Do You Support a Constitutional Convention?

Early in the 20th Century, the Progressives ran through a slew of Constitutional Amendments, including authorizing an income tax, direct election of Senators, Prohibition, and Women’s Suffrage. Many conservatives are calling for a Constitutional Convention of the States, where Amendments would be directly proposed. We discussed this a few weeks ago in regards to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s proposals. Such a convention could provide an opportunity to clarify the rights protected by the Second Amendment, and make it clear to the courts the right is to be taken seriously. Now Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame has an article in USA Today talking about the idea of a new Constitutional Convention.

As I said, I have my doubts about Abbott’s proposals. I find many of them self-serving from a politician’s point of view. For instance, we shouldn’t make it harder for judges to strike down unconstitutional laws, which Abbott’s proposals would do.

Like Prof. Reynolds, I’m not quite ready to endorse the idea of another convention, but it’s starting to sound like it’s not such a bad idea. When you consider that any proposed amendments would still need to be ratified by 3/4 of the states, it doesn’t sound quite as dangerous as it could be if we just had to eat whatever came out of the sausage grinder.

What do you think? Should we emulate the progressives inaugurate our young century with a flurry of constitutional amendments?

38 Responses to “Do You Support a Constitutional Convention?”

  1. Publius says:

    No. What good will it do when what we’ve got has become meaningless?

    • LC Scotty says:

      Precisely this. If they utterly refuse to follow the one we have, why would they follow the next one? If, as they have demonstrated time and again that they will refuse to follow any inconvenient clause in the current iteration, why would I believe they will follow inconvenient clauses in the next?

  2. david says:

    I don’t understand why people who want a constitutional convention to save us from the mess those spineless crapweasel politicians have created for us don’t think that those same spineless crapweasel politicians will be the delegates at that convention rewriting the constitution. Old wine in new bottles, as it were.

    • Sebastian says:

      That’s the big argument against, if you ask me. I’m not sure what I’ll win will be worth the effort. It’s difficult to make things crystal clear enough there isn’t room for fudging.

      But most judges, even left-leaning judges, agree that you have to follow the constitution when it’s explicit. For instance, there isn’t much of a left-right debate that you have to be 35 to be eligible for President. Not much debate bills have to pass both houses and be signed by the President to become law.

      So clearer language could in theory restrain judges to a greater degree. But I’m not sure how you can write simple language on complex topics like interstate commerce without retaining a decent amount of wiggle room for judges to find powers where it wasn’t meant to be.

    • Sebastian says:

      Even a topic like the non-delegation doctrine, whose weakening has allowed unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats make new law. I’ll give anyone three paragraphs to fix that problem. I’ll bet you can’t really do it. It takes a court willing to impose limits on administrative power, and take non-delegation seriously.

  3. Alien says:

    Since Scotty seconded it, I’ll third it: Where is the enforcement of what we already have?

    I’m confident we can devise improvements, but Abbott’s proposal smacks of “we need a new law,” always the refuge of politicians: “Trust me, I’ll fix it.”

    Before we start adding “good ideas” to the Constitution, we should start deleting some provisions by repealing them (the 16th and 17th amendments, for example, come to mind).

    Our problems are less rooted in law and more in culture.

  4. Alpheus says:

    I’ve heard it suggested that a Constitutional Convention can become a runaway one, much like the first Convention that was only supposed to amend the Articles of Confederation, which can produce a document that will give the Federal Government all power, and only require a trivial amount to get it passed (say, majority vote, or 1/3 of the State Legislators, or something like that).

    While such a possibility exists, we would do well to remember that an attempt to bias an adoption of a harmful new Constitution can very well lead to Civil War…

    Now, I, personally, agree with Publius: Our Constitution might not be perfect, but it’s better than the government we currently have. I’d much rather jettison our current Government, and place a ban on anyone who’s been in Government for the last 10 or 20 years from holding any sort of government office, and start from scratch, than I would want to throw out, or seriously change, this current Constitution.

