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Opening Arguments

Conventional wisdom

The Article V movement that Indiana Senate Prsident Pro-tem David Long has been pushing keeps building momentum and getting more prominent supporters. According to this article, Sen. Tom Coburn is going to make a big push for in when he retires from the Senate in a few months. After rightly dismissing fears that such a convention could become a runaway that would trash the Constitution, the author gets around to the doubt I think is more realistic:

But what I’m more curious about – if this actually were to come to pass – is the type of amendments which could garner the needed votes at the convention to make it out the door. And that would depend on the current makeup of the various state legislatures. The big, Democrat states wouldn’t have any sort of outsized voice in the process, since they would get the same vote as Wyoming on each proposal. The Democrats would obviously like to ram through some campaign finance restrictions to undue Citizens United, and perhaps some to cement entitlement programs in untouchable status. Conservatives will look at things to curb Executive branch power, force a more balanced budget, and perhaps restructure the tax code into a flatter shape. Maybe knock that pesky first phrase off the Second Amendment about militias just to eliminate confusion? I’m really not sure. What do you suppose will be put on the table if this were to actually happen, and what would have a chance of making it through?

The reason to doubt anything meaningful coming out of a convention is the same reason the fear of a runaway is without merit: the requirement that three-quarters of the states ratify whatever the convention proposes. The Article V movement has largely been a conservative push, because they want Washington tamed and know Congress will never get the job done. But that wouldn't be the top item on the agenda of non-conservatives. I agree with the author that it's hard to imagine any one thing that would win approval at a convention. And even if one could magically be produced, it's difficult to imagine it getting the approval of 38 states.