Saturday, September 24, 2016

CONVENTION OF STATES


The Convention of States, COS, is a nationwide effort to induce State Legislatures to ask Congress to call a convention for proposing amendments to the United States Constitution.

Organized by Michael Farris, Chancellor of Patrick Henry University and Mark Meckler, former President of the Tea Party Patriots, the effort has focused on reining in the federal government.

Their goal, of course, is to induce the legislatures of 34 States to join in petitions required by Article V of the U.S. Constitution, requesting a convention. In order to avoid any technical objection, they are seeking to get 34 States to adopt an identically worded resolution.

Obviously, this takes a great deal of effort and coordination. Their strategy has been to recruit citizen activists in every State legislative district, who will bring pressure to bear on their respective legislators.

COS has been active since 2014. To date, they have succeeded in garnering petitions from only five States. At the same time, they now claim to have recruited citizen committees in every state legislative district in the nation.

Recently, in an effort to bolster their cause, COS has sponsored a simulated Constitutional Convention, giving us a peek at the type of assembly they envision coming together to rein in a rogue federal government.

I watched a good deal of the proceedings on video.

Regrettably, I have to say that the simulation did not inspire much confidence in their vision of constitutional reform. The delegates recruited for the simulation were primarily members of various State Legislatures.

The proposals they concocted were essentially directed at giving themselves the power to override federal statutes, administrative rules and court decisions.

I cannot imagine a more disorganized, helter-skelter approach to reining in federal overreach.

The idea that three-fifths of the State Legislatures could reverse a United Sates Supreme Court decision would be laughable if it were not for the fact that there is so much discontent with so many Supreme Court decisions.

Why it would not occur to the organizers of the simulated convention that the problem with Supreme Court decisions is the composition of the Supreme Court, I cannot imagine. I can only lay it to the myopia of legislators who are reluctant to adjust their mindset and think like constitution makers instead of state legislators.

For the first one hundred and thirty years of our nation, the Supreme Court was understood to be the keeper of the Constitution. That protective tradition
ended with the reelection of Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. Frustrated by the refusal of the Court to approve his social and economic agenda, FDR sought to pack the court with his supporters, saying that he wanted “thumping evangelical New Dealers” on the Court.

He got them. Ever since then, Supreme Court appointees have been expected to reflect the political philosophy of the appointing President. The result: an activist, partisan Court, committed to advancing political agendas.

Forty years ago, North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin proposed a plan for a truly non partisan Supreme Court that would, once again, honor its obligation to protect the Constitution from the vicissitudes of political opinion.

Ervin advocated limiting the President’s power of appointment to a list of nominees presented by the Chief Justices of the State Supreme Courts. Ervin, himself a former state supreme court justice, expected that state court judges would protect the states from the encroachment of federal authority.

It certainly is a whole lot more sensible than a long, convoluted constitutional amendment, allowing state legislators to act as a super Supreme Court.

If the hope of the COS leadership was to show, by simulation,  how their notion of an Article V Convention would work, they surely have missed the mark. If anything, they demonstrated that a convention of State Legislators would not be a true Article V amendatory convention.      

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