    Excepting for a couple of amendments, to be sure. For example, I’d like to see a House of Repeals that can repeal any law, and remove any person from Federal office, for any reason, with a simple majority vote (excepting anyone serving in Congress, or the President/Vice President, or the Supreme Court Justices–those should probably require a 2/3 majority). I think I’d also like to see a bigger House of Representatives, and add One more Senator per State (so that each State will vote on one Senator each 2-year Election Cycle).

    Other than the House of Repeals (I think it would be good to have an institution whose sole purpose is to repeal law), the things I would suggest would merely be tweaks to what we currently have…

    • Sebastian says:

      If the sausage grinder churns out crap, the states don’t have to vote for it.

      • Alpheus says:

        That’s my reaction to the fear of a runaway Convention too.

        Sure, the original Constitutional Convention wanted to make it easier to adopt than the unanimous requirements required for amending the Articles of Confederation…but ultimately, the Constitution was adopted unanimously anyway, pending adding a Bill of Rights.

        If a new Constitution only required 1/3 of the States (or some other ridiculously easy standard to be adopted) I sincerely doubt that the 2/3rds of the States that seriously opposed such a document would take the “adoption” seriously. Indeed, I’d expect that the 2/3rds would go so far as to take up arms against the 1/3rd who tried to enforce such an adoption.

        (And I would even go so far to expect that if the hypothesised new Constitution was so awful that the Convention goers really thought they could only get 1/3 to approve of it…it might just be so awful that they’ll struggle to get even 1/3 of the States to vote for it at all!)

    • Alpheus says:

      I just remembered an amendment that I would like to see added to the Constitution!

      Namely, Congress can only remain in session until the first Tuesday in November of each Election Year, and any session started after November *must* be the new Congress. While lame-duck Presidents are annoying, lame-duck Congresses are insufferable! (Why should people just voted out of office have a chance to pass laws that the people do not want?!?)

  5. Renegade_Azzy says:

    Only if we can remove trial lawyers from being eligible to write policy or laws.

    • Sebastian says:

      I’d be scared of laws or regulations written without consulting people who understand that kind of thing.

      • Patrick Henry, the 2nd says:

        I’m scared of people who are the only ones that understand that kind of thing. Lawyers and Judges thrive on incomprehensible language and procedure.

  6. Dollup15 says:

    I think it would be a massive waste of time. Any proposal passed by such a convention would need to be ratified by 38 states in order to be effective, and I don’t see that happening, particularly on gun issues, any time in the near future.

    California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Vermont and Illinois are 12 states that would certainly refuse to ratify anything “our side” would favor. They would only need to find one more state, which I’m sure they could do.

    • Sebastian says:

      We got that many states to enact concealed carry. At the start of that, I don’t think anyone would have guessed that were possible.

      • Patrick says:

        Concealed carry took 20+ years to get here. Most amendments passed from Congress require ratification within 7 or 10 to become final.

        Not sure we could pen a proposal that would allow a quarter century to ratify the text.

        • SDN says:

          Except when they don’s. I don’t see anything in the Constitution setting such a time limit.

        • Alpheus says:

          The amendments that have a time limit specifically state that; this is to avoid the “Floating Amendment” problem that can happen without such limits.

          An example: while I was in High School, an amendment to the Constitution slipped in under the radar, making it a Constitutional requirement that any pay raise for Representatives wait until the next session of Congress to take effect. That amendment was originally the second amendment of the original 12 proposed amendments given to the States immediately after ratification! The first amendment of that group is still floating out there…

      • NukemJim says:

        “We got that many states to enact concealed carry.”

        Sorry but I must respectfully disagree with you.

        Illinois enacted concealed carry only because of the Federal Judiciary. Without Heller and McDonald there was no way for us to get CCW passed. Without the court cases Ill would not have CCW.

