So You Want a Con-Con, Huh?

constitution-300x246

By: Brent Parrish
The Right Planet

There’s a movement afoot to convene a Convention of the States–or, more accurately, a Constitutional Convention (a.k.a. con-con). This development, in many ways, is understandable, considering the current excesses of the federal government, and the increasing concentration of power occurring in the executive and judicial branches–which threaten to upend the separation of powers of the three co-equal branches of our government.

Before I go any further, let it be noted that I am not a lawyer or a constitutional scholar, just an independent researcher and author. The deeper I delve into the issue of a Constitutional Convention, and its possible ramifications, the more questions and concerns it raises in my mind. My intent is simply to raise some important points concerning a con-con, and to bring up some issues that may not be obvious to the uninitiated. There are some serious pitfalls in convening a Constitutional Convention–some of them extremely dire. So with that being said, I will attempt to approach the subject by presenting viewpoints that are both pro and con.

Recently I wrote a short piece stating that I wasn’t necessarily opposed to a con-con; but I was concerned such a move could be co-opted by nefarious forces, and could do irreparable harm to the U.S. Constitution–if not throw it out altogether. The more I delve into the matter of a con-con, the more I am shying away from such a move.

The impetus for a “Convention of the States,” in my opinion, is, in no small part, due to Mark Levin’s best-selling book The Liberty Amendments. I have not had a chance to read Levin’s book. But I did watch an interview with Mark Levin where he discussed his book and his proposed solutions for reining in an out-of-control federal government. Levin claims a Convention of the States is not a Constitutional Convention, but others disagree.

Right off the bat, while watching the interview with Levin, I was concerned with the fact that he was proposing a number of amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It just seemed too complicated to me. That was just what my gut was telling me–way too complex.

The short piece I originally wrote regarding a con-con was a brief commentary on a New American article titled “Repair vs. Restore: Why Constitution Doesn’t Need Article V Fix.” In my own humble opinion, I don’t think the U.S. Constitution needs to be repaired but restored; and restoring the Constitution does not entail adding even more constitutional amendments, but rather repealing a few (which I will elaborate on later).

We often hear the president–and others, on both sides of the aisle–claim “government is broken.” This seems to imply that our current form of government, as defined in the U.S. Constitution, is dysfunctional and needs fixing. I am of the strong opinion that the real problem is our elected leaders often times refuse to obey the Constitution, or only follow it when it is politically expedient to do so. So, naturally, the federal government is “broken” if the rules and procedures are not being followed faithfully and consistently.

con-con-lost-awareness

Below I’ve included a few videos that present two opposing viewpoints on the matter of a “Convention of the States.” The first video (pro) is a presentation by Mike Farris, a long-time constitutional lawyer who is pushing for a con-con. Mr. Farris points out that he lives only eight miles from Mark Levin (see 2nd video). Interestingly, Levin’s book, The Liberty Amendments, was released only eight days after Farris launched his website. They have since become good friends, according to Farris, and are in agreement in the need for a con-con.

The third video (con) is a presentation by John McManus, President of the John Birch Society, who makes a strong and compelling case regarding the very real dangers and ramifications that could result from a Constitutional Convention. At the very worst, a con-con could result in the gutting of the Bill of Rights, or throwing out the Constitution altogether. Of course, this is a worst case scenario, but in no way is it outside the realm of possibility.

Pro:

Con:

Before going any further, I would like to emphatically state that I believe Mike Farris, Mark Levin and John McManus all want pretty much the same thing–limited government, fiscal responsibility and the protection of our unalienable rights. But obviously, at this point, there is disagreement on what course of action is required in order to constrain the overreaching power of the federal government–not to mention the massive, unconstrained federal spending that threatens the future of those who will come after us.

Many of the aims Mike Farris lays out for justifying the need for a con-con are quite sound–namely, to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, reduce the jurisdiction and power of the federal government, and to impose term limits on members of Congress–and the officers of the federal government. I also wholeheartedly agree with Farris that the purpose of the U.S. government is to protect life, liberty and property. Additionally, I would also concur with Farris that too much centralization of power has been ceded to Washington, D.C. Centralized power should be granted to Washington for national defense and foreign policy only, according to Farris. I would concur.

Where I begin to become concerned with what Mike Farris et al. are proposing revolves around the bloated nature of their proposals. Farris desired to put in a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA), term limits, eliminating the Dept of Ed, etc. Farris also proposes a restructuring of the Supreme Court, even recalling federal officials.

Screencap credits: JBS.org

Screencap credits: JBS.org

I began to squirm a bit when Farris said, that since the Supreme Court likes international law, we could have 50 justices, one appointed from each State. I must admit, I am not altogether clear on exactly how this would work. But I will say that I am no fan of international law, per se. I believe Americans should be under the jurisdiction of American law, period. Our sovereignty as a nation is non-negotiable. But, perhaps, I do not understand exactly what Mike Farris is putting forth when he speaks of restructuring the Supreme Court, and his reference to international law.

