SODOM & GOMORRAH: Did the Founding Fathers ever fully think through Article Five of the US Constitution?
@kalimkassam, poking libertarians and tea partiers a little, suggested that the US Constitution has historically proven to be a blueprint for unlimited government. The argument has been suggested in dark hallways far from the Beltway, but it does need to be considered. Whatever genius the Founding Fathers may have had in attempting their Republic, their system birthed what we have now. And by the standards of those who yearn for the old days of the Republic, what we have now is terrible. Yet no one will address the cracks and faults in that original foundation that allowed us to turn into a bunch of chimpanzees in less than 300 years.
Restorus is an exception. Just as President Nixon, a staunch anti-Communist, was the only politician who could credibly negotiate with China, the radical Right is the only group capable of opening this conversation. After all, only liberals and those with liberal tendencies (i.e. those who part their hair on the left, oppose cervical cancer, or didn’t clap when Rick Perry championed the express death row program Texas has) can be accused of treasonous behavior.
When @kalimkassam asked his question, another user, @CJFontenot1 replied and said “True, but majority doesn’t want unlimited gov. Constitution forbids tyranny & govt overthrow. This author asked where in the Constitution tyranny and overthrow were prohibited, at which point the conversation turned treasonous – perhaps we were wrong and no one is safe having this conversation. It is too late now, the point has been made: the Constitution opens the door to its repeal.
Article Five of the US Constitution reads:
“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”
So the only conditions laid out here are:
1. Changes can be made to the Constitution only once a certain number of people agree;
2. We can’t change certain parts until after 1808;
3. States must have equal votes in the Senate.
The only implied limit is that there must be a Senate after the changes (so we can’t do away with the Senate). This limit doesn’t mean much, of course. The Convention could always amend Article Five to strike the section after the last semi-colon. As long as said change was ratified before any attempt to eliminate the Senate, it would be perfectly legal. If not, then one must always remember that reducing state suffrage in the Senate to zero votes would also be allowed as long as all states were deprived of the vote at the same time. Two thirds of the Senate can legally vote to never vote again and there’s nothing in this or any other document that could stop them.
Aside from these slight stipulations, if you have a party that makes up the two thirds majority in the House and Senate (assuming the latter hasn’t gone home), you can amend your way to whatever you want.
There is one other bump in the road, and that’s the treason clauses. Granted, they too can be wiped away if the votes are there, but a careful reading of the Preamble makes this a moot point. The Preamble states that the people ordain and establish the Constitution in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for common defense, promote general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty. If the Convention can lay a claim to both the people’s will (which they could if they were voted in) and a program that allegedly creates a better condition for the above desired goals, they can’t be accused of making war on the country (which the Preamble defines as the people through the word “ordain” which implies a sovereign decree) or of aiding its enemies since they’d presumably be aiding the people though expanded justice and so forth. At least according to the law.
The purpose of such a mental exercise is to show that the document by itself can’t defend itself. Some source of external legitimacy and order is needed, or else all you need is 356 people who don’t want to play by the rules before the rules stop being enforced. Does that worry anyone else?