Indiana, Article V, and Delusions of Grandeur

Article V of the U.S. Constitution describes a couple of ways to amend the U.S. Constitution.

Amendments may be proposed by either:
#two-thirds of both houses of the United States Congress; or
#by a national convention assembled at the request of the legislatures of at least two-thirds of the states.

To become part of the Constitution, amendments must then be ratified either by approval of:

#the legislatures of three-fourths of the states; or
#state ratifying conventions held in three-fourths of the states.

Congress has discretion as to which method of ratification should be used.

The only amendment that isn’t permitted is to deprive a state of equal representation in the Senate without its consent.

Today, the Indiana Senate adopted SB 224 and 225 concerning a Constitutional Convention.

224 purports to limit a delegate’s authority to duties on which the delegate receives instruction by joint resolution of the Indiana General Assembly. 225 provides criteria for appointing a delegate – the person has to be over 18, an Indiana voter, not a lobbyist, and not a federal official. Votes for the delegate have to approved by majorities of each chamber.

I don’t have any particular objection to these provisions on their own terms. And if the provisions were just introduced in isolation, I wouldn’t mind the legislation as a “be prepared” measure that the General Assembly expected to gather dust over the decades. But it’s not an isolated measure. It’s of a piece with the John Birch Society Kool-Aid we’ve been seeing in the General Assembly lately: the nullificationists, the sovereign citizens, the Constitutional Sheriff’s movement – to name a few. It also comes combined with SJR 18 which tries to call a Constitutional Convention “strictly confined to consideration of amendments concerning the limitation of the commerce and taxing powers of Congress”. (Good luck picking just those two worms out of the can once you open it.)

There is a refusal to recognize that we are ordinary people living in ordinary times. Despite the reality that we have a moderate federal government making incremental changes, we hear cries of tyranny and desperate pleas to “take our country back.” This attitude is akin to — and, I think linked to — evangelical insistence that the end is nigh and persecution is everywhere. The Slacktivist speculates on the reason for the persistence of what he calls the “Christian Persecution Complex”:

[B]y pretending we’re a persecuted minority rather than the hegemonic majority we actually constitute, then we’re also able to pretend that we’re: 1) Noticeably different in our dreams, desires and daily lives from those otherwise indistinguishable-from-us neighbors who share our culture but not the particulars of our faith; and 2) Noticeably and intolerably more virtuous and righteous than those otherwise indistinguishable-from-us neighbors who share our culture but not the particulars of our faith.

My theory, in other words, is that we’ve chosen the illusion of self-righteousness over the actual hard work of becoming the kind of love-driven, love-shaped people Jesus called us to be.

In another context, I offered that it’s OK to be an insignificant part of an enormous universe:

It seems to me that, with some people, there is a driving need to see one’s self as a heroic figure in the consequential drama of one’s life. And that need leads to a view of the world that doesn’t comport with reality which, in turn, leads to interactions with the world that aren’t healthy and which aren’t helpful to others.

In this category, I also see the fervent believer with a personal relationship to God that helps them withstand the persecution that is everywhere while they are engaged in a noble effort to stand against evil; perhaps through a desperate battle to save America by battling its destructive cultural decline.

There hasn’t been a Constitutional Convention in the 230 years or so since our Constitution was adopted. There is no reason to think one is anywhere near the horizon; the Indiana Senate’s call to arms notwithstanding. Our time isn’t more laden with importance than normal. It’s grandiose to think it is. The barbarians are not at the gate. The bills don’t hurt anything on their own (though the resolution is irresponsible), but they look to be symptomatic of disturbing pathology in our political psyche.


  1. Freedom says

    Wow, the whack-a-doodle-dos really come out every time the Republicans discuss patriotism or want to keep America a decent place to live with a Republican form of limited government.

    It’s quite obvious that we need a constitutional “strictly confined to consideration of amendments concerning the limitation of the commerce and taxing powers of Congress.”

    Every sane observer of government can agree the that federal government is far too large, consumes far too much money and intrudes far too much into our lives into areas where it was never chartered to go.

