I Can’t Decide If Supporting A Constitutional Convention Is Dangerous Or Just Silly
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, –Article V of the United States Constitution
There’s been talk of holding a constitutional convention on conservative blogs for years. Recently conservative radio host Mark Levin (Liberty Amendments) and right leaning/libertarian law professor Randy Barnett (Federalism Amendments) have issued a set of proposed amendments a convention could take up. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn gave the movement a boost when he publicly called for such a convention.
While I’m sympathetic to the needs driving the idea and the general thrust of both sets of proposals, I think actually calling such a convention would be a disaster.
To get two-thirds (34) of the states to agree to the convention. Assuming all of the states that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 agree with the idea (a large and unfounded assumption) you have 23 states. Where are you getting the other 11 from?
But lets again assume that you can find the other 11 from Obama states. It’s very likely they will then want to push for a far more liberal agenda than Levin, Barnett, Coburn and conservative supporters would want.
Suddenly the agenda won’t just be limiting the federal government but also things like adding rights to health care, housing, and a “living wage”. No doubt there would also be discussion of a constitutional guarantees for people to be free from racism, homophobia and all sorts of other things currently found in college speech codes.
Given that delegates would mostly likely be picked by the state legislatures, ask yourself who is more likely to send delegates that will be squishy and find compromise with the other side? People picked by Republicans or Democrats? Yeah.
And even if they didn’t cave because they are ideologically moderate, the reality is that getting anything our of a convention let alone something that could be ratified would, as before, require compromise (see Compromise, Great). What are you willing to give up to the left to get something you like.?
Of curse whatever, if anything, this convention would turn out would still have to be ratified by 3/4s of the states (38).
What if the proposed amendments were offered to the states piecemeal and voted on separately? It would be a lot harder to stop a “No H8” amendment than it would be to ratify a national sales tax as Barnett proposes.
A constitutional convention is a crap shot that could easily backfire on its advocates. Remember the original convention was only supposed to be empowered to revise the Articles of Confederation but in the end they created an entirely new form of national government.
My bottom line is much like it is with the Balanced Budget amendments that are floated around…if the political will existed to do many of these things, they would get done with out going through this difficult process.
If you aren’t really serous about a convention but want to use the chatter around calling for one to lay groundwork to build popular support for conservative policies, fine. But if you think a gimmick like a constitutional convention can replace the lack of political support for limiting government you aren’t really serious about actually changing the political and legal processes of the country.
There are real fights to be had in the next few month, let’s not follow people who don’t want to have them down the road chasing shiny objects.