy legislation that did not to protect the rights of the people, gave the legislators a pass to not uphold the Constitution, and gave the people a false sense of security.


And you want me to trust these folks to tinker on the U.S. Constitution? 


If your spouse was cheating on you, would the solution be to amend your marriage vows? Probably not.


As our general counsel Richard Fry says, they are proposing taking down a stop sign because people keep ignoring it and putting up another stop sign.

There is no "microwave" solution to the mess we are in, and it sure as heck isn't a "convention of snakes."



WesternFreePress
WesternFreePress moderator

@dleeper47 

This subject needs to get added to the list of questions that candidates are asked, and elected officials are bombarded with.

WesternFreePress
WesternFreePress moderator

@JackDurishI know that the people who have had (and spread) fears about a con-con are lovers of liberty, but I think these fears may be somewhat overwrought, actually. The risks are very low. Even if Congress were to initiate an amendments process, the states would still have to ratify whatever they came up with. Nothing radical (such as abolishing the 2nd amendment) is going to get by the red states of this country, and it would be suicide for state legislators even in most of the blue states. The bar is set really high.


And for a method 2 (states-initiated) amendments process, there is virtually no risk. The states are in control. They are addressing specific proposed amendments, not having a let's-amend-the-constitution free-for-all party.


At this point, the risk of doing nothing far outweighs the risks of doing something. The Constitution--the only legal defense we have of our natural rights---is dangling by a thread. We must act!


Or, to quote Henry:


"It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"