        • Sebastian says:

          I’m just pointing out it’s not an impossible hill to climb. The actual numbers are that there are 42 shall-issue states, with Illinois being the 42nd state to pass it. There were 8 shall-issue states when this all started, so we only flipped 34 states. But it’s close enough to not make it an impossible feat.

          It’s a separate question as to whether the founders made the amendment process too difficult. Maybe only 2/3rd of states ought to be enough?

  7. Texas carry says:


  8. FiftycalTX says:

    The ONLY chance we have to change Congress is thru a convention of the states. Congress is DRUNK on it’s power and will NEVER voluntarily give it up. Another item that must be added is a TERM LIMIT of 12 years for all elected and APPOINTED officials. No more life time tenure for judges. Also the confiscation of “illegal” items must not benefit the confiscating agency. Makes legal theft too easy.

    • Alien says:

      I’ll wholeheartedly agree on term limits, but in a different form: “No one shall serve more than 5 terms, or portions thereof, in elected office in the United States, no more than 2 of which shall be in the same office.”

      We have a ruling class that begins at dogcatcher, moves up to citty council, becomes mayor, then state representative, followed by state senator, leading to Congress and the US Senate. At each step contacts, power and money are accumulated, all to detriment of the citizens. That chain must be not just broken but completely destroyed.

      I’d also support a 15-year limit on being employed by or receiving compensation in any form from government in the United States, except for salary, benefit and retirement commensurate with rank in the US military. Unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats are more dangerous than those elected. Keep the employment term long enough to benefit from experience but short enough it’s just one job among many in a lifetime.

      • Sebastian says:

        I don’t really agree with term limits. I’m not convinced, for instance, that Virginia is better off for always having a lame duck governor versus states that don’t. It’s always seemed to me to be a solution that addresses a symptom rather than a root cause. The root cause of our of control bureaucracy is the desecration of the non-delegation doctrine by the courts. I don’t think limiting federal employment is going to fix that. Likewise, I don’t think term limits will fundamentally fix the problem. It’s a addressing a symptom.

        • FiftycalTX says:

          The reason for term limits is low info voters. Or just STOOPID VOTERS! How do you think we got 50 years of Robert KKK Byrd? Or 30 years of Schumer? Maybe the same party would get elected, but the “election is the term limit” crowd has given us many years of crony legislators that LINED THEIR OWN POCKETS and collected POWER to the deteremint of the nation as a whole. Or would you rather have Obama for 4 terms?

          • Ian Argent says:

            So, what stops them from voting the party line, even if they can’t vote the same guy? Term limits are a terrible solution to the problem of “I don’t like that electorate.”

        • Alien says:

          I’ll agree completely, Sebastian, that term limits are treating a symptom rather than the disease, but I’m wondering at what point symptoms become the disease.

          If – and it’s a very big if – the federal government could be herded back into its Constitutional corral, a term limits discussion (for elected as well as the unelected) would never arise because service in either would be suffiiciently limited as to be little more than one way stop on a lifetime of careers; today “government” is a lifetime career all by itself.

          Under the Constitution Congress is charged with making laws; unfortunately, Congress has abrogated its authority by passing non-specific legislation and letting the executive branch implement administrative regulations that carry the force of law and are enforced as such. That strikes me as a fundamental violation of Constitutional principles, but everyone from Joe and Jane Voter to SCOTUS seems pretty happy with it.

          As example, search the Constitution for the words “housing” and “mortgage”; you won’t find them, but we have HUD, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Sallie Mae, FHA and VA mortgages, Farm Bureau loans, Section 8, and now Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. Congress passed vague laws based on “good ideas and great intentions” and executive agencies – one of the other two Constitutional divisions, part of the “checks and balances” built into the Constitution – have become not just willing accomplices but incestuous partners in the entire scam.

          At least 3/4 of the federal government has no Constitutional justification for its existence, yet Congress has bestowed it upon us, and expected us to gleefully embrace it.

