A Convention of States A Possible Reality

It’s an idea that has been floating around for a while in some of the more frustrated circles of the conservative movement, and one that recently seems to have become a possible future political reality: an Article V Convention of the States to amend the Constitution with the goal of reigning in the growth and power of the federal government.

The newest movement to save the republic began this past Saturday on the grounds of George Washington’s old estate. Shortly before 9 a.m., nearly 100 state legislators from 32 states filed into the library that sits above the museums of Mount Vernon. It was state legislators only; supporters (and reporters) learned that the hard way, as they called for details or were stopped at the security gates.

The Slate piece is decidedly critical of the effort but it breaks down like this: Article V of the Constitution mandates that Congress convene a national convention of the States upon receipt of application for such a convention from 2/3rds of the available states. Or 34 states.

From there, 38 states would have to approve any amendments before those amendments could pass. It sounds unlikely. But then…

Last week, Glenn shared the news that South Carolina and Virginia have formally called for an Article V Convention of State (COS). On Saturday, close to 100 legislators from 32 states met in Mount Vernon, Virginia to discuss the possibility of adding amendments to the U.S. Constitution through a convention of the states. A convention of states, as outlined in Article V of the Constitution, allows state legislatures to vote on amendments to add.

“There was a really important meeting on Saturday. Nearly 100 state legislators from 32 different states met to discuss the possibility of the convention of the states,” Glenn said on radio this morning. “They said that they were looking for congressional term limits and limits on federal taxation and spending.”

“Need six more states, and we got ourselves a convention,” Pat added.

So, there’s some significant movement on the part of the state legislators to wrest a little control over the arguably borderline-tyrannical path of the current Progressive landscape of national politics. But there are also reasonable criticisms that are both ethical and pragmatic coming from the conservative side of the aisle.

Essentially, those criticisms — summed up rather nicely by the John Birch Society (disclosure: this writer takes issue with many of the more trenchant principles of this society but their criticism on this issue seems well-reasoned) — is that those calling for the Convention are trying to self-impose a limited ability on what the COS could do, while Article V itself never limits their power once the convention is called.

So, Levin and the other Article V convention advocates try to walk the tightrope of deceptively assuring those of us who are concerned about harmful changes to the Constitution that such a convention would be “a limited purpose convention” (page 16 of The Liberty Amendments) while at the same time truthfully portraying an Article V convention as included in the Constitution for the purpose of making the changes necessary for reining in an oppressive government.

So, that’s the scam. In order to gain the necessary widespread support from both voters and state legislators for their inherently risky attempt to solve the problem of an out-of-control (unconstitutional) government by means of an Article V convention, the Article V convention advocates need to fool huge numbers of people into believing that the provision for Article V conventions was included in the Constitution only for making limited changes.

It’s easy to understand why it would be counter intuitive and alarming to some to hand unlimited power to states in an effort to battle unlimited power at the federal level. But the effort does appear to be gaining steam. They’ve agreed to meet again in Spring 2014. It is at least comforting to recognize that the concept of a federated system hasn’t completely vanished in the face of a growing centralized base of power at the federal level.

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