Commentary: Sen. Long's bold play
Fed up with Washington? Angry that elections don’t seem to matter when it comes time to solving problems? Disgusted by the polarization that puts politicians’ careers ahead of taxpayer interests? Frustrated because you don’t think anything can be done about it?
Indiana State Sen. David Long, R-Ft. Wayne, has experienced all of these feelings, but has chosen not to accept the status quo. He has a plan for returning power to the people where the Founders wanted it to reside.
Long is promoting an unused section of the U.S. Constitution as the ultimate check on big government. Article V provides two paths to amending the Constitution. One is through two-thirds of both houses of Congress, followed by ratification by three-fourths of the states. The other begins at the state level, where two-thirds of the legislatures ask Congress to call “a convention for proposing amendments.” States would send delegates to this convention to propose amendments to the Constitution. Then, three-fourths of the states would ratify any amendments approved by the convention, either by their legislatures or special ratifying conventions.
Long notes that the Founders wanted the states to be able to amend the Constitution as a means of checking a runaway federal government. They understood human nature and its lust for power.
In a telephone conversation, Sen. Long claims the biggest objection to an Article V convention is that those who participate might take the opportunity to engage in mischief and wreck the Constitution. But, he says, the ability of delegates to go beyond the limits set by their respective legislatures would be clearly restricted and delegates who attempt to exceed their authority would be removed.
The Indiana legislature has passed two measures that would, according to Long, “Require delegates to take an oath to uphold the state and U.S. Constitutions and abide by any instructions given to delegates by the General Assembly.”
It also establishes “Indiana’s intention to send two delegates and two alternate delegates to an Article V convention.”
Writing in Federalist No. 85, Alexander Hamilton expressed faith in the states to control out-of-control government: “We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.”
Long says he has commitments from representatives of at least 26 state legislatures to attend a Dec. 7 meeting at George Washington’s home in Mt. Vernon, Va. The goal is “not to decide on any amendment to be considered, but to put together a structure on how a convention will be run.” Once that structure is in place, the convention would hope to establish a framework for reining in overspending, overtaxing and over-regulating by the federal government and moving toward a less centralized federal government.
I asked him if any Democrats have signed on. “We’ve tried to get Democrats involved, but the Democratic Party is pushing back hard to keep any Democrats from attending.” Long says while one California Democratic legislator has expressed interest, he thinks that Southern and some Western states (but not California) will get behind the idea, though he admits achieving the goal will be difficult.
Because both parties have failed to curtail the escalating size, reach and cost of centralized government, Long says, “States’ rights have been trampled — rendering the 10th amendment, (which protects state rights), almost meaningless.” He adds, “The bigger modern-day threat to America is not a runaway convention, but a runaway federal government.”
Call it a “Long shot,” but it is one worth attempting. The Preamble to the Constitution begins: “We the people.” It is the people who lend power to the federal government. If the people lend it, the people can also reclaim it when government exceeds its constitutional authority. Sen. David Long may have discovered the only path left for attaining fiscal solvency. If he succeeds, future generations might recall Dec. 7, not only for Pearl Harbor, but for the beginning of a second American Revolution.