The tenor and tone of some of the debates going on within the so-called “conservative,” freedom and liberty elements seems to have gone more than a little out-of-whack surrounding the Article V “Convention of the States” debate. As the Article V Resolutions and application movement gains momentum in state legislatures, opponents have become more shrill and demeaning in their attacks on supporters. It’s seems almost completely routine for opponents to engage each attack through the use of factors one could categorize under the label of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). They also employ the tactics of guilt-by-association and ad-hominem attacks.
It is neither attractive nor pleasant to watch the divisiveness and damage being done in the overall movement by resorting to such tactics more typically practiced by our major ideological opponents against the Constitutional/conservative/freedom and liberty movement. Using “FUD factors” was a technique I first observed in the tech industry more than 30 years ago, employed by IBM against its rising competitors in the desktop and networking arena. The technique is simple and can be effective, for a period of time.
IBM would tell all its existing and potential customers that using a competitor’s products was dangerous to their jobs. The IBM marketeers would first sow multiple fears and uncertainty that the competitors products could work in the customer’s environment. If that failed, they would spread doubts that the competitor would be there for their customers if and/or when the products failed. They assured their customers that no executive or manager would ever be fired for using IBM’s products, even if they failed, as IBM would always be there to take the heat from management for them and make it right.
I watched over and over as IBM employed these tactics to great success, even while they failed to fix many of their own products that failed dramatically. Many corporations suffered tremendously, organizationally and profit-wise, in the process. In many cases it set back the desktop computing industry for years, as IBM desperately sought to maintain its hold on the mainframe computing industry.
Eventually, it became obviously evident that using IBM’s mainframe technology was a failing strategy. Then, the desktop industry competitors began making huge inroads into IBM’s business. IBM nearly went bankrupt. However, the success of employing the FUD tactic did a lot of harm for several years, and slowed the IT industry from quickly and effectively migrating away from mainframe computing technology to the vastly superior desktops and distributed architecture of the Internet.
In the Article V/Convention of the States (CoS) debate the same tactic of FUD is employed. There are many examples starting with the constant use of the term “Con-con” when opponents talk about the Article V/CoS. Con-con is a clever term. On the surface, it is meant to be a contraction of the term “constitutional convention.”
However, “Con-con” is employed as a subtle pejorative and a misdirection at the same time. It is subtly implied that the CoS is a “con” (or confidence game) to set the stage to toss out the entire existing constitution and replace it with some undefined Marxist screed. Even though, reading the state Resolutions now being introduced and passed by state legislatures strictly limits the first Article V convention to ONE issue; a balanced budget amendment. The Resolutions direct that any other outcome automatically nullifies the Convention. The rules for the convention being developed by the organizing committee also will disqualify delegation who try to propose other amendments or alter the agenda set.
As the language of Article V directly states a CoS is a convention to “propose amendments,” not a “constitutional convention.” The Con-con term is used to imply that the CoS would be used to rewrite the existing Constitution rather than simply add new amendments or repeal/correct existing bad amendments such as the 16th, 17th or 22nd.
Given the multitude of issues that Congress and the rest of the federal government fails to deal with or exceed its authority, it is evident that the CoS Article V conventions will likely have to become a standing process of the states in order to countermand the failures of Congress to address multiple issues and abuse. Congress meets nearly continuously. I would propose on ongoing Commission formed and funded by the States to enable a process that would likely last more than a decade and be reconvened every couple decades to review and advise the states what’s working and what’s not working.
Many states have successful citizen’s initiative process that compliments and counterpoints the state legislative process. The ongoing CoS Commission would act in a very similar way to manage and counterpoint the federal Congress. It is an inherent and near-completely unused due process feature of the Constitution. “A Timely Gift From the Founders,” as author/researcher Robert Berry titles it in his book on the subject.
The CoS may also be used to clarify and limit the extensive abuses by all three branches of the federal government of vague terms within the existing Constitution. Vague terms and clauses such as “…promote the general Welfare…,” or “….provide for the common defense and general Welfare of the united States… and “…regulate commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States….” are ripe for clarifying amendments to limit the extensive past and present exploitative abuse.
