Much hoopla has been generated in the past few years by an organization called the Convention of States Project. Without discussing here the good, the bad, and the ugly of this organization and its goals, we will present a better and safer plan for acquiring the necessary amendments that has a much better chance of actually succeeding.
The two-step petition approach to acquiring the needed amendments to the Constitution is a plan that is actually more federalist, more grassroots, and more robust. It immediately identifies what, specifically, is broken in the Constitution. This approach immediately proposes the necessary fixes, and coalesces States around specific goals to achieve those ends. The goal line is not a meeting to discuss what to do. The goal line is getting it done.
The two-step petition approach is simple. A State’s Legislature passes a continuing resolution demanding that Congress propose a specific amendment out to the States. It emphatically states that, should 34 States adopt similar petitions without Congress acting, there will be a Convention to propose the adoption of that amendment. That petition, once passed, is forwarded to the federal delegation from that State and to all sister States. Here is the resolution introduced in January 2019 to the Missouri Senate which we are pushing in both Houses. (HCR17)
Why is this approach better? It stands to reason, in my mind, that before you talk about amending the Constitution of the United States, you should have some specific idea about exactly what needs to be fixed. And, before you even begin to discuss what needs to be fixed, you have to know what, specifically, is broken. It seems, to me at least, to be irrational, irresponsible, and even quite dangerous to enter into a venture to amend the Constitution until you have specifically answered these questions: “What, specifically, is broken?” and “What, specifically, needs to be done to fix it?”. We’ve identified what’s broken. With three very simple amendments we’ve identified the fix. We’ve thrown them out there for a truly grassroots debate and a federalist-style push UP from the States.
So, why and how is this approach to amending the Constitution safer? Despite any pretext, it is constitutionally impossible to limit a convention of states to any topic, single or otherwise. That said, no approach to amending the Constitution that involves, by design or otherwise, a meeting of the States is entirely “safe.” This approach can be considered safer only because it has these two conditions built into it.
1. The chances of actually progressing to a convention to enact the amendment being demanded are slim. If history is any indicator, the Congress will propose the demanded amendment long before the snowball gets big enough to convene the States.
2. While a convention, should it ever arise from this petition, might decide to try to tackle several topics at once, this subject will already be fleshed out, debated, and firm before the meeting begins. The best way to limit the meeting’s scope is practical, not legal. States would be inclined to quickly pass the proposed and agreed amendment and adjourn. Failing formal adjournment, it’s likely enough States would just go home after the business is concluded, denying a quorum of any sort to the remaining States.
Why does this approach present a higher chance of success? Mostly because you do not need 34 States to get the ball rolling. History indicates this. Logical analysis supports this. The amendments of the past that had the greatest impact on the direction of the country have been proposed by the Congress only after pressure from the States made it apparent to them that it had to be so. No one, not the John Birch Society, not Eagle Forum, not Justice Sotomayor, no one fears a Convention of States more than does the Congress. They are unlikely, even in the face of a proposal they find distasteful, to allow this to proceed to a Convention.
Additionally, this approach allows for a wide-open, grassroots discussion of the proposals. It presents a banner around which troops can gather. It provides for a movement that is specific, politically adhesive, and ideologically motivated.
So, what does this movement need from you?
We need your involvement. Get these resolutions introduced in your State. There is no need for you to wait for another State to send your legislature an invitation. Let’s encourage the natural competitive spirit of federalism and see which States can do this first.
And we need your resolve. Do not get discouraged. We do not win back this Republic until States are ready, willing, and able to push this rock up this hill. But, the rock is large and the hill is steep. Many of us will be feeding worms and geraniums before this mission is complete. It is up to us to begin.
Don’t you agree?
American Federalism, a definition.
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.” (Emphasis added) James Madison, Federalist 45