What I will say is I have read enough Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, etc., to know the term international is woven throughout their writings, revealing their globalist ambitions. Conversely, I have noticed the collectivist’s disdain for national sovereignty–which hinders their Utopian goal of a worldwide classless, borderless society. But I digress.

The last time a Constitutional Convention was convened was in 1787. From that convention came our Constitution. Calling for a Convention of the States is nothing new. There have been calls for a con-con for balanced budget amendments, abortion, flag burning, etc. But none of them have come to fruition.

One noteworthy opponent of a second Constitutional Convention was none other than James Madison himself.

Screencap credits: JBS.org

Screencap credits: JBS.org

Screencap credits: JBS.org

Screencap credits: JBS.org

Screencap credits: JBS.org

Screencap credits: JBS.org

It is worth noting that James Madison stated that the first Constitutional Convention “assembled under very propitious circumstances,” yet he trembled at the “result of a second.” Which leads me to ask, if a second convention were convened now, would it be under “propitious” circumstances, considering our present political climate?

During Mike Farris’ presentation, he mentioned that anyone who claims the Constitution crafted during the Philadelphia convention in 1787 as being illegal is an “enemy of the Constitution.” This made me wince a bit. Who is he referring to exactly? Consider the words of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger:

con-con-10Chief Justice Burger plainly stated the participants in the convention of 1787 “had no authority to write a constitution,” but wisely threw out the Articles of Confederation and wrote one anyway. Is this who Farris is referring to? Or anyone who agrees with Chief Justice Burger? Burger’s words also reveal, that despite the intention of a narrow focus to simply revise the Articles of Confederation, the end result was to ignore the imposed limitations and produce a wholly new Constitution–which, as Chief Justice Burger stated, was a wise thing indeed. But it also demonstrates how a con-con can exceed its intended purposes quite easily. Perhaps this is what James Madison was referring to when he stated that he “trembled” at the thought of their ever being a second Constitutional Convention.

con-con-questions

There are a number of other issues to consider. For example, a con-con is its own boss; it can do whatever it pleases. A con-con is not limited; once it convenes, it is a sovereign body. Furthermore, Congress has the power to set the rules for a con-con in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. This means it is theoretically possible for Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi to be the convention chairman. A con-con could possibly change the process of ratification, going so far as to require zero states to ratify. In the original convention that did away with the Articles of Confederation, only nine states out of the 13 were required for ratification. Although, to be fair, Mike Farris takes exception to this interpretation in his presentation. This particular issue is where Farris & Levin deviate sharply with McManus.

con-con-proponents

Screencap credits: JBS.org

con-con-proponents-2

Screencap credits: JBS.org

con-con-opponents

Screencap credits: JBS.org

con-con-opponents-2

Screencap credits: JBS.org

It might surprise some that George Soros is in favor of a con-con (read more here). If you are a lover of liberty and freedom, that should give you pause. I know it did me.

One of the more controversial proposals is the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). This is  where McManus and Farris strongly disagree. McManus points to the “unused power” in Article 1, Section 7: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House….” The “power of the purse” resides in the House. But as we have seen with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), Congress rarely exercises its authority to deny funding when the executive overreaches in its authority. But, according to the Constitution, it is Congress’ duty to do so, hence the reference to “unused power.”

con-con-BB

Screencap credits: JBS.org

con-con-BBA

Screencap credits: JBS.org

con-con-BBA-2

Screencap credits: JBS.org

con-con-jefferson

Screencap credits: JBS.org

Recently I posted an article by a retired litigator and former JAG who argued rather convincingly against a Balanced Budget Amendment. I had an interesting email exchange with the author. When I initially contacted this individual, I was on the fence regarding a con-con.

From Publius Huldah:

I just read your paper.  Well done except that there really is no way to control a convention.  Consider this:

1)  If the delegates draft a new constitution at the convention  – instead of proposing amendments to our existing Constitution – just as they did at the Convention of 1787;  they can easily insert a clause in the new constitution which grants themselves immunity from prosecution for violating State laws.

2)  Under the Constitution for the Newstates of America, the States are dissolved.  That constitution is ratified by a referendum called by the president (Art. 12, Sec. 1).  The president can call the referendum whenever he wants.  Once the States are dissolved, there is no State left to prosecute delegates.

3) Congress can pass a law granting immunity to the delegates.  We deceive ourselves when we say our progressive dominated Congress is afraid of an Art. V Convention.  The progressives want to replace it.  That is why George Soros – that financier of global fascism – is financing much of this push for an Art. V Convention.

4)  The local State attorney is the one who decides whether he will prosecute a state criminal offense.  Politics are a deciding factor in deciding whether to prosecute.

 It is irresponsible to believe that States can control delegates to an Art. V convention by passing laws.  Any lawyer with a brain should know this.  If the delegatespropose a new Constitution – and that is the secret purpose of a convention – they can protect themselves from prosecution!

 So, former US Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger was right:  THERE is no way to control the delegates  at a convention.

