Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What the Heck is the Convention of States?

Recently I went on a spree of adding new followers on Twitter. Specifically, I sought out supporters of Donald Trump, the GOP nominee for President of the United States. I did this for a variety of reasons but in the end that doesn't matter as much as what I found along the way: something called the Convention of States is brewing on social media.

A convention of states is often called an Article V convention (for the process is briefly mentioned in Article V of the Constitution), which requires two-thirds of the US state legislatures to call (today, 34). Once convened, three-fourths of the states (38) must vote in affirmative to amend the constitution...or perhaps to scrap the document and begin with a new one. That is one danger of the proposed Convention of States. If supporters of the CS disagree just look at the history of the US constitutional convention, whose participants were convened to fix the Articles of Confederation and instead chose to write a whole new document.

At present there is an organized attempt to convene just such a convention. While it's been ongoing for several years it seems to have pick up steam after the GOP primary elections began to go Donald Trump's way. Many, many of the supporters I've seen on Twitter for the Convention were Cruz supporters or outright #NeverTrump proponents, or both.This is anecdotal, as I've only seen this on Twitter, but the point stands. At a quick appearance there is the veneer of partisan politics at play, fueled by the same fear for the future of the United States currently being ruled by a government that cares little for the citizens and future of the republic.

This guy is a strong proponent of the Article V convention.

Prior to the primaries in 2015, prospective candidates endorsed the proposed Article V convention. Donald Trump has either not been asked the question or has remained silent on the issue. At a glance it would appear that #NeverTrump types are all-in for a convention of states to circumvent the process and change America on their own terms instead of on the terms of the popular electorate. This is an oversimplification, as is evident by this piece by one blogger calling for a convention while hinting that he may support Trump given time.

So, how would an Article V convention work? The Constitution gives few hints:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
The questions I am left with are these: who would be permitted to participate? What role would lobbyists play? Would the process be open to the public? The Constitution says little to answer these questions. What we know we know from history. Lobbyists as they exist today didn't exist in 1787, and that convention was closed to the public due to the participants overstepping their authority and original mission, which was to reform the Articles of Confederation.

I think calling an Article V convention is a deeply dangerous idea. State legislatures are just as beholden to lobbyists and special interests as is the Congress. As few, if any rules exist governing an Article V convention we can be sure that lobbyists will be in FULL FORCE at such a convention. Imagine Planned Parenthood, George Soros, and the big energy combines meeting with convention goers and you begin to see my concerns with the proposed convention. In short, a convention would be at risk of being high jacked by the interests who control our government. The potential for disaster is enormous.

There is no agreement in scholarly circles as to whether a limited convention is possible, either. Current proposals call for a convention to be called to limit judicial power, mandate a balanced federal budget, and limit executive power. But another real concern is that the convention could in itself scrap the entire existing US constitution and craft a new one from scratch. This happened in the convention of 1787. It could happen again.

Would a convention be accepted by the people of the United States? In the US we engage in something that can only be called idolatry of the Constitution. People treat the Constitution as if it were the Holy Bible: the inspired and inerrant Word of God. My suspicion is that if major changes to the Constitution were made the general public would not be in support.

Finally, I doubt the Courts would accept an Article V convention. Likely the Courts would reject such a convention on some technical grounds in order to protect the status quo.  The federal courts are incredibly partisan and corrupt and will do anything to protect the power they possess.

So, what do you think? Is an Article V convention something to support and push for?