With Americans laser-focused on the continuing investigation into Donald Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election result that culminated in an insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, historian James Banner Jr. writes that far-right conservatives are quietly working behind the scenes to create a Constitutional convention aimed at radically changing the relationship between the government and the public.
Writing for the Bulwark, Banner -- one of the founders of the National History Center of the American Historical Association -- explained that attention needs to be paid to a plan "to force an amendatory convention," by those who already have mapped out changes they would like to see take place.
Conceding that some on the liberal side of the aisle would like to see changes made too, Banner wrote, "it’s mostly wealthy right-wing funders who have, largely and purposefully out of sight, bankrolled the organized effort to foist one upon the country," with the usual suspects, the Koch and Mercer families providing support.
That, in itself, he warned, should be cause for concern.
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Taking advantage of Article V which provides for a convention, Banner wrote, "Amendments can be proposed piecemeal and accepted or rejected by the states in such a manner that few or none may end up being adopted. But the greatest danger is that there’s nothing in Article V that prevents an amendatory convention from following the example of the 1787 convention in Philadelphia, which became a runaway convention by simply assuming its freedom to propose a substitute for the very frame of government, the Articles of Confederation, under which it convened," with the historian warning, "Can we imagine anything as authoritative, carefully considered, and acceptable to the people of 38 states emerging from a runaway convention today?"
The risk, he notes, has grown worse since the Jan 6 riot that demonstrated that far-right Republicans "have amply demonstrated their eagerness to reject the norms of constitutional government for the sake of power."
"Witness the January 6th insurrection and all that led up to it. The push for an Article V convention is another of these chaotic, norm-denying efforts. And this one has immense potential for lasting harm," he suggested before speculating how it might likely turn out if recent history is any guide.
"Depending on the method settled on for representation, it’s possible that the gathering could be so dominated by one party that the rules might be rigged—or, even if not rigged, open to charges of being rigged, as we’re no strangers to accusations of 'fake news' and 'alternate truths'—so that its legitimacy would be compromised from the start," he wrote. "Any intensive push to cross the constitutional finish line for an Article V convention has the potential to create huge new tears in the nation’s constitutional fabric."
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According to Banner, despite all of its flaws, at the present time, it might be better to live with the Constitution as it is now written, than risk radical changes in a time of extreme partisanship and political volatility.
"Everyone should be frightened to the core about the damage that even the run-up to such a convention would do to the body politic. Any who write off the possibility or fail to take its proponents seriously assume responsibility for the disaster that’s likely to ensue should the proponents of an Article V convention succeed in setting one in motion. If that happens, the extraordinary American experiment in the self-government of an open society that has endured for over 230 years will be in never-before-experienced peril," he warned.
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