The only thing that ever scared the US Congress

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

The framers of the US Constitution were careful, careful, careful to put as much distance as possible between the voting citizenry and the people running things in Washington.  They did their best to make it near impossible for groups of individual citizens to directly recall elected officials, judges, anyone capable of directly influencing the activities of government.

That’s because they didn’t want the Boston Tea Party running things.  Simple as that.  They knew the people who’d be elected to office would be people who could afford to campaign.  Wealthy property owners who could afford to leave their jobs to serve in Congress.  People who’d respect the property rights and interests of other wealthy people.

So they deliberately left out any provision for direct citizen initiative or referendum demands related to laws, changes in the Constitution, replacing federal judges, getting rid of corrupt or incompetent elected officials.

But they did provide the illusion of the possibility for changes in Article V of the Constitution.  A demand, not by citizens, but by states for a Constitutional Convention.  And every time there’s ever been a demand by states approaching likelihood, the US Congress suddenly saw the error of their ways.

States have demanded an Article 5 Constitutional Convention a lot of times since 1787.  Never, not once has one happened.  You can see a list of the tries at

According to Article V, Congress must call for an amendment-proposing convention, “on the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States”, and therefore 34 state legislatures would have to submit applications. Once an Article V Convention has proposed amendments, then each of those amendments would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (i.e. 38 states) in order to become part of the Constitution

Plenty difficult enough to reduce the possibilities of it ever happening.

The next nearly-successful attempt to call a convention was in the late 1970s and 1980s, in response to the ballooning federal deficit. States began applying to Congress for an Article V Convention to propose a balanced budget amendment. By 1983, the number of applications had reached 32, only two states short of the 34 needed to force such a convention.[18] Enthusiasm for the amendment subsided in response to fears that an Article V Convention could not be limited to a single subject and because Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, which required that the budget be balanced by 1991 (but that Act was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1986).[18]

As you can see, the states have been concerned about the Federal deficit a longish while.  Congress sidestepped a Constitutional Convention by promising promising promising they’d mend their ways.

But as you can also see, they gave it a wink and nod as soon as the danger of an Article V Constitutional Convention ceased to loom in front of them.

So what can you as a citizen, as a voter, as an unhappy frustrated idealist do?

Not a damned thing except grin and bear it.  The US Constitution is not about you.  Quit thinking it is, quit whining about it, quit worrying about it.  Human beings generally haven’t had a lot to say about what demands their aristocrats would choose to make on them.  And at least for the moment it could still be a lot worse than it is.

Old Jules

6 responses to “The only thing that ever scared the US Congress

  1. yes, things could be worse … heads aren’t in baskets … yet.

    • Hi Teresa Evangeline: Yep, when heads start going into baskets things do tend to get worse. And afterward there’s the Napoleons, Joseph Stalins, Mao see dongs, etc. No rest for the wicked. Gracias, Jack

  2. I can’t think of anything worse than a Constitutional convention, the “Constitution Free Zone” would spread across the whole nation.
    That pesky “Bill of Rights” which makes it so hard to manage the population would be gone and you couldn’t even pretend to have those rights any more.

    • Heck, Rob, There’s nothing anywhere saying a Constitutional Convention would result in anything at all you’ve asserted. And no way you, anyone could predict with any accuracy or reason to believe it was accuracy as to what would result from it. Pretending we have rights is what we do for a living mostly. Likely as not we’d keep pretending it, whatever happened. Just saying. Jack

  3. Time for an Article V. And don’t let ridiculous fearmongering stand in the way.
    Anything a convention passes stilll has to be ratified by 38 states. They won’t get rid of the bill of rights it would never be ratified.

    • Sago: Me, I don’t know enough to have any confidence in an opinion, though at some point probably it’s going to be the only way through the maze. Gracias, Jack

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