Much to my chagrin, circumstances have arisen which require that I address the issue of the possible ‘Convention of the States’ or ‘Con-Con.’ Conservatives, Republicans, and Tea Party patriots who are peers and colleagues have tried repeatedly to get me on board with such a convention to change our beloved Constitution.
That’s not going to happen.
In the interest of full disclosure, the first time I heard about a Convention of the States, I immediately thought it was a great idea. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could cook up some means to get congress to actually serve the best interest of the public rather than their own? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could eliminate our soaring national debt? Wouldn’t our elected officials be more inclined to do a good job and make wise decision if we could simply change the rules by which they play and govern?
So, in true Temerity fashion, once I heard about this, I decided to do further research so that I could discuss the matter and share it with others accurately. That’s when I determined that it was the worst idea since Eve ate the fruit in the garden. The more I learned, the more I realized that this plan will be detrimental to our nation!
Remembering that history does not repeat itself, but that stupid people repeat history, I began the research with how we arrived at the current Constitution in the first place. A quick dive into your high school history book should help you recall the first governing document we had in the US was the Articles of Confederation. Under the Articles, the US had a weak central government, one that did not even have the authority to levy taxes to pay for the Revolutionary War. This weak government really came into trouble when Shay’s Rebellion took place (do your own research on this event). It was this action that caused people to realize that a stronger national government was necessary.
So delegates were sent from the several states to a convention with the purpose of amending the Articles of Confederation in the summer of 1787, but that’s not what they did. Instead, they developed an entirely new Constitution. Under the authority of the Articles, any amendment had to be ratified unanimously. Every state would have to approve changes. But once the Articles were simply scrapped and the new Constitution written, it only required 9 of the 13 states to ratify before it became the law of the land. Notice that the Articles were simply nullified by the action of the delegates in the room.
Why didn’t that go to a vote of the people? Wouldn’t it make sense if you are going to completely change your form of government that the people who are governed (at least those in a democratic society) should get to vote on that first THEN vote on the new form of government? But the delegates at the convention made the decision with no authority, some having been directed to ONLY amend, but not eliminate, the Articles.
Keep in mind that the men in the room were arguably the greatest minds ever on the earth. Without access to the internet, computers, or even a cell phone to “phone a friend,” they were able to establish a concept for a new form of government never known in the world. These were smart men. They also loved this nation more than we know. Many of them had personally been involved in the war to win the right to govern themselves. They had seen their friends and neighbors die in this war. They wanted freedom enough to fight for it and our state governments were confident in the decisions these men would make on their behalf.
If I personally got to select every delegate from every state for a Convention of the States to be held next week, I don’t know that I would have this type of confidence in their decisions. I say this even though I know some very smart, well-educated, and well informed patriots in nearly every state.
But I don’t get to select the delegates. Neither do you. As a matter of fact, even Article V of the Constitution does not state how these delegates will be selected. The Constitution does not state how many delegates will be selected to represent each state. Will this number be based on population? An equal vote for each state? The number of registered voters? We don’t know because it is not written and there is no precedent. They could be selected by the state legislators, the state governors, the congressional delegates, the president, or even the NFL team owners in each state for all we know. We have no rules and we have no precedent.
Let’s say for a minute though that some equitable method is determined and the delegates convene. What will they do? Some lovers of liberty would try to convince you that these delegates will only propose amendments, many of which have already been written. Others have already written new constitutions to be voted upon at a convention. Unfortunately, not all of the amendments or constitutions written have been developed by those who actually love America. But that’s okay because in order for an amendment or new constitution to be enacted, it would, just as is stated in Article V of our Constitution, have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. Right?
Just as the delegates in 1787 completely dismissed the Articles of Confederation (which required unanimity) and changed the ratification rules to require 9 of the 13 states approval, delegates to a Convention of the States, or a Con-Con, could establish any rules for ratification that they choose. There is no means to control these delegates since our Constitution has established none.
Let’s save the rebuttal against some of the potential amendments for another day. You probably aren’t yet ready for why the Balanced Budget Amendment and term limits are bad ideas, too.