What Does Article V Mean for Democracy? – Part One
At some point in school, every young American student learns how the amendment process is used to make changes to the U.S. Constitution. Through this system, an amendment must pass through Congress and be ratified by two-thirds of the states. This is how all of the amendments within our nation’s history were passed. However, there is another, lesser-known method of changing the Constitution. It’s called an Article V Constitutional convention. A convention is a threat to the wellbeing of all Americans, because the lack of rules surrounding this process gives wealthy interest groups the opportunity to strip us of our Constitutional rights.
Since the Constitution was ratified in 1788, twenty-seven amendments have been added to our official government framework. This includes the Bill of Rights, the Thirteenth Amendment (which made slavery unconstitutional), the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments (which expanded voting rights to people of color and women), and more. These amendments were necessary to the expansion of civil liberties to all people in the United States. That isn’t to say that the document itself is perfect. Over time, we have elected representatives who will advocate for what the people believe should be in the Constitution. The necessary ratification by the states of amendments balances federal and state power. A Constitutional convention threatens all of this.
The vagueness surrounding the rules of a convention would leave the Constitution vulnerable to extreme changes within a short period. Under Article V, if two-thirds of the states pass an application for a convention through the state legislature, then Congress must call one. Although some applications are worded specifically around one issue, there are no rules to limit the scope of the convention to that issue once it is called. In practice, this means that a convention opens the floodgates for big, permanent changes to our Constitutional rights.
The last time there was a Constitutional convention was when our constitution was created. Up until then, the United States operated under the Articles of Confederation. This means that an Article V convention is an untested process and is vulnerable to manipulation by powerful interest groups. The promise of reform through a convention is a trojan horse for these interests to take control of our country. For the sake of the United States, we cannot allow a convention to occur.
Threat To Our Democracy
An Article V convention undermines the voice of the people in making sure that the Constitution serves everyone, not just some. Right now, most of the efforts to pass Article V applications are being spearheaded by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a lobbying group that was started by the Koch brothers. Their goals are purely to benefit corporate interests. ALEC, along with other wealthy interests, will use their influence to write the rules of a convention in their favor. The fate of our country should be in the hands of the American people, not big businesses.
The later amendments guarantee other protections of our democracy that we take for granted. For instance, the 22nd amendment established term limits on the Office of the President, which prevents one person from seizing too much power. The removal of term limits could open the door for a dictatorship. Under the guise of an Article V convention, wealthy interest groups would have the opportunity to destroy our democracy as we know it.
Changes to the Equal Protection clause could make it legal for states to gerrymander their districts and control the outcome of elections for the foreseeable future. Bigoted politicians would be able to suppress the voice of historically-margianlized communities. There are already massive efforts underway to restrict access to voting for BIPOC, particularly in southern states. Changes to the Constitution in a convention could make it Constitutional for this voter suppression of especially Black and Brown voters to occur.
Americans could lose their voice in the government entirely, and thus their ability to advocate for their rights. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, this is an American issue. If we want to protect our future, we must prevent an Article V Constitutional convention from taking place.
Threat To Our Rights
Even if the idea of corporations influencing the Constitution doesn’t alarm you, the risk of losing your fundamental rights should. All our rights and liberties enshrined in the Constitution would be threatened by an Article V convention.
The Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution guarantees certain unalienable rights, like Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. The amendments that follow expand on these rights and ensure important liberties such as marriage equality, Title IX protections, the ability for all Americans to cast a vote, and the prevention of discrimination based on race or gender. These protections encompass health care access, marriage equality, and immigration.