Advocates of holding a new constitutional convention have filed a lawsuit in Texas, asking a federal court to order a constitutional convention to be held in Kansas by January 31, 2023. A U.S. representative has introduced legislation to provide for a convention. The bill will not move forward this year. Still, if convention advocates take control of Congress in November, we could be having our first constitutional convention since 1787 early next year. (Article V gives the president no role in this process.)
How could this be happening?
Our country’s intense, and escalating, political polarization has many Americans longing for a quick, simple solution, something to restore some semblance of normalcy. Unfortunately, people on the left and the right have seized on a constitutional convention as that silver bullet.
Article V of the Constitution requires Congress to call a convention on the application of two-thirds of the states (currently 34). Conservatives imagine a nationwide ban on abortion, a more robust Second Amendment, and a balanced-budget amendment that will force cuts in social programs like unemployment insurance and food assistance. Progressives envision strict campaign finance reform, abolishing the Electoral College, and dumping the Second Amendment outright.
Unfortunately, like so many supposedly “simple” solutions to intractable problems, the Article V convention is too good to be true. Far from being “We the People’s” answer to scheming politicians, a convention would be composed of and run by … scheming politicians.
This is the disturbing conclusion from a survey by the Center for Media and Democracy of the 50 states’ laws on how delegates to an Article V convention would be chosen. In only one state — Rhode Island — would the voters have any role in the selection of the delegates. Everywhere else, it would be up to the state legislature, either alone or in combination with the governor. And when ambitious politicians look for wise and visionary people, they rarely get beyond the nearest mirror.