As reported on N.C. Policy Watch recently, some advocates on the far right — including North Carolina’s own Lt. Governor — have been pushing the radical idea of late that it’s time for a second American constitutional convention.
For those who haven’t given the idea much thought, the dangers that would accompany such a move may not be readily apparent. Thankfully, veteran national policy analyst Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained them in a recent column for the Washington Post.
As Greenstein noted, such an event could be a disastrous free-for-all:
The Constitution sets no rules for how a constitutional convention would work. What standards determine whether 34 states have called for a convention? Do all resolutions that state legislatures have ever passed count — even if they called for conventions on very different topics, or were passed 50 or 100 years ago, or were later rescinded, as some have been? Oklahoma, for instance, passed a resolution in 1976 calling for a convention but rescinded it in 2009, citing concerns about throwing the Constitution wide open to unknown changes; some proponents argue that Oklahoma should still count anyway. Can that be right? The Constitution is silent on all of these issues.
That’s just the start. If a convention were called, how many delegates would each state get, and how would they be selected? How long could the convention last? The Constitution provides no guidance on those questions either.
Suppose, for example, that Congress ruled that every state would have two votes in the convention and the convention could approve amendments by simple majority vote. In that case, the 26 least populous states, with less than 18 percent of the nation’s population, could approve broad changes in our Constitution and send them to the states for ratification.
He concludes this way:
Our country faces enough problems and division. We don’t need to add to them and inflame an already toxic political environment by placing at risk the constitutional structure that has served us well for more than two centuries — and heading into dangerous, unknown territory by convening a convention to rework the Constitution.
Let’s hope Lt. Gov. Forest and his friends on the fringe recognize the folly of their proposal for themselves in the very near future and/or that a hostile public reaction helps them do so.