Article V and the Convention of States; It is Not a Debate About What the Constitution Says
It is that time of year when legislatures are in session around the country, and many will address a resolution to invoke Article V of the U.S. Constitution and call for a convention of the states. There are few topics that cause more division among constitutionally aligned groups. In fact, I would argue that this is the single most divisive topic. Because of that statement, it is necessary to provide some answers as to why this happens even though these groups align 99.9% of the time. I also would like to provide some potential solutions to make sure those fighting for this nation do not build up obstacles amongst themselves that cause disunity that only serves the agenda of the Marxist left.
The reason I chose to author this article is that I was recently in a gallery seat watching testimony for and against a Senate Joint Resolution calling for Montana to invoke Article V. It was fascinating to count how many good friends I keep on both sides of that great divide. It was clear to me they were not arguing over whether America needs to take some action to rein in government, but how. Those I knew personally who were in the room all want to restore liberty to America and will fight for this country to whatever end. The debate must then be over something else. But what?
As a Co-founder of the liberty-focused grassroots called Restore Liberty, there is one question that comes up at every one of my speaking engagements. That question is, “where do you stand on the convention of states?” I resist the urge to ask for a clarifying statement about whether they mean the use of Article V of the United States Constitution, or the organization called Convention of States Action. Instead, I lay out why the Restore Liberty organization does not take a stance. The good news there is always a healthy discussion to follow as to why we do not take a position, and most often the people listening gain a greater understanding of our organization and what is the real debate. I never address the question as being for or against organizations like the Convention of States Action or the John Birch Society, but only from the perspective of Article V as a constitutional tool our founders baked into the cake.
This debate is not about constitutionality, it is about risk. It is an attempt to answer the question, “just because we can, does that mean we should?” To be sure, there are risks in acting and in not acting in support of an Article V convention. There is much to read on this topic, and I will not attempt to cover the process in any depth and point the reader instead to the two primary organizations opposing each other on this topic. I will, however, quickly summarize the main point of Article V in that it is a mechanism whereby states can come together in a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. The greater point I will address is why the decision to support or not support an Article V convention is a calculation based on risk and not a debate over who is “more constitutional.”
Where are we now?
Nineteen of the thirty-four states necessary to call for an Article V convention have voted in its favor. This means as a nation we are just over halfway there, and it has taken nine years to get this far. The primary factors driving why these states have called for a convention are: to require a federal balanced budget, to impose term limits, and to clarify the interstate commerce clause.
This is a brief list of arguments that led me to conclude that this is a debate about risk. Listing an item does not mean I agree or disagree with whether they are or are not a real risk, only that in my many discussions with people on the topic they are often cited.
What are the risks of a yes vote?
- A runaway convention where the states lose control of the process and results.
- Dark money and bad actors influence the process and make it about “them” and not “We the People.”
- Our federal government does not follow the constitution now and will not for this process either.
What are the risks of a no vote?
- The US Congress will never balance the budget on its own.
- The US Congress will never vote for their own term limits.
- The Federal Government is out of control and if “We the People” do not rein them in we will lose it all.
- What other choice is there anymore?
Is there another way?
Yes, but it would mean the US Congress votes on its own to balance the budget, establish term limits, and reduce its own size and scope. Legislation a President would also have to sign. That seems unlikely, and it does not matter which party runs things on the hill.
The Restore Liberty team believes there are other solutions, chief among them is for a state or county to declare themselves a constitutional sanctuary. Not a declaration that is aspirational only, but one with teeth. One that rejects all federal funds with any strings attached or puts in place a process to remove any land from foreign nation ownership.
Finally, I would ask that those most invested in the healthy debates (sometimes unhealthy) over Article V think about debating this from the perspective of risk and recognize that most who debate you are not dishonest, deluded, or anti-American. They are people seeking to right this ship in a manner that you may or may not agree with. By doing this we can be unified in disagreement over method while agreeing on the principles of America’s constitutional design.
Lt Col (ret), US Army, Darin Gaub is a Co-founder of Restore Liberty, an international military strategist and foreign policy analyst, an executive leadership coach, and serves on the boards of multiple volunteer national and state level organizations. The views presented are those of the author and do not represent the views of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, or its components.
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