Part 2: Fixing The Problem
Essay 29 – Convention of States
Throughout this essay series, I have described the basic principles of the founding of our Republic and the Constitution and the basic structures and roles of our government. I’ve also attempted to point out the areas where we have deviated from those principles, structures, and roles. In Part 2 of the series, I have focused on discussing what we have to look at as far as fixing those deviations. That all leads us to the mechanism that will ultimately need to be used to make all of this happen…the convention of states.
As described in the previous essay on Article V, the Constitution provides two ways for amendments to the Constitution to be proposed. The first route goes through Congress (two thirds of both the House and the Senate need to approve the proposal before it goes to the States for ratification, required three fourths of the States to approve). The second route begins with the people in the States and bypasses Congress altogether. Two thirds of the State legislatures need to be on board to trigger a call for a convention of states to be held for the purpose of proposing amendments.
Make no mistake about it, amending the Constitution is difficult.
The Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788.
As an aside, that’s kind of amazing, considering that the Constitutional Convention was just held from May 25 to September 17, 1787. So in just a little over a year, the concept of the new Constitution was proposed and ratified. Can you imagine something of that magnitude (or even something of no magnitude) getting through our system today?
Anyway, during the 230 years since then, it’s estimated that some 11,700 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed in Congress. Of those, only 33 have been approved by two thirds of the House and Senate and sent to the States for ratification. Of those 33, only 27 have been ratified and have officially been added to the Constitution.
These amendments were all accomplished through the first method of proposal listed in Article V. That is, they all originated in Congress.
There has never been a successful attempt to call a convention of states through the second method of proposing amendments.
So why are we talking about it now?
Because there are renewed efforts to use the convention of states method. Many people believe that we most definitely need to amend the Constitution in certain ways and the only way it will happen is the convention of states method rather than the process through Congress, precisely because it’s Congress and the rest of the federal government that needs to be fixed. Therefore, it’s up to the States to use the Constitutional method created for them, for exactly this scenario, to get it done.
And I am one of those people who believe that. We are at a point to where our federal government has grown so out of control and so out of balance, that we the people (the sovereign) need to step up and fix it.
This idea has been gaining steam over the past decade due to the Convention of States (COS) project by the organization Citizens for Self Government. It was further popularized through a book by Mark Levin, “The Liberty Amendments”. Levin’s book describes the entire process and recommends a number of amendments that he would suggest.
In full disclosure, I became a District Captain for the COS project a few years ago, and technically, I am probably still listed as such, even though I have not been active in it for the past 2 years.
Why did I join in on this effort?
After many years of being deeply involved in politics in a variety of ways, I became very disenchanted, beginning in Bush 43’s second term. I simply did not see any positive progress being made in fixing what ails the Republic. On the contrary, I just saw things getting worse and worse, no matter who was in charge.
I started learning and recognizing what the true problems were, as describe throughout this essay series. I heard a lot of pundits complaining and ranting about things, but never heard anyone providing any real solutions.
And then I heard Mark Levin talking about “The Liberty Amendments” and I thought, “Finally! Here is something tangible that can be done! Here is something I can get involved in and truly work to make a difference!”
I then did further research and found that the COS project was already up and running, so I immediately joined them and became a District Captain.
This was all prior to Election 2016. I was excited. This thing was catching on, and it looked like we might have a good crop of candidates for 2016 that could help it along.
The whole purpose of the COS project is to propose amendments that would limit the size, power, and scope of the federal government. Amendments being talked about were such things as repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments, term limits, balance budgets, judiciary reforms, regulatory reforms, reduction of the administrative state….all of the things that I believed were the fixes that needed to happen to get our Republic back on track (I’ve since changed my view on term limits, but that’s another discussion).
So what happened? Why have I not been active with COS in the past 2 years?
During Election 2016, I realized that the people were not ready for a COS. They are not educated in the basics of the principles of our founding, the Constitution and the purpose and structure of government enough to make the effort worthwhile. Even if we did manage to get 34 States to agree to call a convention, the people are not informed enough to approve the changes that actually need to be made. It was a devastating lesson to learn.
Although I still believe that the convention of states route is ultimately what is needed to make the changes that we need, I decided that it would never happen without first educating enough people on why we need the changes that will be proposed. Since this process has never been successful in 230 years, it is important that we have maximum support when we go into it, if we’re able to call the convention. Otherwise, it will be a waste of efforts and we’ll probably not have another opportunity.
For a convention, 34 States need to pass legislation to call for it. So far, the COS project has 12 States that have done so and another 10 that have passed it in one chamber, still awaiting the other chamber’s approval. In addition to that, in 2018, there are another 18 States that have active legislation proposed, for a total of 40 States that have either passed it or are actively considering it.
Of course, there are those that oppose the convention of states process, both on the left and the right, which makes things more difficult and explains why it’s never succeeded in 230 years.
The biggest objection is that it is feared that it will become a “runaway convention” in which we’ll end up with an entirely new Constitution. After all, they say, that’s what happened with the original Constitution. However, first, that’s not what really happened with the original Constitution, and second, there is simply no way that an entire rewrite of the Constitution will get though the approval process at the convention and then get ratified by 38 States…unless it is something of such brilliance that there would be a enormous amount of support for it.
The other objection is that there would be some crazy (relative to your political persuasion) amendments proposed and passed at the convention. However, it is believed that the topic of the proposals need to be agreed upon by the States requesting the convention, therefore, anything that does not fall within that topic would immediately be rejected at the Convention. But even if that failed and a crazy amendment was proposed that was not immediately rejected, it would still need to be approved by the majority at the convention in order to then be passed to the States for ratification. And then, it would need to be approved by 38 States in order to be ratified. The likelihood of any proposal getting through that rigorous process that did not have broad support would be near zero.
Yet another objection is that the Constitution was fine as it was written…we just need to get back to the original intent and all will be great. Or, even if we do make changes, what is going to prevent corrupt politicians from ignoring those changes just as they have ignored the original intent?
Fair question. But the point is that we have now lived under this Constitution for 230 years. We can see what areas went wrong, what clauses have been abused and how so through lack of clarity, and what changes need to be made. We can now make the necessary changes that we see from that experience and make it better.
Will it be perfect? Of course not. It never will be. All we can strive for is “more perfect”, just as they did originally, as stated in the preamble to the Constitution. As we go into the future, other areas will be abused that will need to be corrected. That is the essence of man.
Beyond that, even given these risks and objections that are presented, what, I ask, is the alternative?
The Constitution is already being altered and abused, such that we are operating under a version of it that is way beyond the intent and the authorized original. In a sense, we already have a “runaway convention” in the form of a totally out of control federal government that has been unofficially altering the Constitution in numerous ways, such that we now have a totally unconstitutional 4th branch of government that is unelected and unaccountable, and a system where the separation of powers is completely out of whack. What more evidence do we need?
“Electing the right people” is not going to cut it…we’ve been trying that strategy for over 100 years. It’s time that we stand up and bring the people that we do elect under control.
What other option is there?
About this series:
The People Are Sovereign! is a series of 30 essays that will be posted on a daily basis. The series will continue tomorrow with Essay 30 – The Blessings of Liberty
To view the previous essay in the series, click this link: Essay 28 – Article V