Anyone the least bit familiar with the Constitution and its early history knows that, despite lip-service to it, neither political party follows it, nor do any of the three branches of government actually limit themselves to their specific articles in it. All three operate outside the carefully crafted cages to which they were assigned. So how do we get the federal government back to servant rather than master? Well-meaning conservatives, and Mark Levin in particular, are wrong in their push for a new constitutional convention for the following reasons.
To begin with, why argue to get what you already have? It is a far weaker argument because it implies uncertainty on your part that you already have it. The federal government is already limited by the existing Constitution: Congress to a precise list in Article I, Section 8. The President is limited to a list housed in Article II, Sections II and III. The Supreme Court is limited to eleven types of cases most with but appellate (limited by Congress) jurisdiction and only two totally free of the restrictions of Congress called original jurisdiction. All other power was reserved to the states as per Amendment 10 of the Bill of Rights. Again, to argue that we need additional amendments to get the federal government to abide by what was already understood as their limits of power is to argue to get what we already have.
An argument within the Constitution is much easier to make than asking that three fourths of the states accept something new and somewhat foreign to them. Three-fourths of the states is a big number and takes many years to acquire, and in a nation somewhat constitutionally illiterate is likely to fall short of the states needed. Meanwhile, the case for living within the Constitution can be made today because a majority of the people was taught some level of reverence for it. Showing them how the federal government has strayed from clearly cited restrictions in the document is a much easier case to make.
The argument that we have already unsuccessfully tried to keep the federal government within constitutional bounds is legitimate. But to suppose that a George W. Bush or a Barack Obama will stay within the bounds of new amendments when, with impunity, each has violated those amendments in existence is as naive as believing that more gun control laws will cause the criminals to turn in their guns.
A new Constitutional Convention potentially exposes everything that we already have placing everything at risk. Where is the basis for faith that the new “Founders” will not tamper with established basics? Three Twentieth Century amendments seriously damaged previously sacred foundation points of a republic: the 16th gave the federal government unlimited resources to spend in areas not listed as their function in Article I, Section 8 and the states lined up with alms bowls in hand for the grants. The 17th removed State influence and consent in lawmaking thus irreparably damaging the concept of federalism so critical to limiting the power of the federal government. The 18th outlawed the consumption of alcohol in the nation for ten years giving the government the right to tell its people what they can drink.
Some argue that we can limit the extent of change in a new convention. It is well to remember that the original delegates to the Constitutional Convention were not authorized to dump the Articles of Confederation, but did, exposing everything that then existed. Can Levin and others guarantee that that could not happen again? No!
Why would we suppose that new founders will have an equal to, or superior, understanding of natural law upon which the Constitution was based? We assume that the states will be anxious to get their powers restored to them but where is the basis that they see such a need? Do not almost all elected federal government personnel first serve in state legislatures then abandon the state perspective when they reach Washington DC?
Finally, the enemies to limited federal government yearn for a constitutional convention as well. They want everything dictated from Washington DC—an all-powerful government. Such groups as Wolf-Pac, AFL-CIO, Code Pink, Progressive Democrats of America, and the forty-five political action organizations funded by George Soros (New American, April 7, 2014, p. 18) are just waiting for the opportunity to empower themselves and government more fully. Who can promise that they will sit idly by while we further limit their ability to manage us?
Holding to the Constitution with exactness is our only real secure way to take back our country. Our weapons are the limiting clauses of the Constitution and Amendment 10 of the Bill of Rights. Political parties have failed us. Encouraging our people to become Constitutionalists first is a better approach. As tyranny grows so will support for our cause. Mr. Levin and other conservatives, please don’t risk losing everything by an ill-conceived constitutional convention. The answer is to make the government abide by what they have by oath promised and, when needed, carefully craft new amendments one at a time, as for example a balanced budget amendment.
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.