Anyone the least bit familiar with the Constitution and its early history knows that, despite lip-service to it, neither political party follows it, nor do any of the three branches of government actually limit themselves to their specific articles in it. All three operate outside the carefully crafted cages to which they were assigned. So how do we get the federal government back to servant rather than master? Well-meaning conservatives are wrong in their push for a new constitutional convention for the following reasons.
To begin with, why argue to get what you already have? It is a far weaker argument because it implies uncertainty on your part that you already have it. The federal government is already limited by the existing Constitution: Congress to a precise list in Article I, Section 8. The President is limited to a list housed in Article II, Sections II and III. The Supreme Court is limited to eleven types of cases most with but appellate (limited by Congress) jurisdiction and only two totally free of the restrictions of Congress called original jurisdiction. All other power was reserved to the states as per Amendment 10 of the Bill of Rights. Again, to argue that we need additional amendments to get the federal government to abide by what was already understood as their limits of power is to argue to get what we already have.
An argument within the Constitution is much easier to make than asking that three fourths of the states accept something new and somewhat foreign to them. Three-fourths of the states is a big number and takes many years to acquire, and in a nation somewhat constitutionally illiterate is likely to fall short of the states needed. Meanwhile, the case for living within the Constitution can be made today because a majority of the people was taught some level of reverence for it. Showing them how the federal government has strayed from clearly cited restrictions in the document is a much easier case to make.
The argument that we have already unsuccessfully tried to keep the federal government within constitutional bounds is legitimate. But to suppose that a George W. Bush or a Barack Obama will stay within the bounds of new amendments when, with impunity, each has violated those amendments in existence is as naive as believing that more gun control laws will cause the criminals to turn in their guns.
Written by Dr. Harold Pease
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