When Elections Fail Us We Have One Last Resort


Now that the elections are over and all the negative TV ads are gone we can all breathe a big sigh of relief.  We have done all we could and now it is up to those that we sent to Washington D.C. to fix all the problems as they promised and if they don’t we will have to start all over again in two years and hopefully get it right the next time, right? Wrong!

Until recently that is what most of us believed until the power of a convention for proposing amendments was rediscovered and started inspiring Americans across the nation to stand up to this overreaching federal government and exercise their constitutional authority that the Framers so wisely provided in Article V of the Constitution for such an hour as this.

Sadly, for many years the states have been paralyzed by fear over an Article V convention because of the misrepresentations that have been concocted against it preventing them from proposing good reformatory amendments. The purpose of this opposition has been designed to maintain the status quo and to protect the continued overreach of the federal government. If you visit the Article V Library, you will see a number of these amendments that, if allowed to be proposed and ratified by the states, would have prevented the mess we are in today.

Amendments such as a Balanced Budget, Congressional Term Limits, National Debt Limit, Tenure of Federal Judges, Repealing the 16th Amendment (Income Tax), etc. have been sought by the states for decades but there has been strong opposition to these by certain groups which has hindered a number of state legislatures from joining the Article V application process.

The real beauty of Article V is that it was not some procedural apparatus that the Framers threw into our governing document, but instead was viewed as a tool to provide to future generations in order to defend themselves against a tyrannical government that no longer maintained it’s constitutional boundaries and needed to be restrained.  This description is provided to us by none other than James Madison himself in a speech he gave in Congress in 1796 while expressing his opposition to the Jay Treaty.  In the following quote Madison describes the means to control our government when those in power disregard their constitutional authority and the will of the people:

In the first place, the responsibility which every department feels to the public will, under the forms of the Constitution, may be expected to prevent the excesses incident to conflicts between rival and irresponsible authorities. In the next place, if the difference cannot be adjusted by friendly conference and mutual concession, the sense of the constituent body, brought into the Government through the ordinary elective channels, may supply a remedy. And if this resource should fail, there remains, in the third and last place, that provident article in the Constitution itself, by which an avenue is always open to the sovereignty of the people, for explanations or amendments, as they might be found indispensable.”

Obviously most of us reading this agree that the first step of “responsibility” that departments feel to the public will under the forms of the Constitution has completely failed, which leads us to the next step in this process, elections.  Let’s be honest with ourselves here and ask the hard questions.  Do we really believe that the few people that we just elected around the country are actually going to make a difference at the federal level in a reasonable amount of time? (For further insight read my article Why Elections Cannot Fix Washington D.C.)  Do we really believe that any of the good reformatory amendments that the states have been trying to propose for decades will ever see the light of day in Congress?  Will anything other than major reforms such as those amendments make any real difference?  I am not going to answer this for you because you already know the answer.  Let me just state that the second step, elections, have utterly failed us for decades and there is no logical reason to think it will improve any time soon.

Which leads us to our third step, an Article V convention for proposing amendments. Not only is this the third step that we must act upon now, this is also our last resort in the process to restore our constitutional form of government as clearly stated by Madison in a letter to Edward Everett in 1830:

“Should the provisions of the Constitution as here reviewed be found not to secure the Government & rights of the States against usurpations & abuses on the part of the U. S. the final resort within the purview of the Constitution lies in an amendment of the Constitution according to a process applicable by the States.”

There you have it, three clearly laid out steps to control a runaway federal government, responsibility, elections, and Article V.  The hour is late and the time is now.   Will we wake up as a people and use the tool the Framers told us we would someday need in order to correct our nation’s problems or will we continue to point the blame at others and think that our only duty is to elect “good” people and hope that they will do the job they promised us they would do.  If we fail to use this option then we deserve what is coming and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.  I implore you to please get involved with the Convention of State Project wherever you live and let’s be a people that saw the coming crisis and were bold enough and strong enough to prevent it.  If you live in Maine we need your help to inform our newly elected states legislators that you want them to support our Article V application to propose amendments that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and term limits for federal officials and members of Congress.

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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

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