Article Five Convention: A Bad Idea

In the ever-changing, never peaceful world of politics and government, some things move us forward and some buckle our knees. It’s not always obvious which is which. One currently popular movement of interest in Utah is potentially disastrous—the call for a Constitutional Convention of the States, named the Con-Con, or Article 5 Convention.

Article 5 of the U. S. Constitution provides for its amendment to allow changes to government without chaos and revolution. Two amendment methods are given. In the first, used for all 27 current amendments, Congress carries out the amendment process. In the second, two-thirds of state legislatures require Congress to call a convention to propose an amendment. Both methods then require ratification by three-fourths of the states.

The second method has never been used to amend the Constitution, so no pattern exists to carry out such a convention. Any formula to do so would be created and conducted by our current leaders, many of whom do not value inalienable rights, limited government, and our original virtues of faith in God, integrity, and high moral standards. While our 1787 leaders had advanced knowledge from the masters of political thought, today’s leaders do not. Our original Founders wanted the common good—liberty through limited government and individual rights. The pattern they followed to create government reflected those values. Are we confident that today’s leaders can be trusted to share that unselfish goal?

In addition, there is doubt that fair rules would prevail during a Con-Con. A parallel can be drawn with the White House Conference on Families (WHCF), conducted by the Carter administration in 1980. It was touted as a venue for ordinary people to tell government how to help families. As an elected delegate from Nebraska, the WHCF experience destroyed my trust in the integrity of government and public policy.

Contrary to the rules, the conference was front-loaded with progressive government appointees who came to demand more government. During the two days of group workshops, the overwhelming consensus from the small group sessions was “Government, leave us alone!” On the final day, when results were to be tabulated, a surprise last-minute rule change by the progressives who conducted the conference left conservative directives on the cutting room floor. We were helpless; our cries of outrage were ignored. With the changes, liberal, rather than conservative mandates arose from the conference.

It would be relatively simple for those intent on “fundamental transformation” to similarly subvert the rules at an Article 5 Convention. Con-Con advocates say rules would prevent a progressive takeover. There were rules at the WHCF; they were as toothpicks before a flood. There is talk among foes of the Constitution to replace our founding document during such a convention and replacement drafts exist; I have one in my possession. It is a cancellation of individual liberties.

Con-Con advocates believe new laws will stop the current wholesale destruction of our governing system. Their beliefs appear naive; if the present constitutional law is ignored or changed at will, there is little reason to believe new laws would be treated any differently. Author and constitutional scholar Scott Bradley, in “The Epidemic of Calls to Modify the United States Constitution”, declares that we do not need new laws. Our original Constitution provided sound government. If we follow it, most of the proposed amendments are unnecessary.

Today we stand amid the Founders’ worst fears for America—lawless federal government, whose leaders espouse federal control of private enterprise through regulation and bailouts, redistribution of wealth, massive bureaucratic government, and the making of laws by those with no authority to do so. Those who perpetrate these unconstitutional actions would preside at a Con-Con and draft its policies. Any system they created would take away freedom, not protect it.

Utah has voted against an Article 5 Convention in past. Nothing has changed. Our efforts should be directed to the original Constitution’s protection, not to situations that might dismantle it. We don’t need more laws, we need to enforce the laws we have. The 1787 document that gave us unparalleled freedom, protection and prosperity is enough. Little more is needed; nothing less will suffice.