    • says

      No, not really. Government spending as a percentage of GDP is not too far from normal levels. Taxes are historically pretty low. There are a number of other countries that provide more government services to their citizens while managing to have citizens who are generally happier about their lives than Americans.

      So, we’re nowhere near a crisis mode that requires us to dick around with the underpinnings of the Republic.

      • Paul K. Ogden says

        Our federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends. It’s like a household regularly putting everyday expenses on a credit card. If a household did that, it would be in crisis. Our federal government’s borrowing to spend money it does not have has put us in crisis mode.

        • says

          That’s because historically the U.S. Gov’t has taken in something like 18-20% of GDP as revenue. It’s been down around 15-16% in recent years.

          Hardly justification for messing around with Constitutional Conventions.

          • Carlito Brigante says

            The Us is not a household. It has the ability to raise revenues through taxation and an ability to cut its expenses. The electorate has shown some acceptance of raising revenue but little for cutting.

            No crisis here. Just dysfunction.

          • Carlito Brigante says

            Nailed it, Dog. These figures are well repeated. And we are in a strong deficit reduction mode. That news does not get out to the faithless.

        • jharp says

          “Our federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends. It’s like a household regularly putting everyday expenses on a credit card. ”

          Wrong. Our federal govt is nothing like a household.

          And people that think it is are stupid and have no understanding of basic economics.

    • steelydanfan says

      > limited government.

      The anti-freedom America-hating reactionaries such as yourself that comprise the bulk of the GOP aren’t interested in limited government; they’re interested in a limited state.

      They’re fine with lots of government as long as it’s businessmen and neo-feudal landlords doing the governing.

      Laissez-faire capitalism is merely authoritarianism at its purest. It has no place in a free society.

  2. Jack says

    Interesting that the debate centered on the federal government forcing actions on the states. Just wonder what the legislators think their many actions stripping authority and funding from local government is thought of by local officials. Brings thoughts of the debate between being a Dillion’s Rule state or Home Rule.

  3. says

    The Framers met in Philadelphia in 1787 to “devise such further provisions that render the constitution of the Federal government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.” Stewart, “The Summer of 1787,” 2007, p. 10. Delegates were not given wholesale authority to scrap the Articles of Confederation—note “constitution” is not capitalized—and replace the Articles with a (nearly) entirely different entity. The delegates went way beyond their charter. With gerrymandered districts that preserve Republican control of so many otherwise Democratic States and Districts (the U.S. House vote, total was a couple of million for the Democratic Party candidates, but the Republicans maintain a majority there), one only can imagine an ALEC/Koch Brothers-engineered conveniton.

  4. Don Sherfick says

    “This attitude is akin to — and, I think linked to — evangelical insistence that the end is nigh and persecution is everywhere.” I was reminded of that the other day when I ran across a plea for money from Eric Miller, who insisted that if Indiana doesn’t amend its own constitution to ban same sex marriage and anything “substantially similar”, pastors throughout the state would be arrested and sent to jail for preaching that homosexuality is a sin.

  5. varangianguard says

    Well, I have to admit that there is some persecution going on out there. Look at Richard Mourdock. “Persecuted” at the polls for being a jerk, first class. Oh, the humanity.

    And “Freedom”, it’s “republican” form of government, though I imagine you did mean what you wrote.

  6. Bill Wilson says

    While I reject the “federal budget is like a household budget” analogy, if you’re going to use it, at least consider that the Republicans in Congress are taking the position that no one in the household should need to think about getting a job or second job–that’s the equivalent of refusing to look at revenue increases.

    But our host is right–there’s no reason for a constitutional convention. The facts are that government spending is not spiraling out of control. In fact, spending under this president has grown very little compared to his predecessors (of both parties). But we also need to remember that the president doesn’t spend money unless Congress allocates it. So when Republicans (who have controlled the House for how many years in the most recent iteration, and for how many years before the Pelosi term as Speaker?) complain about spending being out of control, they are the ones who have voted for this stuff since they are the majority in the House. (And let’s not forget that the Constitution says spending bills have to originate in the House…)

    This whole “the tyrants are in control” meme is simply delusional, which is very unfortunate.

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