by BRITTON WOLF || Recently, the Libertarian Party of South Carolina at their state convention adopted a resolution calling upon the South Carolina State Legislature to pass legislation in favor of an Article V convention. I am surprised by this decision, and I believe that such a convention poses a threat to our constitution.
I believe that there are many well-intentioned activists and volunteers working toward what they believe is the “last hope” for saving our republic. I won’t assign any negative intentions to them and instead applaud them for working so valiantly to pass something that they believe will “fix our nation.” However, I believe that they are misinformed about the potential risks of an Article V convention and their apathy with the political process is leading them to this “easy fix” option, without actually addressing the real issues facing our nation.
THE FIRST CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
The first Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia in 1787 with the sole purpose of altering the Articles of Confederation. Of course, today we know that we live under a constitutional republic and not the articles of confederation, thus the Articles of Confederation were abolished and our founding fathers drafted the United States Constitution. Our founding fathers literally committed an act of treason by abolishing the government-held together by the Articles of Confederation and then forming the government in which we live under today, which is held together by the US Constitution. At the completion of the convention, our founders had to return to each of their home states to “sell” the idea of a constitution to their fellow countrymen.
It’s also forgotten that under the Articles of Confederation all states had to approve any changes for ratification. This meant that one state could have decisive veto power. Not all states agreed to ratify the U.S. Constitution. In fact, Rhode Island refused to send a delegate and the convention went on without it out.
Within the constitution, there are two methods granted to us by our fore-fathers for reforming our constitutional government, which can be found in Article V. The first is by 2/3rds vote by the house and senate to pass an amendment. The second method is by a Convention of the States (COS) where each state will elect delegates to represent them in a convention to amend the US Constitution.
BUT ISN’T ARTICLE V IN THE CONSTITUTION?
It is true that an Article V convention can be found within the US Constitution, but that doesn’t mean it is a good idea. The Constitution was written in the times of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington; men who were principled and firm in their convictions, they dedicated their lives to the defense of the liberties of their fellow man. We no longer live in such times.
We now live in the times of Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham; individuals that don’t stand up for our civil liberties, and who’s principles change with what is more politically advantageous for them and their careers. For the COS to work as planned these individuals would be forced to go against what benefits them personally and the nature of government; which is to always expand and never shrink.
So what does the Constitution say about an Article V Convention? Article V of the US Constitution reads as follows:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
This doesn’t give us much information, it doesn’t outline qualifications for representatives or how each delegate is to be selected. It doesn’t outline what can or cannot be added or removed from the constitution in the form of an amendment. In fact, it doesn’t even prohibit the abolishment of the constitution itself or a restructure of our federal government, which happened in the convention of 1787.
WHO WILL REPRESENT US AT A CONVENTION OF STATES?
Because Article V of the Constitution is vague and doesn’t outline how delegates for a COS are to be selected, so we are to follow the 10th Amendment and leave this to each state to determine the manner in which they will select their convention delegates.
In other words, our state legislature will pick who is to be sent to represent us at a COS. I don’t trust them with that much power. How would you feel if Sen. Hugh Leatherman was selected to be South Carolina’s delegate at a convention to reform the federal constitution? Because sending Sen. Leatherman to the COS to amend our federal constitution is a huge possibility.
A RUNAWAY CONVENTION
I rarely agree with Gov. Henry McMaster, but I share his same concerns with regard to the “unintended consequences” of an Article V convention. He was warning us of a runaway convention, a convention where the delegates ratify their own rules, vote on their own amendments, and restructure the constitution to fit their own agenda.
Advocates of the COS movement like to laugh when the runaway convention objection is made, they say “a runaway convention could never happen because we will control the rules and agenda.” But if this were true, then why do we have a constitution today? As I previously pointed out, the convention of 1787 is an example of a runaway convention. Our founding fathers were sent to Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation and instead abolished them, then adopted and ratified the US Constitution.
The rules and agenda will be outlined by each state legislature that passes legislation in favor of COS. Each state will have its own rules and proposed amendments based upon the legislation that they passed, and as you can imagine South Carolina is not going to have the same priorities as California, as I’m sure Texas won’t with New York. And like any other convention, the rules and agenda will be discussed, debated, and voted upon on the convention floor. In other words, despite what our state legislature votes upon, we will have no control over what decisions will be made at a COS.
This means delegate Hugh Leatherman could vote in favor of an amendment to abolish or alter the second amendment. That is the danger of a runaway convention; just think of the incredible power that would be placed in the hands of the delegates.
HOW DO WE SAVE THE REPUBLIC?
While the COS movement promotes political apathy and giving the reformation process back to the people currently in power, the real solution is more political participation. If we are to save the republic, we must call out bad politicians at the local level for corruption and government waste or run for local office.
Why do corrupt politicians stay in power? Because oftentimes, no one steps up to run against them when re-election comes around. These crooks run unopposed election after election. In politics, we focus too much on the micro and not enough on the macro. You’re not going to save the republic in one convention, but in 10-15 years you can flip a state’s legislature.
It is important to remember that the local leaders of today, are the national leaders of tomorrow. I am a part of a national movement that is trying to save our republic, and we are doing so by starting at the local level. I first ran for state house in 2018 against a 16-year incumbent, I lost. But I learned a lot from that first run and have used what I learned to help elect three state representatives in 2019. These three will prove to be champions of liberty and defenders of the constitution, individuals that will fight for the type of reforms our nation–and state–so desperately needs.
But electing three people is not enough. We need more constitution loving individuals to step up and run for local office. Once we elect enough members of the state and federal government we can use Article VI or the “supremacy clause” to nullify all unconstitutional laws. Article VI states:
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
In other words, we will hold our elected officials to their oaths to uphold the constitution as the supreme law of the land, and that all laws that are contrary to the constitution are “notwithstanding.” The founders gave us the tools necessary to maintain the republic, we must be willing to invoke those tools by being engaged in the political process.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Britton Wolf is a board member of the Republican Liberty Caucus of South Carolina and a small business owner and liberty activist residing in the Midlands region of the Palmetto State.
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