A Second Constitutional Convention Would Endanger Our Republic

By Warren Mass

Created 2007-01-23


According to American Chronicle, Americans have been successfully brainwashed to fear exactly what their revered Constitution gives them the right to have.... Congress has never issued a call for an Article V convention of state delegates to consider constitutional amendments, in response to two-thirds of state legislatures asking for one.


In his American Chronicle article, Hirschhorn laments the fact that there has never been a second Constitutional convention called, citing "brainwashing" as the "villain":

In the absence of public furor, for over 200 years Congress has not done what Article V of the Constitution says it "shall" do. Congress has never issued a call for an Article V convention of state delegates to consider constitutional amendments, in response to two-thirds of state legislatures asking for one. That numeric requirement – the only specified requirement in Article V – has been satisfied, with 50 states submitting over 500 requests. Such a convention operating under authority of the Constitution would be a fourth, impermanent branch of the federal system, not beholding to the three permanent branches. Such independence has been cartooned into a frightening monster.

Hirschhorn's article in favor of calling a constitutional convention contains several fallacies. First of all, he contends that a sufficient number of "requests" (which the Constitution terms applications) have been made, but the only reason a convention has not been called is because Americans have been "brainwashed" by "backstage power brokers." If Hirschhorn's knowledge of the Constitution equaled his penchant to be a Naderesque populist, he would realize that had we ever reached the requisite number of state applications, a convention would indeed have been called.

What he ignores is that, as former U.S. Senator and constitutional expert Sam J. Ervin realized, there exists a constitutional principle that any change in our Constitution must be the result of a "contemporaneous consensus." Five hundred requests spread over 200 years by legislators who did not even live, much less serve, at the same time, and requesting a convention for a variety of different reasons, do not pass constitutional muster. Senator Erwin's Constitutional Convention implementation bill, passed twice in the 1970s, limited to seven years the time span during which states could validly request Congress to call a convention (Con Con).

Hirschhorn contends that these same "power brokers" struck fear into the hearts of Americans by warning about the dangers of a runaway convention. In making this argument he states a truth: "In fact, the nation's first and only constitutional convention was a runaway. Rather than do what had been planned for it — namely to modify the Articles of Confederation that first tied the states together — the state delegates constructed what we have for over two hundred years worshipped: the U.S. Constitution."

By conceding that the potential for a runaway convention is a reality, Hirschhorn confirms the worst fears of those who have opposed such a convention — and those opponents have crossed the political spectrum. When activist Linda Rogers Kingsbury formed Citizens to Protect the Constitution in 1981 to fight a Con Con, she attracted the support of a paradoxical array of individuals and groups, including former President Jimmy Carter, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, former Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird, Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe, the League of Women Voters, the DAR, the AFL-CIO, the American Legion, the National Association of University Women, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Common Cause, Eagle Forum, People for the American Way, and — the John Birch Society.

What all of these people knew instinctively, is that the statesmanship that prevailed during the era of our founding fathers has long ago deteriorated into an age of political expediency and demagoguery.

Hirschhorn asserts that "many persons and groups holding power oppose an Article V convention," yet the cross-spectrum list of opponents cited above includes many who are complete political outsiders with no power save the power of persuasion. Hirschhorn at least acknowledge a key opponent of a convention when he wrote: "On the political right, the John Birch Society has consistently pushed the Big Runaway Lie and said the 'prospect [of a convention] is ominous.'" Though, as he, himself, admitted earlier, the prospect of a runaway convention is no lie.

Hirschhorn showed his true hand when he quoted "esteemed political scientist" James MacGregor Burns, and his warning that "major changes will not be made until there is a severe crisis – at which time we might open the floodgates to reckless constitutional change." Burns, as a member of the Board of Directors of the Committee on the Constitutional System, wrote in "The Power to Lead," a CCS working paper:

Let us face reality. The framers have simply been too shrewd for us. They have outwitted us. They designed separated institutions that cannot be unified by mechanical linkages, frail bridges, tinkering. If we are to "turn the founders upside down" — to put together what they put asunder — we must directly confront the constitutional structure they erected.

Far from representing "the people" in a quest to fight "power brokers," 15 of the 41 members of the CCS Board of Directors were also members of the powerful elitist Council on Foreign Relations, perhaps the largest collection of power brokers of any organization in the United States.

The CCS is best known for publishing Reforming American Government: The Bicentennial Papers of the Committee on the Constitutional System. Reforming American Government is a series of papers that largely criticize our constitutional republican form of government as being prone to "gridlock," and which advocates strongly for a constitutional convention, which would enable changing our system into something akin to Great Britain's parliamentary democracy.

Hirschhorn has it all backwards. America's power brokers, most visible in the globalist New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, are the ones who have been pushing for a constitutional convention, to "turn the founders upside down."

Benjamin Franklin noted that our original constitutional convention had given us "A republic ... If you can keep it."

No thank you, Mr. Hirschhorn. We'll take Franklin and our republic over MacGregor and the British-style parliamentary system a convention might saddle us with any day.


Warren Mass [1]

Warren is the Editor for the John Birch Society Bulletin.