Constitutional Conventions

By Beacon Staff
By Tim Baldwin

Montana’s Constitution provides that we consider amending the Constitution at least once every 20 years (Art. 9, Sec. 3) and review the local forms once every 10 years (Art. 6, Sec. 9). This year, we must consider reviewing our form of local governments.

Unlike Montana’s Constitution, the United States Constitution makes it very difficult (some say impossible) for the states to amend the constitution under Article V. This is why Patrick Henry opposed the Constitution. He argued the Constitution would empower the federal government, and the states would have no way to correct what experience proved needed fixing.

Thomas Jefferson also said people should review their Constitution for amendments every 20 years; otherwise, it would be like a “man wearing still the coat that fitted him when a boy.” Jefferson scorned people who “look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.”

America’s political stresses are largely caused by focusing exclusively on parties and candidates and ignoring the responsibility people have relative to constitutional amendments. Some people are afraid of this responsibility; but I say, if we fear basic principles of self-government, then ignoring our political responsibilities will only worsen our condition.

Self-government is a good thing. Thankfully, Montana’s Constitution provides well for it.

By Joe Carbonari

Having the invitation to review the how and why we govern ourselves is a big deal – freedom in practice. Let’s not pass up the opportunity to look at ways that what we are currently doing might be ill-fitted, un-suitable or insufficient to the task – taking care not to let a few people’s zeal for change overwhelm the more common good.

That being said, I’d support local review but oppose a national constitutional convention.

It is not that I disagree on basic values with those who do support a national convention; it’s that I don’t agree that many of their suggestions for change would work out well. I value differently the pluses and minus of the risks and rewards to the common good. That’s to be expected and respected. People will always differ when they are free.

Consideration, not fear, moves me to oppose the Article V movement to call for a U.S. constitutional convention. I feel that the need does not warrant it. It has not been convincingly shown.

Too many votes are cast, and in a time of passion, many more could be cast, by uninformed, under-informed, and ill-informed voters. That’s risky and too vulnerable to a range of unexpected, uncontrollable national or international events and too likely to heighten our current national disease and gridlock.

Our Constitution, while not sacrosanct, has served us well. We should protect it from both Left and Right.