*By Debbi Anderson, Conservative Ladies of Washington Education Lead
Convention of States. Hm. Do you know what that really is? I teach History and I had to do a refresher course, mainly because history does not show a successful amendment based on a Convention of states. Here’s what I found out.
First, it’s mentioned in Article V in the Constitution. I’m going to paraphrase it a bit here. The big question at hand for our founding fathers was, “How can those who come after us add amendments to the Constitution?” Keeping with their spot-on record of being able to forecast the future of America, they gave a good ruling of how we should proceed. I think they were pretty good at knowing the character of Americans—character doesn’t seem to change over time.
Article V says that Congress can propose an amendment to the Constitution IF they have two-thirds of both houses in agreement. And, a Convention of States can be called if two-thirds of the states agree, and an amendment can be ratified when 3/4ths of the states agree. The only provision is that no other amendment denies this. For example, you can’t ever undo the slavery amendment or the women’s voting amendment. They are both protected. Also protected is the number of Senators each state has.
Second, I wanted to take a quick look and see what the Founding Fathers were thinking. The Federalist Papers is where I went, particularly to James Madison’s article written on January 29, 1788. Why should states be allowed to amend the federal Constitution? Again, paraphrasing (which means I’m open to correction), Madison stated with emphasis that both the state and the federal governments must always be ruled by the people and for the people. Now, I’m going to quote this because it’s so good!
“The federal and State governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject; and to have viewed these different establishments, not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other.” In other words, when one party tries to take over the government for its own furtherance, the remedy of the States must be available to correct that humongous error! Truth and decency must be restored to the people!! (Those are Madison’s words too! Truth. Decency.)
Madison went on to reason that the States, more than the Federal government, would most certainly be able to hear the voice of the people. They are closer to the people, they are within the jurisdictions of the people, and they are affected by the people. Madison called it a “natural attachment” of the people to their respective states. After all, it’s their families, their work mates, their cultures. (Let’s not talk about our attachment to Inslee right now, ok?)
So, we have it spelled out for us right now. We need 38 out of the 50 states to call for the Convention. It’s pretty difficult but NOT impossible. It’s been attempted, but amendments have only succeeded through Congressional movement.
If you get confused by the count of how many states have joined the call, I was too. It seems that once a state calls for a Convention, the call remains on the docket until the state rescinds it. It can stay there for years and years and still be valid. And the wording of what the call is for can be “close,” if not exact. So, right now the calls are for amendments which would impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power of the federal government, and mandate term limits.
Here’s where the count is now. There are 15 states with existing calls for a Convention: Georgie, Alaska, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arizona, North Dakota, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Utah and Mississippi. Nine states have passed the call in one house but not yet the other: New Mexico, Iowa, South Dakota, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. There are 26 states that have made it clear they are actively considering the Convention are: Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
In other words, it is entirely possible this Convention of States can happen!!
If you come across someone who says this will never happen or it will have no effect if it does, remind them that history proves they are dead wrong. Through Article V, we abolished slavery, we curbed abuse of minorities, we gave women the vote, and we limited the presidential term of office. What we are doing is impactful and will change the course of history. Students 50 years from now will read in their public school textbooks the accurate history of what the American people did in 2021 and 2022 to take back their country.