Law & Principles
Trent England | September 17, 2015
Five Questions about Article V: Question #4
Part four of five in the "Five Questions: Constitution expert Trent England on the pros and cons of an Article V convention" series. -Editor
Holding a national convention to propose constitutional amendments is either the only solution to rebalance our political system or a sure path to its final destruction. At least, those are the two points of view most commonly heard in the current debate over using “Article V”—really just one clause therein—in an attempt to change the U.S. Constitution.
Why not call a convention?
The arguments made against calling a convention to propose constitutional amendments fall along two lines. Some are arguments against constitutional change generally, while others focus on the convention method in particular.
James Madison warned in Federalist No. 49 that frequent tinkering with the Constitution could rob our system of “that veneration which time bestows on everything, and without which perhaps the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability.” In other words, if the problem today is that Americans are losing respect for the Constitution, changing the Constitution might only make things worse. And if the problem is not really the text of the Constitution, but that politicians and judges simply ignore the text and get away with it, is changing or adding to the text really a solution?
Madison also warned that ordinary politics would always tend to simply spill over into conversations about constitutional change, particularly in a convention. That concern today often focuses on how the convention process might be manipulated by Congress or the courts. It is Congress, after all, that would call the convention. Once set in motion, disputes would be inevitable in the untried, high-stakes process. These would likely wind up being decided by federal judges.
David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow
Trent England is the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he previously served as executive vice president. He is also the founder and executive director of Save Our States, which educates Americans about the importance of the Electoral College. England is a producer of the feature-length documentary “Safeguard: An Electoral College Story.” He has appeared three times on Fox & Friends and is a frequent guest on media programs from coast to coast. He is the author of Why We Must Defend the Electoral College and a contributor to The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Times, Hillsdale College's Imprimis speech digest, and other publications. Trent formerly hosted morning drive-time radio in Oklahoma City and has filled for various radio hosts including Ben Shapiro. A former legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he holds a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College.