Against the Convention of States
Many folks calling for a Convention of States (COS) to solve our country’s current political problems are making a fatal assumption about the purpose of COS. They see this as a powerful mechanism for undoing political corruption at the federal level. Unfortunately, a COS is not the tool to handle this particular problem and, under current conditions, could easily lead to a very different US Constitution that actually supports rather than prohibits common government activities.
First, what we want changed is typically not clearly defined. Are COS supporters hoping for term limits (congressional and judicial), the abolition of federal agencies, changing the interstate commerce clause, or altering the 2nd Amendment? Let’s assume these are just some examples they would cite. I won’t go into them here, but each of these and many other issues were thoroughly considered and documented by the Founders who had very clear explanations for why they chose to write the Constitution the way they did.
Second, the several states have not surrendered these powers to the federal government. This is a very important point. Rather, by force of interpretation and the general lack of constitutional knowledge in our country, the federal government has usurped these powers a little at a time—clearly in violation of the constitutional limits placed on that government.
Let me repeat “…clearly in violation of the constitutional limits placed on that government.”
Of course, there were those who raised the red flag at the time and likely every time this happened. The threat was understood in great depth and detail.
“The character of the danger is, if possible, even less understood here [the United States] than it was in Germany. The supreme tragedy is still not seen that in Germany it was largely people of good will who, by their socialist policies, prepared the way for the forces which stand for everything they detest.”
—Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road To Serfdom, 1945
Nonetheless, by force of persuasion, ignorance, criminal intent, or apathy, the often-left-leaning and self-serving bureaucrats, business leaders, and politicians carried the day.
What exactly do proponents think will result from a COS?
Image: Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States by Howard Chandler Christy. Public domain.
A runaway convention is completely possible. There is no rule stated in Article V of the Constitution limiting the scope of a COS. The fact that 3/4 of the several states have not agreed on a purpose for COS is not the point. In fact, there is evidence indicating the Founders fully expected any COS to operate exactly as the original constitutional convention. They clearly placed all the power in the people and those people who are empowered to participate in a COS have no limitations, other than the later ratification of proposed amendments by 3/4 of the several states.
In other words, anything is possible, except probably, a limited issue Convention of the States.
During the 1787 Convention James Madison remarked “The people were in fact, the fountain of all power, and by resorting to them, all difficulties were got over. They could alter constitutions as they pleased.”
Also, keep in mind that the Founders had to sell the outcome of the convention to the public at large to get the Constitution ratified. The same is required for a modern COS.
Today, our nation is evenly split politically speaking, so absolutely anything could result. Since both political sides participate in the COS, the Progressives could actually carry the day with the support of the far left, the mainstream media, and big tech money. Just imagine the likes of Alexandria Ocasio Cortes, Elizabeth Warren, or Mitt Romney participating in a COS.
We have laws and a US Constitution that is concise and clearly understandable if one takes the time to learn it. We are talking about an incredibly well-thought-out document that combines multiple sovereign states into one republic while limiting government and maximizing liberty. Today, these laws and the original intent of these constitutional principles are simply not enforced or observed.
What makes anyone think new Amendments would really do any better unless they favored the left?
An Article V Convention of States is not the tool to fix the ignorance and corruption that ail this country. An attempt at any sort of quick change is the opportunity for things to go very wrong. The only other quick answer is a risky and very costly civil war that would most likely leave us worse off than we ever imagined. Instead, we must take the harder and slower road to get our country and our fellow citizens back on the constitutional foundation.
- We must address the lack of Judeo-Christian morals and education, a lack the Founders knew was the only way their new country could fall from within.
- We must ensure that we teach our citizens what the US Constitution actually says, why it says that, and how it works.
- We must vote against and actively oppose political ideas that do not fit within the scope of our Constitution.
- We must hold politicians, government functionaries, and their suitors accountable for misdeeds.
- We must take the golden eggs out of serving in Congress—no more millionaires clubs.
- We must remove power from the federal agencies that regularly overstep their authority for lack of oversight and statutory limitations.
- We must work to return power to the states and, ultimately, to the people.
If we do not do all this, it won’t matter what a COS produces. No one will abide by whatever they don’t agree with, and they will simply find precedents and interpretations that ignore the spirit of the amendments to suit their needs.