Happy Birthday, Constitution!
by W. Bruce Lee
Executive Director, Phoenix Correspondence Commission
This month marks the 236th anniversary of the signing of our Constitution by the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. This is a noteworthy accomplishment considering the average regime change around the world is only about 30 years. I personally believe we live in a remarkable nation, despite some who prefer to focus on our nation’s shortcomings. Of course, every country has flaws—so let’s not be arrogant. However, from my personal experience working around the world, we are uniquely blessed, fortunate, and have reason to celebrate!
I am awestruck as to how the world watches us as the “city on the hill.” A couple of months ago on Independence Day, a Ugandan colleague reminded me that it was our birthday! I thought, “Wow, do they keep track of this?” Then a friend from Malaysia contacted me, also noting that it was our holiday. (Unfortunately, I do not keep track of Malaysian holidays.)
The world is watching the United States. I am so grateful to be in a unique position to observe and understand our influence around the globe—something of which most Americans are unaware. I work in countries that are struggling to find liberty, to understand the concepts of democracy, and to experience the prosperity most Americans take for granted. From these experiences I have begun to understand how fragile our freedoms are—hard won, but easily lost unless we exercise constant diligence. The founding generation understood this from the very beginning: at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, Elizabeth Willing Powel asked Dr. Benjamin Franklin, “Well Doctor, what have we got…a republic or a monarchy?” He responded, “A republic…if you can keep it.”
As Indira Gandhi said, “courage is the supreme value” among all other values, as we cannot defend our freedom—or any other value—unless we have the courage to stand up. That courage and renewed energy come from celebrating the good and right things around us. This gives us perseverance to fix the wrong or broken things.
God bless you all for your courage, your service, and your example of working together. Whether you are part of the Phoenix Correspondence Commission, a state legislative body, or an advocacy group, thank you for working to keep our country on a healthy, true course for the decades to come! It is my honor to serve with you.
Article V News
Path To Reform launched its self-paced Constitution Boot Camp at the NCSL Legislative Summit in Indianapolis. The PTR team engaged dozens of state legislators about their constitutional authority to impose reforms on Washington by proposing constitutional amendments. PTR is the Article V “safe space” where legislators can receive dispassionate information about the process without having to worry about being lobbied or pressured. “This is the first time anyone has just had a conversation with me about Article V without trying to pressure me to do something,” said one legislator at the conclusion of a conversation with PTR President Neal Schuerer. PTR also gave attendees the opportunity to participate in the “Change One Thing” about Washington poll. The top vote-getter was federal spending at 53, followed by injustice at 42 and education at 39. Among the “something else” respondents, partisanship was the top concern.
The Convention of States Foundation wrapped up its simulated convention with 6 amendment proposals. Read more here.
Swiss Ambassador Jacques Pitteloud, former Comptroller General David Walker, University of Colorado Economics Professor Emeritus Barry Poulson, and Co-Founder of the Federal Fiscal Sustainability Foundation David Biddulph shared their thoughts on a constitutional amendment to impose fiscal responsibility on Congress with Kevin Stocklin of the Epoch Times. Read the article here.
Progressives Warm to Article V
John Kowal, Vice President of Program Initiatives at the Brennan Center for Justice, has penned an opinion piece for Newsweek. Kowal advocates for guardrails that could provide Democrats—who have too often been demonized and bullied by conservative Article V Advocates—with greater confidence that their concerns will actually be heard at the convention. This is a positive step towards bringing Republicans and Democrats together to find reforms with enough support to clear the high bar of ratification (currently 38 states).
But some of Kowal’s suggestions, such as putting Congress in charge of writing convention rules, are untenable. The reason the Constitution provides states with the same authority as Congress when it comes to proposing amendments is because, as George Mason predicted, “no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people if the government should become oppressive.” It makes no sense to turn rulemaking authority over to the very body the Article V Convention was meant to sidestep. Moreover, involving Congress in convention rulemaking is unnecessary: both the Assembly of State Legislatures and the Phoenix Convention, each comprising delegates authorized by their respective state legislatures, have already drafted proposed rules for an Article V Convention. States can dispel fear of the unknown, not by surrendering their authority to Congress, but by passing resolutions endorsing features of either or both of these state-originated rules packages.
The Phoenix Correspondence Commission will hold its next meeting on September 8 at 9 a.m. PDT/Noon EDT on September 8. If you would like to learn more about the PCC or represent your state as a delegate, please contact Executive Director Bruce Lee at email@example.com.
The California Senate has introduced an application for a convention to propose one or more constitutional amendments that would impose a series of gun-control measures that have heretofore been deemed unconstitutional. SJR 7 awaits a hearing in the Senate Public Safety Committee.
In Pennsylvania, HR 183, an application for a convention to propose a term limits amendment, awaits a hearing in the State Government Committee.
Oregon has passed a measure rescinding all its Article V applications. HB 3625 was signed by the Governor on July 18 and takes effect on September 24.
Article V Legislative Progress Report
Many thanks to our friend David Gudenschuh for preparing the Legislative Progress Report as well as his tireless efforts to advance the cause of Article V.
Who Said It?
The Founders understood the advantages of decentralization. That’s why they created a federal, rather than a unitary, government. History had shown that free republics endured only if they govern small territories. Republics occupying large areas degenerated into despotism, because holding together regions with disparate interests and cultures required a strong man or military oligarchy.
Robert G. Natelson
Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence