Citizens for Self-Governance, now backed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, are leading the latest clamor for a convention of US states, as authorized by Article V of the constitution. There is a clear reason, however, why such initiatives to bypass Congress fall as quickly as they rise.
The most commonly promoted amendment — going back decades and for which a convention would be necessary — is some form of fiscal restraint on the federal government (which I have publicly supported). And here lies the crux of the problem: the most ardent supporters of limited government and federalism in the US tradition, the paleoconservatives, tend to be those who fear an amendments convention the most.
While many may dismiss the forthright “Birchers” of the John Birch Society, they constitute one such network and have made blocking an Article V convention a raison d’être. Their views are indicative of the deeper suspicion that exists regarding the convention process, notwithstanding compelling and thorough refutations (see Rob Natelson’s work for the Independence Institute and ALEC).
For my latest news story on the matter, Bill Hahn of JBS shared a detailed explanation that bears reading. His statement, reproduced here in full, suggests that either convention proponents must (1) do a lot better job of appealing to constitutionalists, or (2) find a new constituency for support.
The second option may be even more of a stretch than the first, since progressives of various persuasions have entirely different motivations for amending the constitution. Regardless, both options suggest such a convention in the near future is highly unlikely. That is compounded by zero interest at the federal level, and even outspoken opposition from the Heritage Foundation.
Bill Hahn, JBS public relations and marketing manager:
Many good conservatives and additional concerned Americans are very much in agreement that the federal government is out of control. Indeed, the federal government has been operating outside of its constitutional limitations for at least 100 years. Unfortunately, many are calling for a convention to propose adding amendments to the Constitution, of which Congress and the Executive Branch have been ignoring for decades. Why would they suddenly start adhering to the new amendments?
The John Birch Society would rather restore the limitations of the Constitution through an educated electorate. After all, it is through the electorate that we have the current state of government, and the electorate will need to correct this. Many tools and avenues of action are available to activists as well as state legislatures to do this, including educating the states to nullify anything from the federal government that is not within the limitations of the Constitution. This is within their 10th Amendment right to do so.
Another troubling aspect is that conservatives are realizing they cannot get a convention called without the support of big-government Democrats and others who have no interest in seeing the federal government brought back into its constitutional limitations. We’ve extensively documented this and can only conclude that this type of bi-partisanship will do much more damage than good.
Yet another problem is that if a convention is convened there exists a dangerous possibility of the convention writing its own rules and rewriting the Constitution to fit the whims and political correctness of today’s politicians. Do you trust John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, or anyone in Congress to rewrite any part of the Constitution? This is exactly what happened in 1787, except back then we had true patriots, such as George Washington and James Madison. Will anyone in attendance at the convention rise to this level? How far are we willing to trust today’s politicians?
No quick fix will suffice in the long run. The only long term solution is an educated electorate that understands and obeys the Constitution. We’ve used this method in several states and have seen great results when adhered to. That is the challenge we face, and as we lead the opposition to the calling of a constitutional convention, we ask concerned Americans to help us restore constitutional limitations to change Washington instead of changing the Constitution.
We have additional resources located on our Choose Freedom – Stop a Con-Con action page.