A government designed to secure our unalienable rights has become something of a black-hole that devours liberty. In the sum total of our three national branches, fewer than 1,500 (One president, 100 senators, 435 congressmen, and about 875 Article III judges) men and women push around over 320 million citizens without restraint or fear for their personal safety. What is to be done? If we weigh the potential benefit, meaning the restoration of our republic, against the remote disadvantages of an amendments convention, there is little reason to avoid one.
Some prominent conservatives have expressed concern over the possibility of a ‘runaway’ Article V state amendments convention. Their anxiety is such that actual runaway tyranny from Rome-on-the-Potomac pales in comparison to the possible horrors of the states getting together to relieve their people from oppression. Are these concerns fact-based or irrational or somewhere in between?
Article V opponents typically equate an Article V state amendments convention with congress, an institution in which freedoms and rights are easily traded away today for money, media support, and reelection tomorrow.
This is an erroneous comparison, for congress is popularly derived and thoroughly corrupted from its designed purposes. An Article V convention will be new, fresh, uncorrupted and federal, just like the only other remaining federal institution from 1787, the familiar Electoral College (EC).
Like an Article V amendments convention, the EC is extra-congressional and completely controlled by the states. Not only congress, but the executive and judiciary have no more authority to regulate or participate in the deliberations of an Article V Convention than they do to control the EC. Both of these federal institutions derive their independence from discrete sources in the constitution itself. Like the EC, and unlike congress, an Article V convention is temporary, and neither can be made subservient to any branch of the government. This renders the Article V convention distinct from, and superior to the three existing branches.
If the states are so wild and politically insane such as to fear the outcome of a convention, why haven’t we had a “runaway” session of the EC? States do not have to cast their votes for the nominee of any political party. The EC confab is a one-day event outside the control of congress or scotus. Why hasn’t the EC proved to be dangerous?
No state delegation to the EC “ran away” because the duties of presidential electors are defined by state statute. To illustrate through a thought experiment, replace “electors” of Article II § 1 clause 2, with the equivalent term “delegates,” and you have the identical situation when it comes to an Article V amendments convention. Delegates to Article V conventions will arrive with detailed commissions backed up by statute with felony punishment for violations. Unlike representatives to congress, delegates to an Article V convention will serve their states and the national interest, and not themselves.
Furthermore, there will be an additional, yet immeasurable factor at work. Within the parameters of detailed state commissions, delegates will be entrusted to use their judgement. These men and women know that history will examine and critique their work. Will the states actually send rogues and miscreants? It is possible, yet what is far more likely is that the delegates entrusted with crafting amendments to save the republic will rise to the occasion. Fame will be their quest, for “the audience that men who desire fame are incited to act before is the audience of the wise and the good in the future – that part of posterity that can discriminate between virtue and vice.”* Like the delegates to the Federal Convention of 1787, they will seek the gratitude of history.
As with all things federal, the EC is loathed by liberals today just as an Article V state convention will be tomorrow. Both institutions are anti-democratic, which is why liberals work toward complete democratization of presidential elections. Witness the leftist National Popular Vote effort to effectively eliminate state participation in presidential elections. That Leftists love democracy is also reflected in the progressive 17th Amendment which turned federal ambassadors from the states into the equivalent of at-large, three-term, democratic and demagogic congressmen.
As federal remnants of a more perfect union, the EC and Article V amendments convention echo the importance of liberty preserving institutions ahead of fuzzy populism and democracy. No people, no civil society ever met to frame their ruling institutions in order to sell themselves into slavery. While the American tradition and society are certainly under duress, resistance is in the air. It is time to take advantage of the building wave of opposition to consolidated government.
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* Adair, Douglass. Fame and the Founding Fathers. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1974.