opinion

For the People

The Constitutional Amendments We Need Today

The former Oklahoma GOP senator responds to an earlier Daily Beast column about his constitutional convention plans.

Sometimes our government defies its founding principles in ways that are not easily corrected through the political process.

When this happens, Americans have three options: do nothing, take up arms, or seek a constitutional remedy in the form of one or more amendments to decisively correct our nation’s course. I submit that this third option is the one that befits a people striving toward freedom, justice, and equality.

Consider slavery in America. The Declaration of Independence had recognized, in no uncertain terms, that “all men are created equal,” and “endowed by their Creator” with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Allowing slavery was a blatant defiance of this bedrock principle, resulting in the bloody tragedy of the Civil War.

Ultimately, however, it was not war that resolved the injustice of slavery. The injustice was only resolved through the process of constitutional amendment. With the proposal and adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment, America’s course was set right again. Fast forward a few years, and the Fourteenth Amendment made another needed course correction, putting us back on the trajectory toward freedom, justice, and equality.

Having studied our Constitution and having spent considerable time in Washington, D.C., as both a senator and representative, I can tell you that another major course correction is needed today. While our government was designed to be a constitutional republic, it no longer operates according to the actual text and meaning of the Constitution. Rather, federal courts, Congress, and presidents have stretched and perverted the Constitution to the point where its text has little relation to the actual operation of government.

This shouldn’t be troubling just to conservatives; it should be troubling to every American. Because if we have learned anything at all from history, surely we have learned that only when government is restrained by clearly written laws can freedom, justice, and equality thrive. When we allow individual rulers to make up the rules as they go, when we allow the law to be redesigned (or “interpreted”) according to the particular fancies of whoever happens to be in office, we make the non-ruling minorities unacceptably vulnerable to the more-powerful ruling majorities. This is anathema to our nation’s founding principles.

This is why I have dedicated my retirement to the mission of correcting our nation’s course through the constitutional process of proposing amendments to accomplish three goals: impose fiscal restraints on Washington, limit federal power and jurisdiction to that which it was actually given in the Constitution, and set term limits for federal officials.

One commentator, writing for The Daily Beast and referring to me, recently asserted that “Since the very beginning of our republic, there have been those who wanted states’ rights supremacy. They have lost out—over and over again.” This statement and many others in the article are a sad commentary on the author’s lack of knowledge and understanding of history and our Constitution. Here’s a quick primer for her:

The states created the federal government. They gave it a sphere of jurisdiction, over which it is supreme. That jurisdiction, however, is limited to the specific, enumerated powers contained in the text of the Constitution. All other powers—every single power not expressly delegated to the national government—remain vested in the states, or the people. In other words, the states were never meant to be mere agents of the national government. They do retain sovereignty over every area not delegated to the feds.

The beauty of this federal system of government is that it provides citizens with the fullest possible extent of freedom and the fullest possible extent of influence over the policies that affect them most.

Tragically, because many Americans today, like the aforementioned author, have no understanding of our government’s design, they don’t understand what it is that their fellow Americans (more than 2 million) seek to accomplish through the Convention of States Project. It is simply this: to restore the rule of law in America. To protect citizens from abuses of power by the political majorities who hold federal offices—including the Trump administration. And to restore the ability of ordinary people to have their voices heard regarding the policies that govern their everyday lives, by shifting those policy decisions back to the state and local level.

Don’t fall for the lie that the Convention of States Project is some conservative plot to impose their policies on the American people. The real agenda is exactly the opposite: to restore the power of the American people to decide public policies for themselves.