Robert Brown, a constitutional expert at the John Birch Society, a political advocacy group for small government, told The Epoch Times’ “Crossroads” program that there are risks associated with the Convention of States project. Some conservatives have proposed it as a way to amend the U.S. Constitution and pull it further to the right, but it could inadvertently lead to a new Constitution that is farther to the left.
The Convention of States project seeks to use Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution to establish a body that could assemble and act independently of Congress to adopt constitutional amendments that would limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, place term limits on federal officials, and impose fiscal restraints.
In a recent interview with Crossroads, Convention of States project head Mark Meckler said that the convention would be explicitly limited to proposing amendments that “restore” the foundational legal document closer to the original intent of the Founding Fathers, for instance by restricting the reach and power of the federal government.
But Brown said that historical precedent from the 1787 Constitutional Convention shows delegates could choose to ignore the limitations they are given by their states and push for more far-reaching changes—something he warns could happen if a modern convention is called.
“As we look to this history, the delegates were given limitations of power, they ignored them, they overstepped them,” Brown said. “They were also given a constitutionally defined ratification process—they threw it out, retroactively created a much lower bar.”
“If those two bits of history repeat themselves in a modern convention today, then everything that the Convention of States is telling and promising our state legislators turns out to be false,” Brown argued.
“Does history ever repeat itself? That’s generally our best guide for the future,” Brown added.
He reasoned that a likely outcome would be that the Convention of States process would—contrary to the intentions of the project’s proponents—yield a new U.S. Constitution that would be a reflection of the current political environment, which has drifted considerably further to the left over the years.
“Given today’s political environment, were we to pull up the anchor of the U.S. Constitution and drift to the center of political thought today—do you feel like that would move us closer to the views of Marx or Madison?” he asked.
“Obviously, our nation has moved far more towards the socialist mentality than we were in 1787 when the Constitution was originally written,” he continued. “And that’s one of the things we see—anytime you see a constitution being drafted, it tends to reflect the political views of that time.”
“I think we’d see a lot more socialism injected into the Constitution than 1787 produced,” Brown argued.
Brown also questioned whether there would be enough political will to resist a leftward lurch. If, as he predicts, the Convention of States were to inadvertently produce left-leaning proposals, and as “we see massive changes in the Constitution coming out of the convention, will the American people stand up against loss of liberty or will they embrace it?” he asked.
“I think what we’ve seen in Congress is a good representation of where we would go today if we were to hit that reset button,” he added, adding that the prevailing political climate that tolerates left-leaning ideas would likely lead to socialist concepts being enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
“I am really concerned about the direction our nation would go if we opened up the Constitution to changes,” he said.
Brown also questioned the purposefulness of amending the Constitution as a way to rein in federal power given that, he said, the federal government simply “ignores” the Constitution.
“If they’re breaking through, ignoring parchment barriers, making more parchment barriers is not the solution,” he said. “We need to enforce it. Because paper is not enforcing itself,” he said.
“That’s the real Founders’ solution—when they ignore the Constitution, we need to be enforcing the Constitution,” he said.
Brown said he agrees with the diagnosis of the problem put forward by proponents of the Constitution of States, namely the notion that the federal government “has far overstepped its constitutional bounds,” and that “we need to look at ways to rein them back in, put the beast back in the box.” But Brown differs in how to remedy the problem, namely, that the American public needs to be more forceful in demanding that the federal government is bound by the Constitution.
“The problem really isn’t Congress. It really isn’t the federal government. It really comes down to what we the people tolerate,” he said. “If we demand intelligence and bravery and purity and so on, we’ll get it—but that’s where it has to begin.”
“We need to rally together as the American people who want liberty and begin demanding it again,” he said.
By law, it takes 34 states to call the convention and 38 to ratify any proposed constitutional amendments. So far, 15 states have taken all the necessary legal steps to call the convention—which has been attempted over 400 times since the United States was founded, but never successfully.