Alex Doucet, Contributing Writer
On Dec. 7, nearly 100 state legislators from 32 states met in the Fred W. Smith National Library at Mount Vernon, the historic site of George Washington’s home. There, for four hours, state senator David Long of Indiana and state representative Chris Kapenga of Wisconsin led a discussion about the possibility of holding a convention of the states in order to make amendments to the Constitution.
“We essentially put together the start of this process and agreed to meet again in June in Indianapolis for stage two, where we will start the process for putting together the rules for a convention of the states,” said Long while a guest on “The Mark Levin Show.”
Currently, the leaders of the movement are formally asking each state senate president and speaker to appoint a Republican and a Democrat to attend the meeting in Indianapolis.
Our government has become more centralized than the Founders ever envisioned. We have more than begun to see the “soft tyranny” predicted by Alexis de Tocqueville. Agencies such as the IRS and the EPA as well as programs such as Obamacare and many more that have been introduced since the ’30s are examples of this disturbing trend. The president, with “pen and paper,” has grasped more power than he can be trusted with, Congress is not transparent and the Supreme Court has more often than not been an instrument of the left wing.
Despite the fact that the Founders could not possibly have anticipated some of the social changes caused by advancements in technology and communication, they knew that such a soft tyranny could, and most likely would, emerge by whatever means those in power had; thus, they included in Article V of the Constitution the power of the states to propose and ratify amendments. Among the framers, George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, did not think that the Constitution went far enough. Other framers (even Hamilton, who favored federal over state power) also feared that if Congress became oppressive and twisted the meaning of the Constitution, the people would have no defense. Hence, they provided the American people with a legal means to bypass corrupt government bureaucracy.
Per Article V, two-thirds of the state legislatures (currently 34) must pass an application for a convention to occur. Then, the state legislatures would be able to send delegates to the convention, but each state would only get one vote on proposed amendments. Three-fourths (currently 38) of the states would have to vote to ratify any one amendment for it to become part of the Constitution.
A convention of the states has nearly occurred twice in American history, once in the 1960s and once in the early 1980s. Both times, the efforts lost momentum, and the federal government acted quickly to discourage them.
Now, in 2014, the accumulation of national debt by a powerful government has provoked another attempt, and it is possible that proponents of the process will follow through for the first time in American history. Rising figures such as Levin (author of “The Liberty Amendment”) as well as grassroots organizations including the Convention of the States Project and Compact for America have led the movement and defined the necessary changes. This time, the states and grassroots organizations are trying to act quickly.
At the Indianapolis meeting, attendees will begin drafting procedural rules for an official state convention. Although these rules do not become binding until they are actually adopted by the convention, the state legislators are discussing them in advance to avoid prolonged disputes within the convention and thus allow the convention to focus on the proposed amendments. The legislators’ potential amendments aim to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and may include a balanced budget; a redefining of the General Welfare Clause and the Commerce Clause; limitations on executive orders and federal regulations to enact laws; term limits on congressmen and Supreme Court justices; and a fair tax system.
Do the states have a right to do this? Yes, they do. Is this just a right-wing issue? No, it is not. The fathers of America fled from an oppressive government and placed this provision in the Constitution so that we would not have to do the same thing. We have the power and the duty to prevent soft tyranny. These amendments will take serious consideration, but the momentum necessary for a convention relies upon grassroots action. At the local level, we can pressure our states to seriously consider this convention, educate ourselves about it and contribute to the leading organizations that are determined to see it through. The Founders did the best that they could to form the Constitution, and they placed it in the hands of future generations, anticipating that there would come a time for repair. They trusted that we the people would rise to the challenge. Let us pray and work so that our country can begin the process of decentralization, since the Capitol will not change as a result of inside efforts.