Opponents have tried guilt by association through directly implying that somehow secret conspiracies and shadowy figures such as George Soros are secretly funding and directing the development of the CoS efforts behind the scenes. It is posed as yet another element of the Grand Unifying Conspiracy Theory. However, they fail to identify that the liberal and Progressive elements, running their own very small parallel effort for a CoS, are both very small and have not gained any traction in the larger CoS effort being run by solid constitutionalists through the state legislatures.
They also fail to acknowledge the solid and growing numerical advantage held by Constitutional conservatives in the red state legislatures and governorships over the blue state minority that would be decisive in any CoS held. The FUD tactic used there is to imply that the blue state delegations in any CoS are so smart and devious that they would somehow take complete control of the convention. That would either turn the Convention into a Con-con or somehow be able to slide through only amendments that would destroy the US Republic and Constitution.
And, in the end, the opponents always fail to acknowledge that any and all potential amendments finally selected and passed by the CoS would then have to be ratified by either three-fourths of the state legislatures or the States in a separate ratifying convention. Again, nearly 3/4 of those state legislatures and delegations already being red state not blue state-controlled. To that argument then, the opponents raise the FUD factor of the grand conspiracy somehow controlling behind-the-scenes those red states legislatures or delegations to only ratify amendments detrimental to the federal constitution and the Republic.
One of the principal arguments of the CoS opponents is that there is no reason to amend the Constitution as it is “perfect” and only needs to be enforced as written. That argument is both simple-minded and belied by the facts and history of abuse. All one need do is simply answer how the document can be “perfect” when it contains the 16th, 17th and 22nd amendment and the extensive distortions created by the vague “general Welfare” and “interstate Commerce” clause abuse? Or, if doing a thorough analysis, realizing that in many, if not most, cases the current abuses we suffer under were often reached by sincere and honorable people who just happened to make grievous errors or were trapped by the politics of the day? All of which does not restrict any subsequent generation from correcting, once recognized, even if Congress fails to do so. That is the genius part that was designed into the document and process.
Recently, I came across an attempt to bolster that argument (“it’s perfect, don’t touch it”) through resort to a superficial comparison to the Ten Commandments. The idea was that one couldn’t credibly propose changes to the Constitution any more than they could to the Ten Commandments, so why do it to the Constitution? On the surface it seems to be momentarily reasonable. That is, of course, until one scratches below the surface and recognizes the problems associated with the items noted in the previous paragraph. The attempted analogy to the Ten Commandments then immediately fails the “smell” test.
Comparing the Constitution, written by flawed and fallible men (and later women), to the Ten Commandments would seem ludicrous on its face after a moment’s thought. Real people must continually strive for a “more perfect union” because we’ve never had one and it’s likely invention still lies well into the future. The amendment process itself, being contained within the body of the document, is a reflection and direct proof of that. The Constitution has never been perfect nor would ANY of the Founders who produced it even imply that it was. The attempt to deny the use of a patently constitutional process, for remedy to the States and specifically put there to redress one or multiple failures or abuses, or to correct error by the branches of the federal government, seems to be, at best, misguided.
Being forever fearful of using all the tools contracted for the People in the Constitution has played a large part in reaching the current dreadful state of our Republic. Just look to history. Remaining fearful and uncertain means a continual, grinding-down of the Republic to its final incremental demise. That is a certain path to violent revolution where no redress can be taken. At this point, no one can credibly argue that what the states have been doing is working to either slow or reverse the ongoing construction of the centralized, nationalist federal government or the demise towards violent revolution.
The time to be bold, go big and go early has long passed. The only question that remains is how long before all necessary steps are taken to avoid or alter the current path? How long will we succumb to the FUD factors and the blissful convenience of ignorance instead of trying every constitutional due process method available? They range from Article V/CoS, 9th and 10th amendment, Jury/State Nullification-Interposition and Jurisdictional control, to Constitutional County Sheriffs, State banking and so forth.
How long do we ignore or abdicate OUR authority and ALL the due process methods available now? The following generations will certainly know the answer in the outcome.