Sunday, February 18, 2024

Recognizing risks of an Article 5 is not trepidation or fear!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     The U.S. Constitution allows for amendments in two ways: (1) a 2/3 approval by both Houses of Congress and ratification by ¾ of the states or (2) a convention called by 2/3 of states (34 of the 50) and amendments then ratified by ¾ of the states (38 of the 50).  An Article 5 convention has never been used to amend the founding document.  All twenty-seven (27) amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by Congress and ratified by the states.

     In 2015, Citizens for Self-Governance launched a nationwide effort to call for an Article 5 convention.  As of 2024, 19 states, including Oklahoma, have agreed to participate in a Convention of States.  Fifteen more states need to agree to participate before the Article 5 convention is a reality.  The Article 5 is currently being debated and considered in Idaho and Ohio’s legislatures. 

     The Convention of States has proponents and opponents on both ends of the political spectrum.  Liberals and conservatives fear the possibility of a ‘runaway’ convention and the current document being scraped and a runaway convention resulting.

     The late U.S. Senator Dr. Tom Coburn, (R-OK) supported an Article 5.  He said, “I think George Mason was prophetic that we would devolve to where the federal government became too powerful, too big and too unwieldy.  That[S1]  is why he put Article V in the Constitution.  I think we ought to have a balanced budget amendment.  I think we ought to have term limits.  I think we ought to put a chokehold on regulation and re-establish the powers of the Congress.”  Coburn’s lobbying of the Oklahoma state legislature in 2017 resulted in passage of SJR3 and the Sooner state became the 7th state in the country to call for an Article 5.  Three observations:

     First, Coburn’s observations about government were/are correct.  The government is too big and unwieldy.  The government spends too much money and career elected officials often spend decades in politics.  Term limits and a balanced budget amendment would fundamentally change America.  Even when Republicans control government, the national debt continues to climb and term limit legislation is ignored.  Those two issues are addressed only when it’s primary campaign season. 

     Second, there is no way to know what would happen at a Convention of the States.  No radio host, former elected official, Constitutional lawyer, oracle or soothsayer can definitively know what would happen at an Article 5 convention.  There are differing opinions and educated guesses, but since it has never been used to amend, it remains a mystery what might happen.  If an Article 5 did spiral out of control, it could destroy America.  If it worked, it could save America.  The issue is there is no guarantee only term limits and a balanced budget amendment would be the only issues considered.  The convention itself would control the agenda, not Congress or the states.  A runaway convention is a risk America should not be willing to take. 

     Third, desperate times require rational action.  Desperate times don’t require desperate measures.  That is irrational.  Level headed thinking is critical in times of chaos.  Throwing the baby out with the bath water is not wise.  Recognizing the risks of a Convention of States is not trepidation or fear- it’s reasonable and sensible.     

      Nine years ago, I wrote an op/ed titled, “Article 5 Convention is a Bad Idea.”  You can read it here: The column triggered a series of opposing editorials written by then Senator Coburn.  We engaged in a months’ long back and forth op/ed battle supporting our opposing positions on an Article 5.  Dr. Coburn told me I would eventually come to support the idea of an Article 5.  Perhaps he was right, but not yet.  Nine years later, an Article 5 convention remains a bad idea.

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