Commentary

Why Elections Cannot Fix Washington D.C.

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As our nation continues to spiral out of control and those we elected to Congress continue to ignore their responsibilities and their constitutional boundaries, what are concerned citizens supposed to do?

Until recently all we were ever heard was, “We need to elect ‘good’ people to office that will obey the Constitution.” Now that sounds noble and good and I do agree with electing people to office who promise to adhere to the boundaries of the Constitution, but that is not our only recourse to correct the abuses of the federal government, and if we believe that it is, then we are deceiving ourselves and we will never solve our current crisis. As Thomas Jefferson stated in regards placing that kind of confidence in men:

“[I]t would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is every where the parent of despotism.”

Thankfully we do have another option available to us — one that the Framers expected us to exercise in order to secure our safety and liberty.

That option, found in Article V of the Constitution, allows the people, through their state legislatures, to apply for a convention to propose amendments in order to address the concerns of their day. I am about to show you the power behind an amendments convention and the weakness behind elections and why we need to do more than vote for “good” people. If we truly believe that we have a government of laws and not of men, then it is time we start putting that belief into action and work to call a Convention of States to reign in our runaway federal government.

The Ugly Truth About Elections

Let’s examine this fallacy of placing all of our faith in those that we elect to solve our problems to see how well it is going to work out for us.

Every two years we can replace one third or 33 members of the Senate and one hundred percent or all 435 of the members of the House. Now that sounds great doesn’t it? Here is the problem, on average 90 percent of all members of Congress run for re-election — and 95 percent of them win!

Realistically this equates to only being able to replace approximately 68 members every two years, proportionately this works out to be 63 representatives and 5 senators. Listed within the Convention of States Project application is the need to propose an amendment that limits the terms of office for federal officials and for members of Congress. Only with term limits will we ever be able to end this desire for money and power that we see in that ugly creature — the career politician. But I digress.

How Many Years It Will Take To Elect A Simple Majority of “Good” People?

Now that we had our reality check, let’s see how long it will take to elect enough “good” people to office that will obey the Constitution and solve most of our nation’s problems.

To make this exercise simple we are going to assume that once the Senate and the House of Representatives reach a simple majority of “good” people that they will be able to stop all bad legislation and pass only good legislation.

So, let me ask you a serious question, how many “good” people do we currently have in the Senate and House? Now when I say “good” I mean someone that no matter what they will be voting on in the morning, you do not have to call or email them to tell them how to vote before you go to bed. You can rest your weary head on the pillow and sleep like a baby because you know they will vote according to the Constitution. Having a hard time with with a number? Yeah, me too. For the sake of this demonstration I am going to provide some numbers, and based on this outcome you can determine how your scenario will work out. (For more analysis see: The Fear Of An Article V Convention: What Should JBS Be Saying?)

In the Senate we are going to keep 10 “good” people and in the House 50 “good” people. Now a simple majority in the Senate is 51 and 218 in the House. This leaves us with having to replace 41 senators and 168 representatives to achieve a simple majority of “good” people in both houses. I want to keep this as realistic as possible, so let’s not assume we will win every single election across the nation. That Utopian ideal is just plain nonsense. How about a win rate of 33%? Is that possible? I think that is very optimistic and a hefty goal to achieve, but for the sake of this demonstration let’s use it.

So if we win one out of every three elections nationwide that equates to replacing 2 senators and 21 representatives every two years with “good” people. Are you still with me? We are going to start our exercise this year on November 4, 2014. Are you ready? Here we go! 2014, 2016, 2018…2028 simple majority reached in the House, 2030, 2032, 2034…2054 simple majority reached in the Senate. Here is a video demonstrating this exercise.

The year is now 2054 and we just reached a simple majority in both the Senate and House. It will take 40 years of electing “good” people to Congress in order to have enough in office to stop the insanity! Now keep in mind we are also assuming that we win one out of every three races for 40 consecutive years, every “good” person that gets elected stays in office for 40 years, and not a single one of them ever gets corrupted or influenced by power while in office. How do you like those odds? Are you feeling a little depressed right now? If you are that’s because deep down inside you know this is closer to reality than you would care to admit, isn’t it? So what do we do?

Amendments Are How We Are Going To Solve Our Problems

Let’s be honest with ourselves, do we really believe that the people in the federal government that have created the problems we have today will actually fix them? Of course not!

They will never voluntarily relinquish the power they have by implementing term limits on themselves, or forcing themselves to balance the budget, or any other number of reforms that will limit their power and jurisdiction. However, we can do all of this with an Article V Convention — and we can accomplish it much faster.

We have ratified twenty seven amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the first ten being the Bill of Rights in 1791.

Here’s what David C. Huckabee, a specialist in analyzing America’s federal government, has written regarding the amendment process for Congressional Research Services:

“Excluding the 27th Amendment (Congressional Pay), which took more than 202 years, the longest pending proposed amendment that was successfully ratified was the 22nd Amendment (Presidential Tenure), which took three years, nine months, and four days. The 26th Amendment (18-year-old vote) was ratified in the shortest time: three months and 10 days. The average ratification time was one year, eight months, and seven days.”

That is less than one election cycle!

Now let’s imagine for a moment what can be accomplished when we pass the Convention of States Project application in thirty-four state legislatures calling for an Article V convention limited to proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.

To date, the Convention of States Project application has been passed in three states — Georgia, Alaska, and Florida. If we can pass an additional fifteen in 2015 and the remaining sixteen the following year, the states will force Congress to call the first Article V convention in our history by 2016.

Let’s assume the convention lasts two months and passes a handful of amendments by the end of that year that are designed to force Congress to balance the budget, limit their spending, limit their terms in office, and provide the states the authority to overturn any federal law, supreme court decision, and/or executive order with a super-majority.

Those amendments are then sent to the states for ratification and let’s also assume that they all are ratified by the necessary three-fourths or 38 states in the historically average time for ratification of one year, eight months, and seven days. By the end of 2018 we will accomplish more in four years with a Convention of States than we ever could hope to accomplish in forty years with elections alone.

It’s Time To Stop The Insanity!

We often hear that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. A truer statement cannot be made about elections. Instead of hoping, wishing and praying that those we send to Congress are going to miraculously fix all of our problems, let’s take matters into our own hands and exercise our constitutional muscle by calling for a Convention of States to restore the balance of power and save our Republic.

About Ken Quinn

Ken Quinn is the State Director for the Convention of States Project in Maine. This column is part of a series that will explore the Convention of States. For more information or to volunteer, please visit www.conventionofstates.com.

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