There is much talk of repealing socialized medicine, though the rhetoric has waffled a bit since passage. The problem is that even if we gain majorities in Congress we still need 60 votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster, not to mention the 2/3 majorities we need in both houses to override a presidential veto. Meet Article V of the Constitution:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, SHALL call a convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate. (emphasis added)
Dark thoughts are on American minds these days, despite the optimism in the American system. It is not the first time, nor will it be the last. Travel backwards to the Spring of 1786. The Articles of Confederation were the “Supreme Law of the Land,” but one Charles Pinckney of South Carolina proposed a revision. Congress represented the sole institution of our national government, and Congress was rather weak. The states retained much of their sovereignty, and Congress, with the few powers it actually wielded, could only operate with unanimous consent. Rebellion and credit issues abounded, not to mention the threat of foreign invasion, without effective centralized governance. And so, the Constitutional Convention eventually convened in May 1787 to revise our system of government, and prevent disaster.
The Articles of Confederation were completely replaced by the Constitution when New Hampshire ratified it as the ninth state on June 21, 1788. The United States of America under the Constitution came into existence without a bloody revolution or civil war. And the Constitution provided a means to revision in Article V.
Every amendment to our Constitution was proposed by 2/3 of both houses of Congress. When there have been possibilities that 2/3 of state legislatures would propose an amendment Congress has pre-empted. Perhaps Congress, and the national government as a whole, feared a convention would completely alter our system of government, as did the Constitutional Convention. This is the fear we need to engender. If a convention is called, we will radically restore the limits of power on the national government to prevent its hegemony over the rights of individuals and the powers reserved to the states. We will radically alter its cash flow, and its ability to subvert the meaning of words for political gain.
Many think Congress will not acquiesce to our demands, but we have a legitimate Constitutional argument to force its hand. “Shall” is unequivocal. And if the progressives think it is not then the vast majority of laws passed in this country, including their precious socialized medicine, are illegitimate. Hell, the 1st Amendment would be absolutely useless if “shall” is not absolute, let alone every other limit on government regarding our rights. The Supreme Court cannot ignore this fact, and 2/3 of states petitioning the courts will not be ignored. Furthermore, Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper 85:
“By the fifth article of the plan, the Congress will be obliged ‘on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the States…to call a convention for proposing amendments’…The words of this article are peremptory. The Congress ‘shall call a convention.’ Nothing in this particular is left to the discretion of that body.” (emphasis added)
We should be ready to call for an Article V convention, regardless. This requires a focus not only on national politics, but state politics. A majority in Congress will help us avoid a conflict over Congress’s obligation to call a convention, but it is the state legislatures that must call for the convention. We need 34 states to call a convention. We need 38 states to ratify whatever comes out of that convention. It must be our goal to take back the state legislatures in as many states as possible. And we cannot forget that goal in our drive to replace Congress.
We should not even begin to consider other means by which we can bring the national government in line with our national will (though preparation never hurts). In fact, we do not necessarily need to call an Article V convention. The mere threat may suffice, at least in the short term. Perhaps an election is all we need. I am an optimist, but I am not a naïve optimist.
Over 200 years ago we had a crisis over a weak national government. Our Founders strengthened the national government, but entirely in terms of limitation to prevent Tyranny. Over the course of time, those limitations have been slowly eroded by false promises and naked power grabs.
We are not beyond the brink, but I see Tyranny raising its ugly head on the not too distant horizon. “Don’t tread on me” means nothing unless we are willing to use every tool at our disposal to stop Tyranny in its tracks. Article V is a fairly potent tool, and the one most suited to our times.