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Washington won't give up power, so let's just take it

Friday, November 15, 2013 - 12:01 am

It's time to call for an Article 5 constitutional convention.

Recent polls show a majority of Americans already think the federal government is too big and tries to do too much. Widespread and growing disgust at the botched rollout of Obamacare and the nasty little surprises in the program will only increase the number of cynical Americans receptive to the idea of taming the Washington behemoth.

Seems like a good time for a revolution, one made possible by Article 5 of the Constitution, which authorizes a constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing amendments if called for by the legislatures of two-thirds of the states. Any such proposals “shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths” of the states. The federal government surely will not willingly give up power, so it’s time for us to take it.

The fight for a convention is being led in this state by Senate President Pro Tem David Long. He introduced a resolution that would have made Indiana the first state to call for a convention. It passed the Senate but stalled in the House Judiciary Committee. He’s going to try it again for the next session of the General Assembly, and we hope he has greater success this time.

Momentum seems go be building for such a gathering. A call for a convention has also come from legislators in Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. The proposal will be considered by many state legislatures this year.

The push is being fueled in part by Mark Levine’s best-selling “The Liberty Amendments,” which proposes changers to the Constitution to make it again something like what the Founders intended, restoring to the states the power that has been usurped by the federal government. Term limits might be set for members of Congress and the Supreme Court, for example. Strict limits could be put on federal taxing and spending.

Getting the legislatures of two-thirds of the states will be a long shot. And there would be risks. “The lack of precedent, extensive unknowns, and considerable risks of an Article V amendments convention should bring sober pause to advocates of legitimate constitutional reform contemplating this avenue,” warns the conservative Heritage Foundation. What if something truly radical were proposed, such as scrapping the whole Constitution?

But it’s time to take the risk. Nothing recommended by a convention could happen without ratification by three-fourths of the states. That’s a powerful check against recklessness. And just imagine the debates and discussions about governance that would go on all over the country.