Op-Ed: I Stand with the Constitution

I Stand with the Constitution
By Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23)

The political climate in the United States nears an instability unwitnessed by anyone alive today. We hear calls for revolution across the political spectrum amid a national debate over the intent of the Constitution – the very foundation of our republic that’s transformed our American experiment into a symbol of opportunity, freedom and constancy across the world.

No matter your interpretations about the framers’ vision for this country, we can all agree the U.S. Constitution has been the guiding principle that’s carried us through every internal conflict over the last two and a half centuries.

It’s not infallible. Congress has amended it 27 times since 1787, and each and every one of those changes originated through Congress. But, for the first time in history, lobbyists – who are being paid handsomely from deep pockets – say we ought to pursue a more volatile, untested approach: assembling a Convention of States (COS).

For the uninitiated, a clause under Article V of the Constitution triggers an automatic COS after two-thirds of states pass a resolution to do so. The resolution typically proposes an amendment that limits the reach of federal government – such as burdensome taxes or infinite congressional terms.

Except, we haven’t tested this process in over 200 years and, as such, the questions about its framework are endless.

For example, there’s no precedent that forces the COS to stick to specific, narrow amendment proposals. On the contrary, some critics argue the Supremacy Clause all but guarantees that any state law that contradicts the Constitution is ripe for review.

Then there’s the matter of how COS delegates are chosen and whether they’re beholden to restrictions set by the federal government or the state legislature that appointed them. Thus far, every state approving a COS resolution places appointment of delegates – appointment, not election – in the hands of the state legislature and the governor. That means elected officials cherry-pick delegates who will do their bidding and this, alone, raises concerns about abuse of power and political corruption.

And certainly, the COS’s one-state-one-vote model will ignite controversy. Does anyone believe that California, a state with 40 million people, will settle for the same representation as Wyoming, a state with a population of less than 600,000? The entire COS concept is founded on a vote based on the number of states, not the number of people.

No court has ever weighed in on these basic questions. Judicial precedent serves as our road map through contentious policy deliberations. Wandering down this path blindly risks everything this nation holds dear.

The last, and only, time the states called for a convention was in 1787. The delegates’ sole purpose for doing so was to revise the Articles of Confederation. Instead, they scrapped the document entirely and drafted the U.S. Constitution.

Are supporters of this movement – often bankrolled by dark money donations from George Soros – hoping for a similar outcome this time?

Without question there is, and has been, federal government laws and regulations that overreach – by miles. But does that issue really point to a problem with the Constitution or is this problem the result of a failure to follow it?    

Most of Washington D.C.’s difficulties stem from ignoring the Constitution and the failure of states and individuals to enforce the rights it provides. What makes anyone believe that passing new amendments will somehow facilitate compliance?

Every state criminalizes murder and yet murders occur. States can enact laws ratcheting up the consequences for homicide – and often do – to no avail. So, no matter what a convention seeks to accomplish, it cannot compel obedience.

Irrespective of how COS is marketed or spun, it will be viewed as an effort to change the fundamental structure of the United States government. Will history perceive us as any more deliberate or unshakeable than developing countries that constantly change the form of their government at every crisis? How will the world look at us? Will we be viewed as stronger or weaker by Russia? By China?

I stand with the Constitution. I stand with the words its drafters gave us:

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

 I don’t want to see our government divided and our nation torn apart in another Civil War. We must use our guiding principles and road maps to lead us through this conflict to find a more perfect union on the other side.

Sen. Gene Yaw represents the 23rd district in the Pennsylvania Senate.