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It's Time to Trust the Constitution

Published in Blog on July 17, 2017 by Convention Of States Project

Allen Boettcher, Utah’s State Director, wrote the following op-ed in response to an anti-COS article in his local paper. Not only did the newspaper print his op-ed, they asked him to write a quarterly opinion column. Read the whole article below.

The Constitution is, arguably, the most prominent document in American history. It is not complicated, yet many who claim to cherish it demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding—or distrust—of its provisions.

I was troubled, for instance, when I read Pamela Openshaw’s op-ed, “Get it Right: Article Five Convention – A Bad Idea” last month. I usually stop reading any article that refers to an Article V Convention for proposing amendments as a “Constitutional Convention” or “Con -Con”. I figure if they cannot get the terminology correct then the rest of the article is probably not much better. Well, in this case I did finish reading, and I found that my initial operating assumption was correct.

Article V of the Constitution reads, “on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of several States, [congress] shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments...”

Those who refer to an Article V Convention as a “Constitutional Convention” (including The John Birch Society, Eagle Forum and, apparently, Ms. Openshaw) demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between the 1787 Constitutional Convention, called by the states pursuant to their residual sovereignty for the purpose of crafting a workable federal government, and an Article V Convention, called under the authority of our existing Constitution for “proposing amendments” to correct specific problems. The incorrect usage of the terms “Constitutional Convention,” “Con-con”, and “runaway convention” can create fear among the public and some of our State Legislators.

Scaremongers also suggest that during the supposed “runaway convention” which they claim will result from the use of Article V, the Constitution will be re-written and/or bogus amendments proposed. But one need only look to the clear language of Article V of the Constitution to see that this claim is far-fetched. A whopping “three fourths”, or 38 states, must ratify any proposed amendments. It takes “no” votes from only 13 states to thwart the ratification of any proposed amendment. This stringent ratification requirement also undermines claims that George Soros could simply “buy off” Convention Delegates to abolish the Second Amendment. Once again, all it takes is 13 states to vote “No”.

Consider, too, that under Article V, Congress currently enjoys the same ability to propose amendments as would a Convention of States. In the first two years of President Obama’s administration, when the Democrats also held both houses of Congress, it would have been the perfect time to abolish the Second Amendment. Why didn’t they? Because there was no way that 38 states would ratify such a blow to civil liberty. On the flipside, under George W. Bush, when the Republicans held both houses of Congress, no government-limiting amendments were proposed.

These examples demonstrate two things. First, even a liberal Congress knows that extreme amendments which erode the Bill of Rights will never be ratified by 38 states. But on the other hand, even a Republican Congress will not limit its own power.

This is precisely why the second part of Article V is so important. It explains why Col. George Mason fought so hard to have it added to the Constitution two days before the Constitutional Convention adjourned. Mason understood that the Federal Government would never voluntarily relinquish its own power. Therefore, this provision allows the states to rein in the federal government and restore their sovereignty.

Ms. Openshaw is convinced that the leaders of today are inherently less capable and trustworthy than the Founding Fathers. I can certainly understand her distrust of the 535 Members of Congress, the President, and the unaccountable Washington bureaucrats who are currently making the laws. But I have a higher level of confidence in the thousands of state legislators who are our neighbors and live in our backyards. Federal officials may not relinquish their own power, but I believe state officials can be trusted to divest them of it.

Many opponents to an Article V Convention believe that the answer to our national crisis is to simply “follow the Constitution we already have,” and that any amendments we pass will simply be ignored. But we are following the amendments currently in place. New amendments could definitively repair the damage that has been done to certain portions of our Constitution through anti-historical judicial interpretations. It is this damaged version of the Constitution that federal officials currently “follow,” and we hold the power to repair it.

Next time you run into an Article V opponent, ask her, “If an Article V Convention is out of the question, then what should we do?”

Those who swear by the electoral process will say that we need to simply vote the incumbents out. Nice thought, but over the last 10 years, spending has increased under both Republican and Democrat regimes.

For others, taking up arms is the only solution. This idea almost led us into a “range war” a couple of weeks ago in Nevada. I love the Second Amendment, but why not try a peaceful resolution before going down the trail of anarchy?

Still others will insist that “Nullification” is the answer. And while some federal laws can be “nullified” by states simply refusing to accept the federal funding that comes with regulatory strings, this is not a viable solution for the vast majority of federal law. In 2013, Congress and federal agencies enacted over 80,000 pages of new laws, regulations and directives. “Nullifying” just one year’s worth of new rules would take generations.

Even if broad-scale “nullification” were logistically possible, the Constitution does not provide any procedural mechanism for a single state to declare a federal law void. What it provides, instead, is the Article V Convention process for the states, collectively, to nullify constitutional interpretations that infringe upon the rights reserved to them and to the people under the Tenth Amendment.

Then there are those, like the author referenced, who offer no solutions. I like to refer to them as the “do-nothing” crowd.

Article V is part of the Constitution to which opposition groups claim such loyalty. It is time for us to use it.

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