          I’d rather see government expense and intrusion reduced by orderly means than any other, and while severe term limits – for both elected and unelected – are probably not the best long term answer to Congressional irresponsibility, in the shorter term they may offer a respite to the uncontrolled growth of what has become a malignancy consuming the host while we examine more permanent options.

  9. While I understand skepticism of fixing the Constitution without destroying the existing legal establishment, it is also true that state legislatures are sick of federal mandates and invasion of state sovereignty. I suspect a new convention would strip the federal government of most of its powers, and severely limit federal judiciary. Then the billionaire crooks would start over, but we would have a few years of peace.

  10. James says:

    I hate to repeat it, but we’re not voting our way out of this.

    My proffer is to protect yourself and loved ones as best as possible, financially and security wise, and try to salvage a meaningful life on the other side.

    We’ve globally reached meltdown debt; a ponzi that is beyond recovery and law enforced by the state isn’t a going to work for you.

    • Alpheus says:

      I would go so far as to say that Revolution wouldn’t get us out of this mess, either: after all is said and done, and we successfully throw off the current Government, what are we going to do? Hold elections? But those elections are likely to fill Government up with the same types of power-hungry cronies that got us into this mess in the first place!

      I’m not entirely opposed to starting afresh–even making it illegal for anyone who’s served in Government these last 12 years to serve in it at any time in the next twelve (probably excepting military service)…but at best, that’s going to shake things up a bit, and make life interesting for a little while.

      I have no objection to shaking things up a bit, just for fun; I just don’t think it’s a good idea to be under any illusion that we’d be guaranteed to come out better for it in the end (even if this outcome is a real possibility).

      • SDN says:

        “I would go so far as to say that Revolution wouldn’t get us out of this mess, either: after all is said and done, and we successfully throw off the current Government, what are we going to do? Hold elections? ”

        Before or after the “expulsion of the Tories?”

        Contra popular myth, the American Revolution did in fact have its’ “Terror” similar to the French Revolution where up to 100,000 Loyalists were removed from the United States . They either fled to other British colonies, such as Canada or back to England, or were killed. Of course, in those other British areas, they blended back into the population much better than the aristos run out of France; they spoke the language if nothing else. Thus, it isn’t nearly as widely known.

        That will be an inevitable finish to Civil War 2. Best be prepared for that reality.

        • Alpheus says:

          The problem, though, is who is going to run out who? We might have some say on when a Revolution starts, but revolutions are chaos, and it’s folly to assume that we’ll be able to control the direction that it takes.

          This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be armed, though: I’d much rather have the right to Revolution, however impractical it might be in practice…and I would *definitely* want the right to resist a given Revolution, if that Revolution is an attempt to extinguish liberty…and above all, regardless of what happens, we need the right to defend our families and communities from both sides, if it comes down to that.

  11. David Lawson says:

    The one advantage I see to term limits is it could reduce the power of money over politicians…how interested would someone be in buying favor with a politician that is limited in years of service?

    • Ian Argent says:

      Term limits make bribery MORE attractive – the politician has a limited time to feather their nest before they’re term-limited out.

      • Will says:

        Laws that restrict politicians from benefiting from their position and from insider info should be enforced or created as needed. Currently, Congress is allowed to do stock trading with insider knowledge. Everyone else is subject to prison. That is just one way they get rich.

        To put some teeth in them, I would suggest that anyone with knowledge of a .gov employee enriching themselves or their family should be awarded a large percentage of the ill-gotten proceeds if they file a charge, and it is upheld.

    • Rod says:

      The problem is that politicians are powerful enough to be worth buying. If we actually had a Constitutionally limited government, neither term limits nor money in politics would matter much.

  12. aerodawg says:

    How about this simple change. 2/3s majority required to add words to federal law, simple majority to remove words. Would make sure that only that which the people actually want would be made law and if something they didn’t want was ***cough obamacare cough*** it would be easy to remove. Laws should be hard to pass and easy to repeal. Good laws can make it through and bad ones can be removed quickly.