The most common characteristic that defines true conservatives is the understanding that the federal government has gotten far too big and too intrusive in our daily lives. This fact is far from the founders’ intent when they wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The document itself was written as a control on the federal government, allowing it only specific, enumerated powers, to ensure maximum freedom for citizens. The Bill of Rights was added after much debate, with James Madison among the group who thought the amendments were unnecessary because, “the government can only exert the powers specified by the Constitution.” Thomas Jefferson was in favor of them. Thankfully, Madison relented and wrote the amendments.
Yet, look how far we have digressed, with the federal intervention in commerce, health care, energy and education, to name just a few. The only one of these four that is mentioned in the Constitution is the commerce clause in Article 1, Section 8, which gives authority to the government to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the states. That clause has been so bastardized by the courts to the extent that farmers are told what they must or must not grow. And there are too many more examples.
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Health care, energy and education are not even mentioned in the Constitution. What is mentioned, specifically by the Tenth Amendment, is “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people.” In my opinion, this is the amendment that has been most violated over the years.
In recognition of this abuse, conservative voices are attempting a solution to the problem by virtue of a Convention of States. This is another example of the brilliance of the founders, in that they anticipated the need for such a course correction someday, and included it in Article V. They feared a central government that could grow out of control and held the belief that We the People were the ones who could rein it back in.
A Convention of States is not, as has been claimed, the same as a Constitutional Convention. Some would say we just need to elect more strict Constitutionalists, but that approach cannot be effective today. Even with the best of intentions, after election most politicians quickly become members of the Washington establishment. Who is naïve enough to expect that politicians who created this mess can get us out of it?
There are loud voices against such a convention, predominantly from the hard left and Common Cause, a George Soros backed coalition. Members include the AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace, La Raza, NAACP, and MoveOn.org, not to mention many congresspersons and heads of federal agencies. What all these groups have in common is dependence on an all-powerful federal government that will dole out taxpayer money while supporting and helping to advance their radical causes. Rare is the democrat politician that does not love bigger government. Yes, I know, you can add some Republican names to that group.
One of the objections to a convention is that it can become a “runaway convention” that may take away freedoms. The founders insured against this concern with the requirement that 38 states must ratify any proposal coming out of the convention. What are the chances that 38 states will approve loss of freedom? There have been numerous conventions in our history and none have been a “runaway”.
I have also heard the argument, from both sides, that the Constitution is not followed now by the government so what could be the sense in adding new amendments that will not be followed. I think most of us are not ready to give up on the idea of constitutionally defined limited government because some politicians violate the oath they took.
Another objection is that since Article V says congress “calls” the convention and therefore will control it. But congress’s only function is to set the date, time and location once it receives the required 34 resolutions from the state legislatures for a convention on the same topics. It has no say in anything during the process. Incidentally, the applications from the 34 states do not require signature approval by the governors.
Currently, there are four areas that the convention proponents see as most critical: the spending and debt crisis, the regulatory crisis, congressional attacks on state sovereignty and federal takeover of the decision-making process.
On the spending and debt issue all we need to recognize is we are approaching $30 trillion (about $92,000 per person in the US) in national debt yet that does not tell the whole story. If Uncle Sam used standard accounting practices, they would have to add another $100 trillion (about $310,000 per person in the US) that is owed for vested Social Security benefits and other programs. Does anyone believe the feds can tax their way out of this problem?
The government has placed a huge regulatory burden on businesses that is complex and comes with little accountability, since these regulations are enacted and enforced by federal agencies – rather than congress – that enact the substance of the laws. It is no accident that laws, as they come out of congress, are not specific, despite being thousands of pages long in many instances. Read the text of Obamacare some time. There are scores of phrases like, “the Secretary shall …..” or “requires the Secretary to establish procedures” or “The Secretary has broad authority…..”. What it amounts to is the lawmakers giving up their authority to make law to agency bureaucrats. And too many of them are drunk with power.
One of the ways the feds exert control over the individual states is by doling out federal grant money to the states. How often have we seen a state object to some federal mandate only to capitulate once the threat of closing the cash spigot is threatened? This practice is one of the most blatant violations of the principal of federalism and state self-governance.
The founders knew that a limited government would be the best protection of liberty. They did this with a system of checks and balances between the 3 branches and distinction between powers given to the government and those given to the states. James Madison wrote in Federalist 45 that federal government powers are “few and defined” while the states’ powers are “numerous and indefinite”. It seems we now have a reversal of that concept.
The ruling elite in Washington have made it clear they do not believe this principle and the massive expansion of their power is the unmistakable evidence.
A Convention of States is the best hope we have for returning the country to the constitutional republic the founders intended. It is not a quick or easy solution as it requires 34 state legislatures to pass a resolution (or application) just to get to the point where congress is required to call the convention. Then, after the delegates vote on amendments, the approval of 38 states is required. Currently, 15 state legislatures have passed a resolution, the latest being Mississippi in March 2019.
One effortless way for ordinary citizens to support this process is by making your voice heard with your elected representatives. You can easily do this by simply going to the Convention of States website and signing a petition. All you do is enter your name, email address and street address and the website will send the petition to the correct rep for you, which is the only reason for needing your address. You can also get a free pocket guide sent to you via email that goes into detail about the convention, its purpose and requirements. Much of the information I have included here comes from that pocket guide or the web site.
Mark Meckler, the leader of the Convention of States Project and a group of fellow patriots have been working hard for several years to make the Convention of States a reality. It truly is the only hope for the nation and we should support them in any way possible.
By Dave Agusta
Dave Agusta is a regular contributor to The Blue State Conservative. He is an Air Force Veteran, a solid conservative, and a true patriot.