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Article V Convention

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America was originally thirteen colonies. The British had us under their thumb, we finally organized, and with help, threw off a long train of abuses and secured freedom. We had the Articles of Confederation and it kept us and our new freedom intact.

Then some people thought some revisions needed to be made, and Alexander Hamilton led a group that went door-to-door to the states selling the idea that it was time to call a convention. Most everyone finally agreed--except Rhode Island, they never made a sale there--and the Founders convened in Philadelphia. After the first few hours they realized they were split in two, between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The Federalists wanted a centralized government. The Anti-Federalists were like, "What?! We just got free from the British! Centralized government?! Just a matter of time before money corrupts, and then what?! Another war for independence?!" Some of the representatives who had shown up turned heel right then and there and left hollering at the top of their lungs that evil was afoot.

The crowd was shocked, but those who stayed hashed things out because there were problems that needed to be solved. After it was written, the Federalists had to go out and sell this new Constitution to the thirteen states.

When you really want to sell something and it's a tough sale, you have to have solid rebuttals. And the final rebuttal to the Anti-Federalists, who thought it was a mistake to place all that power into three branches of government, was Federalist 85. And Hamilton wrote that sales pitch himself. He said--look, if things ever get out of control and Congress becomes so corrupt that it's no longer expressing the will of the people--if corruption ever becomes institutionalized--the states can step in, call a convention, and purge it. The clause, when satisfied, is peremptory, done without debate, and Congress has no option in the matter. That's the essence of the American spirit, that we consent to be governed, and when things go bad we can alter or abolish. That was the rebuttal that made the sale, and that's why we ratified the Constitution and became the U.S.A.

The Constitution is the Supreme Law because every
other in all fifty states--whether it's about operating a boat off the coast of Maine, or driving a tractor in Texas, or disposing of paint in Oregon--every single law is linked directly to its seven articles and twenty-seven amendments.

Under the authority of Article V, the Constitution says once two-thirds of the states apply, Congress has to issue the call. Just as there shall be three branches of government, Congress shall call a convention once the applications hit the doorstep. This is the direct language of the law all elected officials of America and members of our U.S. military swear an oath to uphold. In short, the Founders anticipated the political question doctrine way back then and dealt with it directly--that's why the convention call is ministerial in duty, not discretionary.

Now fast forward to the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s, when talk of a convention started going around. Look at editorials from those days, "No--not a convention! If a convention happens the Constitution can be torn to pieces! Or maybe a runaway convention, and suddenly hundreds of amendments, and everything's a joke!" It's the same argument politicians and the media trot out every time America starts discussing whether or not it's time to call a convention. Not to mention that politics are already a joke, Americans have been conditioned like Pavlov's dog to fear a convention because of what might happen--that it would be some kind of Pandora's box. But what the newspapers and politicians failed to mention is the ratification process. They only told us half the truth, and as the late great Ben Franklin mentioned, half the truth is often a great lie. The ratification process requires seventy-five percent of the country to agree before anything is put on the Constitution.

The Founders knew that to get three-quarters of everyone to agree to anything is so difficult that any idea that is even slightly questionable, is toast. It has no chance of being ratified. Only the ideas that are obvious would be ratified. To fear a convention, basically you're fearing a brainstorming session--the very thing that has to happen for any hope of survival. The Founders knew then what we know now, that governments can become corrupt, and that's why the legal mechanism of the convention clause was placed in the Constitution. It's King Kong sitting there to keep any monsters--corporate or otherwise--from getting between the American people and their government.

So, if Article V was supposed to be the mechanism to save the day when things got corrupt, then why are things the way they are? And there's an answer. In order for there to be a convention for proposing amendments there has to be applications from two-thirds of the states, and the reason we're living under a cap of disinformation called the military/industrial complex, and the reason there's no health care or an education for whoever wants it, is because there are over five hundred applications requesting a convention and Congress has never called it. All the state applications are there right now in the Congressional Record and Congress is ignoring them. Laches, it's known as legally--ignoring something on purpose.

So the truth that we're not allowed to talk about is that besides those who no longer care, whether you know it or not, we're all either Conventionists or Anti-Conventionists--you're either for a convention or you're not, and if you're against a convention you're either ignorant, in denial, or part of the problem. And because the problem is causing the levels of misery in the world that it is--so a few can benefit from the many-makes it a moral dilemma. Thoreau already said it all in Civil Disobedience. If a government turns you into an agent of injustice, and taking a moral stand means ending up in jail, then sometimes the only place for a just person is jail. When we refuse allegiance, the revolution is accomplished.... A convention is a peaceful revolution. That's why the Constitution is so great, because it provides for peaceful revolution.

Anyway, we're trapped by whatever forces control banks and corporations. And if we need to get out from underneath that, an Article V Convention is the way to do it. I'm not saying we should all be out on the corner with a banner and a bullhorn foaming at the mouth about a convention, but we should at least know what ought to be done. Isn't that important at least? To be aware of what ought to be happening? If you chnge the way you're looking at things, the things you're looking at change. At the very least we should be making it the butt of jokes--the bathroom is out of toilet paper--someone call a convention!

Maybe every year--like the second Saturday of April-everyone goes to their state capitol to play catch and picnic, until one year there's enough people and we get a convention. I'm a dreamer, I know, but imagine this-Congress issues the call to the states with a date to convene. The states hold special elections for delegates, and before long we'd start getting the human interest stories of who these Americans are, and what they wanted to propose. Then they'd fly to the Capitol and the gavel would fall, calling the convention to order. On live TV we'd get to watch the delegates propose ideas--the good, the bad, and the ugly--and in the process a few modern-day Jeffersons and Madisons would emerge. They'd be on the news and late-night TV just like senators are today. Then after all the ideas were proposed, the gavel would fall again, end the convention and everyone would go home. Then we'd start getting the stories about which states had approved which ideas, and as soon as any one of them reached the thirty-eight-state threshold---boom-ratification. Think about what that process would do to the political landscape. It would be amazing. It would be a peaceful revolution.

Whenever you debate with an Anti-Conventionist though, and they give the same invalid reasons---that the whole Constitution can be torn up--which is a lie-so they can remain in denial---ask them why it's there? Why is the provision for a convention there in the first place? Try it, they won't like it because the answer is so ugly to them--that some delegate might come up with a good idea to make things right again. In fact, because all the applications are on record, it's a constitutional requirement a convention be called--so to be an Anti-Conventionist today is actually to be Anti-Constitutionalist.

But just ask an Anti-Conventionist why--why is the convention clause in the Constitution in the first place? They don't like it.
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Writer/artist/activist from California, with a degree in Creative Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Advocating for the convention clause of Article V since 2001.

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