Constitutional Convention

If I Could Change the Constitution ...

Aaron Bolinger
Sherman Institute
November 13, 2013


Many people, across the full spectrum of political ideologue, have said to themselves, “if I could change the Constitution, I would (insert notion here).”  Personally, I have my own shopping list of ideas on ways to improve on the Founding Father’s design.  In general, they did a remarkable job.  If they missed anything, it was truly a case of nailing shut any room for a few of the nutty notions that have came about since the “great war” (Civil), and during that time when there was arguably no legitimate Congress even functioning, due to the absence of a quorum (many states were missing).

But aside from my own shopping list, which in this dialog, over time, I shall contribute, there is a big-ole’ brew-ha-ha coming down the pike.  Since I started paying attention, about 1981, we have seen this same story about one good shot per decade.  The big notion does not concern how we might draft a single (or several) constitutional amendment(s) under the Article V process that has occurred for each change we now see in that group of existing amendments.  Nope, this idea is for a full blown, hold your breath, Constitutional Convention — the other mechanism for change provided for in Article V.

The federal Constitution was drafted in 1787 when 55 men assembled and worked from May 14 until September 17 (four solid months +three days) doing what they were absolutely told NOT to do.  Their mission statement, coming on direct orders of the states that sent them as delegates, was to “revise the Articles of Confederation.”  Instead, they set about to completely rewrite the framework of government into something much more “national” than had ever been contemplated.

That is why I used the phrase “hold your breath” — because once again the calls for an Article V convention are upon us, and one particular legislator, the President of the Indiana state senate, has called a meeting for December 7, 2013, in Mount Vernon, Virginia, with other state legislators, “to set up the rules to be followed if and when a constitutional convention is called.”

Check, one-two.  Is this microphone working?  We’ve tried that before Senator (David) Long.  It didn’t work.

In a nation where about 90% of everything that transpires either politically or in our legal system occurs based on the previous precedents established, by what stroke of genius do you believe that any convention, called for any reason, is going to constrain itself to any rules you or even (heaven forbid) the Pope decreed?  A convention is, was the last time, and ever will be, a political nightmare.  It is a SOVEREIGN assembly.  Look that word up, if you don’t get it.  The sovereign is bound by no underlings beneath it.  And a convention, comprised of our 50 states (or any collection thereof that decide to attend the party), can, and will, do what it bloody-well pleases.

I like the analogy given by an astute veteran, probably in 1985 if memory serves, where he spoke of going to the ballpark for “the specific and exclusive purpose” of buying a hot dog.  If a game broke out while he was there, he promised the wife he would leave immediately.

This analogy is perfect for the notion of a constitutional convention.  If your wife (the state that sent you) sets limits on YOUR conduct, then you have two choices — obey her and leave, or ignore her and stay put.  If you obey, the game will still go on, with or with out you.   By leaving, you only resign what input you may have contributed — but the game gets played.

Unfortunately, when the stakes are the Constitution — ALL OF IT — those are some pretty high stakes to be playing with.

You see, it really doesn’t matter what the promoters of a convention CLAIM to be their reason for calling one.  Some want a “Balanced Budget Amendment” or “Term Limits” or a “Line Item Veto” or another possible dozen mainstream ideas.  Other prospects, from the full spectrum, are going to be much more radical than even those.  The fact is, everyone present will come in with their own preconceived notions, their own pet projects, their own financial backers to look after, their own state’s interests to cater to, their own political ambitions, axes to grind, or whatever.

But there is an even darker cloud on the horizon for liberty, should a convention happen in modern times.  In fact, it amounts to more than a single cloud.  The prospect of a convention in the current temper of both America and the world is to political science what a single cloud is to a hurricane.  Or what a jackhammer is compared to a 9.0 earthquake; or what a normal wave in San Diego is compared to an Indian Ocean tsunami.

Have you heard?  There is an entirely NEW constitution that has been drafted by the global elite.  It creates new branches of government at the national level, and reduces every single right to a merely revocable “privilege.”  So much for freedom.

And the only way this NEW constitution could possibly come to fruition is in an open, Article V convention.  It would never make it through the traditional amendment process.

With normal amendments, every notion — every syllable of a change — gets scrutinized closely, and has the opportunity to be debated in all states.  It must first pass muster in Congress.  Then it must be ratified by a super-majority of the states.  There be no such formula for the product of a convention.  The entire constitution is opened up for surgery, and the ratification process can become whatever its CREATORS deem salutary.  Just like the original convention changed its own document’s ratification process, so too would we expect the same in such an event today.

The dangers of a convention have been well documented.  Certainly this new push for such a once-or maybe-twice-in-world-history event need not lead me to rehash all these realities.  But I will certainly link to documents that explain it all rather concisely.  For starters, visit CON CON Q & A & IB #35 (2nd link is large document, be patient for full download).  To see why the model Balanced Budget Amendments have not passed (useless language), see this: IB#23 BBA FRAUD.  Another item, about which states have passed (recent, historically) resolutions CALLING for a Convention, along with model language to rescind these outstanding calls, is our Issue Brief with Legislation. If you need more, just ask.

I will agree with the notion of changing the Constitution (so long as they are valid, corrective models) — but even then only to the extent that any and all proposed changes, one at a time, submit themselves to the tried-and-true Amendment process of Article V.  In fact, if anyone cares to ask, I would gladly draft up a few proposals to fix Washington run amok.  I will also review anything of interest, to see if it is more smoke and mirrors, or would actually do what proponents might assert.

Here’s the bigger problem, however.  With a now 200 year history of IGNORING much of the existing Constitution, of what benefit will be EITHER a Convention, or one or more amendments?  Until we put people into office that will honor their oath to it, no amendment, rule, or even tar/feather punishment clauses, will carry much weight.


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