“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” No other statement in the last decade quite evokes the deep disgust many South Carolinians feel about the federal government today. Years of out-of-control spending, debt ceiling increases, and judicial activism have stolen the American Dream right out from under our children’s noses, and for the first time since Reagan, many no longer feel that better days are ahead. Yet, the only thing worse than no hope is false hope, for false hope will be dashed against the rocks of reality. Touted as the founder’s solution to reigning in the federal government, a Convention of States is really just a recycled snake oil cure for all that ails America. Recent advocates such as Mark Levin are neither the first nor the only ones to pitch this idea. As much as we wish we could believe it, the Convention of States sales pitch does not line up with reality. Here’s what they aren’t telling you:
A Convention will not be limited in scope. Even if states clearly define the purpose for which they call for a Convention, Article V of the US Constitution neither imposes nor allows any limitations on the subject matter which may be considered. Once called, the Convention may propose any amendments it pleases.
Congress will set the rules. Who the delegates are and what the rules are will have everything to do with the final outcome. Since only Congress has the power to call a Convention per the “necessary and proper” clause of Article I Section 8 of the Constitution, there will at a minimum be a terrific power struggle between Congress and the states over who makes these crucial procedural decisions and ultimately, over the outcome of the Convention itself. Congress will have a Constitutional basis for its claim to this power, so this is not a state’s rights battle we can win.
Nothing will change. The theory seems to be that amending the Constitution will force federal activist judges to stop ignoring original intent. The problem with this view is that there simply is no motive for them to do so. Sufficiently motivated judges, Congressmen, and Presidents have chosen at times to creatively reinterpret the Constitution, or to ignore it altogether, as President Obama has threatened to do with his “phone and pen.” Amendments will not magically change the political philosophy of those who preside over the federal government, and those who would suggest otherwise are delusional and dishonest.
For more problems with the Convention of States proposal, see Fact Checking the Convention of States.
What then should be done to reign in the federal government? If a Convention to propose Constitutional amendments is not the founders’ solution, what is? Simply this: states refusing to comply with illegal Federal actions. A balance of power exists not only between the branches of the federal government, which now seem to operate in unison despite the show made of partisan gridlock, but also between the federal government and the states. It is time for the General Assembly of South Carolina to begin weaning itself off federal funding and to reject as null and void any action taken by the federal government which is not authorized in the Constitution of the United States. After all, we took an oath to “protect and defend” the Constitution, not to sell our constituents snake oil.