Reality Check: Comments on a ‘Con-Con’
“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, OR, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.” — Article V, U.S. Constitution
“Is it time to consider a state-led constitutional convention
‘for proposing amendments’ as authorized under Article V?”
Random comments from members responding to this quarter’s Reality Check:
• I say yes . . . but experience has shown us the Constitution provides little protection for citizens from presidents who seize illegitimate powers, legislators unwilling or unable to challenge these presidents and courts that fail miserably in checking either branch. Any possible solution to unlimited government and the tyranny it brings goes well beyond just state-led constitutional conventions.
• Why even consider a constitutional convention, or even constitutional amendments, when the problem is that our politicians violate constitutions? Why let the lawbreakers make the laws more to their liking? Which of our most serious societal problems would we have today if we demanded obedience to the constitutions as written? The laws that smart people wrote generations ago are infinitely better than what our current crop of criminals would impose on us. There are no shortcuts, and “We the People” cannot delegate this away. We got what we chose; we need to choose better — or else.
• State Sen. David Long led a strategically brilliant effort to enact Indiana laws that would strictly limit the authority of any delegates sent by Indiana to such a convention. We should hope these laws serve as a model for other states, the idea being that if enough pass these “delegate limitation” measures, the threat of a so-called “runaway convention” would be greatly lessened if not alleviated. Proponents then would be in a stronger position to call for an Article V convention to restore a more appropriate balance of power between the states and the federal government.
• A genuine balanced-budget amendment, no spending excluded, would solve a lot of problems; a flat-tax amendment would solve the remaining ones.
• I do not believe we have the intellectual power in our political class to ensure a reasonable outcome to a convention. In my opinion, there is no way to guard against a runaway convention — no way. The state legislatures can erect whatever fence they wish in an attempt at keeping the delegates on the reservation, but I fear there is no way to enforce the restrictions. Even though the original convention acted illegally, the attendees, by and large, had the best interests of the country at heart. The Charles Schumers and Richard Durbins and Barack Obamas and the Clintons, ad nauseum, do not share that attribute.
• Although many in the conservative camp are advocating for a con-con (constitutional convention), there are two problems with this approach: First, the problem is not with the Constitution itself but with the fact that we have not for a long time adhered to the Constitution. That is what has brought us to the point we are today. We need to elect representatives who will uphold their oath to uphold the Constitution. Second, if a con-con is called, there is a good chance that we could lose control of it so that it is amended in a way that makes us into more of a European-type socialist government, which is the goal of many of the elite in this country. Our work should be directed to getting more legislators elected who will truly represent the wishes of the people and will work to that end by following the greatest document ever conceived in self-government. If amendments are needed, this can be done through the process that has brought us the amendments made after the Bill of Rights.
• I’d like to do it now, but on what could we possibly get 38 states to agree at this point in time? Perhaps when Barack Obama is gone, we will have sense enough to elect someone who will not seek to pit us against each other, and we can manage to tone down the divisiveness.
• I much prefer a 200-year-old Constitution to whatever might come out of a convention — too much passion, too little deliberation. Conservatism is about conserving that which is proven over time, is it not?
• This never-used avenue to constitutional amendments is a valuable insurance policy. I do not think there is now the powerful public consensus present to cause such a convention, however, or if there were, the surety that it would move the Constitution in a desirable direction. Our existing Constitution is excellent; we just lack the political power in the presidency, the Congress and the Supreme Court of the United States to assure that we live by its liberty-centered meaning.
• There’s no guarantee that we could control the outcome, in my opinion, and we could wind up worse than we are now.
• Congress, regardless of which party controls it, has proven entirely incapable of controlling itself and refuses to reign in an out-of-control executive branch that it funds through the control of the purse. With the governor saying secession is an option, a state-led constitutional convention is a last option for holding this country together. It’s been 150 years since the Civil War was fought over secession; I don’t see what harm can come at this point in the game with a constitutional convention. It will either work at reigning in Congress and the executive (branch) or it won’t. If it doesn’t, history may well repeat itself. It often does.
• The legislative, executive and judiciary branches were meant to be co-equal. Both the executive and judiciary, however, have co-opted powers that are not constitutionally theirs. I think a state-led constitutional convention with the adoption of amendments represented in Mark Levin’s book “The Liberty Amendments” would be a good framework.
• I fear it could lead to solutions to major problems not being addressed.
• I do not trust the current wisdom of the nation not to undermine itself if given the opportunity to amend the Constitution. While I would love to see a balanced-budget amendment and an overall reigning in of the scope of powers of Congress and the executive, I fear we would go way beyond what is reasonable and further erode the strengths of our present Constitution.
Rob Natelson. “Amending the Constitution by Convention: Practical Guidance for Citizens and Policymakers” (Independence Institute, 2012).
David Long, et al. “Amending the Constitution by State-Led Convention: Indiana’s Model Legislation.” (Brochure available from the Indiana Senate, office of the president pro tem, 2013.)
Andrew Horning. Annotated U.S. Constitution: http://thefreedomfarm.us/files/the-united-states-constitution.pdf.