Thursday, July 18, 2013
For many years there has been heated debate in this country about the need for an Article V convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. On both sides of the American political spectrum, there have been calls for - and a great fear of - such a gathering.
Back in September 2011, I co-hosted a conference with Professor Lawerence Lessig of the Harvard Law School on the subject. Interestingly, among the hundreds of attendees, those with pro or con opinions were guided less by ideology and more by their beliefs about what would come out of an amending convention.
On the left, there is fear of a conservative uprising that might, for example, constitutionally outlaw gay marriage or create a permanent ban on all abortions. On the right, there is a fear of the reverse on those issues and worries about what the left might do to the First Amendment and protections for political speech, based on dissatisfaction with the Citizens United decision. Then are those who believe that the dangers of a runaway convention are so severe that we cannot risk ruining our Constitution by even allowing such a convention to take place.
At the time of the Harvard conference, I was mostly neutral on the idea of an Article V convention. While I found the debate and discussions interesting, I just didn’t see the practical aspects because I didn’t believe it could actually happen in the near future. While I enjoyed watching the unintentional and sometimes uncomfortable cross-partisan alliances that developed during the discussions, it seemed mostly like an intellectual exercise, appropriate for the Harvard campus but perhaps not for the real world political problems our nation faces.
Today, my opinion has shifted. Our political world has continued to spiral in a downward direction, and every day I hear more and more people including respected constitutional lawyers and scholars calling for an Article V amending convention.
From my perspective, the federal government has grown beyond its constitutionally imposed limitations. All branches of the government have participated, and each exercises unprecedented control over the lives of the citizens. The federal leviathan has grown into a beast that we may not be able to tame without an Article V amending convention.
In Federalist No. 48, James Madison wrote: “The conclusion which I am warranted in drawing from these observations is that a mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits of the several departments is not a sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the same hands.”
Madison has proven prescient. Even the mighty Constitution itself has not been enough to restrain against the encroachments of a tyrannical concentration of federal government power. Perhaps it is time the citizens rise up, through a Convention of the States and restrain the federal leviathan once again.
Some may fear such a convention, but I do not. Such a mechanism is made available in the Constitution itself, and I have faith in the full document, including Article V. More importantly, I have faith in the American people. Thirty-eight states must ratify any amendment, and I can find no way to count 38 states for anything “radical” right or left. I can however count 38 states who would be in favor of stuffing the federal leviathan back in the box. If we can do that, I’m all in.
Mark Meckler is the president of Citizens for Self-Governance.
Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author or syndicate.
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