Maine is no stranger to thinking outside of the box. Now another movement is silently brewing under the radar for a “Convention of States.” In a nutshell, the Constitution grants States the power to call a convention to propose new amendments to the Constititution. This amendment process has seldom been used in America’s history, but is now being advanced by a group of conservative activists here in Maine.
Those in the political mainstream might be quick to dismiss this as crazy tea party stuff, but its actually a controversial topic on the right between conservatives, tea partiers, and libertarians. While this may surprise some, it shouldnt.
There are three major points critics will raise.
The first is the fear of a runaway Convention, or one where the Constitution will become completely gutted out and transformed into a weapon of totalitarianism. The idea that there are not enough pro-liberty states in the Union is valid, given the number of consistently reelected incumbents in a Congress universally hated by Americans. But are there enough pro-tyranny states to destroy the Constitution?
In all reality, there are greater threats to the tea party and liberty movements. A runaway convention is possible, but unlikely. If those power hungry politicians have usurped the Constitution and gotten away with it, why bother wasting the time and energy to change it?
The second point of criticism is the inefficiency of the Convention push. Arguably, if there were enough states to call for a legitimate Convention of States, then people would have instead just started electing politicians with principle. We wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.
An alternative proposed by many libertarians is nullification, which is a legal act of defiance by the States against federal laws they feel is unjust or unconstitutional. First used in 1798 against the Alien and Sedition Acts, it has since been used for a number of purposes including by Northern States in the 1850s to stop the Fugitive Slave Acts.
The third point of criticism is the logic behind calling a Convention of States. The main purpose behind doing this, according to supporters, is to stop a runaway federal government that has repeatedily violated the Constitution. A Convention of States would thus amend the ignored document to prevent this. Critics point out that if they don’t obey the Constitution now, so why would they after it is amended?
Realistically, the critics are correct in stating a Convention of States’ stated purpose is useless, because the achieved results would be ineffective. Our Constitution isn’t a problem, it is well-constructed with a solid Bill of Rights. The problem is the political culture in America. Americans continue to insist upon electing party elitists as our political saviors and hope for the best.
But let’s let you in on a little secret: it doesn’t work. It hasn’t ever worked and it never will.
Change our approach to elections and we change America. Until then, it won’t matter how many times we highlight, italicize, or footnote the Constitution with new amendments, because in the end it’s still the same Constitution that gets ignored by politicians we continue to elect.