The Convention of States is a grassroots movement gaining momentum in the roiling sea of today’s politics. Essentially, it wishes to invoke Article V, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states the following:
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. (source)
In other words, the movement wants to make amendments to the Constitution. To do this, state legislatures must call a convention of states.
To accomplish this, 34 state legislatures must individually pass bills that “apply” for a convention. As long as each “application” deals with the same issue, Congress has no choice but to grant the convention. Once the convention has started, it will take 38 states to ratify a change to the Constitution.
So far, twelve of the needed 34 state legislatures support the Convention and Jim DeMint recently threw his support behind it.
Why a Convention of States?
According to their website, the project claims the purpose of the convention is to reign in the government and bring to an end four abuses:
- The Spending and Debt Crisis
- The Regulatory Crisis
- Congressional Attacks on State Sovereignty
- Federal Takeover of the Decision-Making Process
In other words, the topics of the Convention of States would be to limit the government. This is something Republicans have been wanting for years but mysteriously have never managed to do.
Supporters claim the federal government “has turned state legislatures into their regional agencies rather than respecting them as truly independent republican governments”. No one holds the government accountable and the regulatory burden placed on business is “complex, conflicted, and crushing”. The checks and balances that should be in place no longer are because of “collusion” between decision-makers.
According to the website, the solution to the problem of big, unwieldy government is to amend the Constitution. They suggest a return to government for the people and by the people. The only way to accomplish this is by a force outside Washington, D.C. intervening.
There has been some criticism of the Convention of States.
One criticism of this idea is that it will lead to a runaway convention. Critics point to the polarization of Trump’s presidency. Politics is simply “too crazy” at the moment to attempt such a thing.
One LA Times article, in tones bordering on hysteria, suggests that the convention could ignore its own rules. However, the article does make a good point: special interests may saturate the Convention of States in money to lock their priorities into the Constitution.
The Convention of States project rebuts this argument. They say it will only take 13 states to defeat any proposed amendment during the convention. Therefore, nothing “crazy” can be ratified. However, that does not solve the problem of special interests buying delegates. Delegates may also choose to represent their lust for power rather than the people.
Another criticism, levied by politically savvy MTV, suggests that the whole thing is motivated by racism:
A convention of states would be an end run around Donald Trump’s legislative incompetence, but it’s born from the same impulse that elected him: the fracturing of political norms and a desire to shore up white supremacy by any means necessary.
However, anyone who has actually read the Convention of States project’s website knows that criticism is laughable at best.
Will there really be a Convention of States?
People said that Donald Trump, a businessman lauded by some and accused by others, would never become president. However, there he sits in the Oval Office, firing off tweets and trying to negotiate a solution regarding North Korea. Therefore, it’s safe to say that anything is possible.
The better question is, “Will a Convention of States bring real change?”
Our generation’s knee-jerk cynicism would automatically answer “no” to that question. However, this country’s greatest moments came from an optimism bordering on insanity.
Alternatively, if we do nothing, then we can’t complain when we’re taxed into poverty or lose our freedoms.
The Convention of States Project calls this a nonpartisan issue. Anyone, no matter which side of the aisle they sit, knows that the government needs to change. If anything, the project evokes a powerful question: How do we change it?