Last week, a resolution to call for an Article V Convention of the States failed in the North Carolina House of Representatives. North Carolina would have been the 13th state to pass such a resolution, and a resolution had already passed the NC Senate. Specifically, Article V of the United States Constitution defines the process for making constitutional amendments. This can be done by two mechanisms. The first is through passage of an amendment by Congress. Any Amendment passed through Congress must obtain a two-thirds majority in both houses. It must then be ratified by three fourths of the states either by convention or vote in the legislature. To this point in US history, this is the way that all amendments to the US Constitution have been achieved. Article V also allows states to call for a convention, whereby amendments can be passed by a singular body of delegates made up from each of the separate states. This requires a resolution calling for such a convention by two-thirds of the several states. Had the NC legislature passed its resolution, only 26 States would still be needed for such a convention to be called.
There is plenty of mystique and myth around what an article V convention would look like. Some individuals fear a “runaway convention,” whereby the delegates call for and pass amendments that would radically change our country’s structure. I’ve heard conservatives, for example, suggest that an Article V convention could lead to the repeal of the second amendment. COS Project, an organization responsible for much of the action taking place on an article V convention, debunks many of these myths on their website.
The reality of what drives the opposition, in my opinion, isn’t fear about what a convention might accomplish, but rather what it represents. A convention of the states would strike a mighty blow to the federal government in the name of federalism and states’ rights.
Frankly, our country has been radically changed over the years without a convention, so why so much fear about having one now? From the passing of the 17th Amendment to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, power has been slowly sapped away from the states and put into the hands of an overreaching federal government.
The fact of the matter is that before any amendment is passed, the mere occurrence of an article V convention would shift the balance of federal and state power, as the federal government can do nothing to stop the process, once the requisite number of states is reached. This is a scary proposition to the current leaders on both sides of the political aisle.
Even at the state level, Republicans and Democrats are wary of relinquishing power to a convention of states. NC House Democrat, Bobbie Richardson was recorded saying, “I think we should be very cautious about saying what the federal government should not do. Many of us benefited from the federal government stepping in.”¹ This attitude is exactly what the founders feared, exactly why Article V exists, and exactly why it is needed now more than ever.
The feds need to learn that the states and their citizens are still in charge. Like a dog having its nose swatted by a newspaper, a convention would be a stark reminder that power is still derived from the people and the states.
As the Federalist movement catches fire and continues to grow, I hope that all self-described Federalists can get behind an article 5 convention.
- Jarvis, Craig, Brian Murphy, and Colin Campbell. “NC legislature rejects effort to join constitutional convention movement.” The News&Observer. N.p., 29 June 2017. Web. 2 July 2017.