Once the new Constitution is proposed – with its own new method of ratification (which can be whatever the delegates want) – it WILL be ratified.  For the delegates will chose a method of ratification of the new Constitution  which is certain to ensure success:  A referendum called by the President;  a majority vote in Congress; approval by the President; etc.

It is delusional to think that State laws can control the delegates.

But State Legislators are being told the LIE that whatever comes out of the Convention must be approved by 3/4 of the States.  But only AMENDMENTS to our Constitution need to be approved by 3/4 of the States (see Art. V).  If they propose a new Constitution, it can have a method of ratification which excludes the States: such as the Constitution for the NewStates of America which provides for ratification by Referendum called by the President.

The reality is that there is no such thing as a “limited” convention.

If States want amendments to our Constitution; then they should instruct their congressional delegations to propose and pursue them.  THIS is the method James Madison proposed over & over again.

So, former US Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger was right:  THERE is no way to control the delegates  at a convention.

Once the new Constitution is proposed – with its own new method of ratification (which can be whatever the delegates want) – it WILL be ratified.  For the delegates will chose a method of ratification of the new Constitution  which is certain to ensure success:  A referendum called by the President;  a majority vote in Congress; approval by the President; etc.

It is delusional to think that State laws can control the delegates.

But State Legislators are being told the LIE that whatever comes out of the Convention must be approved by 3/4 of the States.  But only AMENDMENTS to our Constitution need to be approved by 3/4 of the States (see Art. V).  If they propose a new Constitution, it can have a method of ratification which excludes the States: such as the Constitution for the NewStates of America which provides for ratification by Referendum called by the President.

The reality is that there is no such thing as a “limited” convention.

If States want amendments to our Constitution; then they should instruct their congressional delegations to propose and pursue them.  THIS is the method James Madison proposed over & over again.

Naturally, not all agree with Publius Huldah regarding a BBA, as one article I recently read will attest (read here). But, personally, I feel Publius Huldah and John McManus make a stronger case regarding a BBA than their detractors.

(My friend Lt. Robert Powell from Pacific Freedom Foundation prepared a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the points in the Publius Huldah article on the balanced budget amendment. I have converted the slides to images for easy sharing. See more here.)

Screencap credits: JBS.or

Screencap credits: JBS.or

Screencap credits: JBS.or

Screencap credits: JBS.or

Screencap credits: JBS.or

Screencap credits: JBS.or

There is another issue regarding a Balanced Budget Amendment that I think is often overlooked. What happens if the Congress goes over-budget if a balanced budget is the law? What will prevent Congress from simply raising taxes to comply with the law? I have included a video at the end of this article of a presentation given by free-market economist Veronique De Rugy, who covers this very subject in greater detail. I highly recommend giving it a view. I found it to be quite informative and enlightening.

There are two amendments I would like to see repealed. The first is the Sixteenth Amendment (progressive income tax). The second is the Seventeenth Amendment (popular election of senators). The Founders original intent for the Senate was to have State legislatures appoint senators as guardians of the States’ power against the federal government.

Publius Huldah writes:

How do we repeal the 16th and 17th amendments?  The same way we repealed the 18th Amendment.  Instruct our congressional delegations to propose and support amendments repealing those two bad amendments.  And if they refuse, kick them out of office.

Mike Farris believes “big government, big business and big media” have compromised the regular election process. I think there is a great deal of truth in this viewpoint. But this is where I think the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment would go a long way in remedying this big problem. It would go outside the scope of this article to get into all the reasons why I believe this to be the case. But if you would like to read a detailed article on the subject of the Seventeenth Amendment, I would recommend “Democratizing the Constitution: The Failure of the Seventeenth Amendment” by C. H. Hoebeke.

The possible risks of convening a con-con are too profound to not take seriously. Spirited debate on the matter is vital. I believe many of us want the same thing–meaning: a federal government that serves the people and operates within constitutional jurisdiction. But how we get there is definitely at issue, and remains to be seen.

con-con-summary


Veronique de Rugy – A Citizen’s Guide to the Federal Debt Limit Debate

About Brent P.

Author, blogger, independent researcher, Conservatarian, and strict Constitutionalist.
This entry was posted in American Culture, American Patriotism, American Sovereignty, Bill of Rights, Communications, Communism, Conservatarianism, Conservatism, Cultural Marxism, Debt Ceiling, Economy, Education, elitism, Energy Policy, EPA, Fascism, Federal Budget, First Amendment, Foreign Policy, Founders, GOP, Health Care Bill, House of Representatives, Indoctrination, Legal/Judicial, Libertarianism, Main-Stream Media, Marxism, Monetary Policy, National Debt, National Defense, National Security, Plantation Liberalism, Politics, Prejudice, Presidential Campaign, Progressive Movement, RNC, Senate, Social Engineering, Social Justice, Socialism, Taxation, Tea Party, Totalitarianism, Tyranny, U.S. Constitution, Unemployment and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.