Friday, 24 January 2014 10:35

Repair vs. Restore: Why Constitution Doesn’t Need Article V Fix

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Too many self-described “conservatives” want to repair the Constitution. Constitutionalists, on the other hand, recognize the danger of such a project and prefer to restore our founding document to its former glory, retaining all that is good in the charter.

In fairness, there are several proposals being offered by those in the “convention of the states” camp that are good and that constitutionalists should get behind as restorations of the original.

For example, in his book The Liberty Amendments, talk-show host Mark Levin calls for the repeal of the 17th Amendment.

As this author has written on many occasions, when the tether connecting the states to the Senate was severed by the 17th Amendment, the ability of the legislative and executive branches to collude in the usurpation of power and the destruction of liberty increased exponentially. Indeed, the “combination” of demagogues in the executive and legislative branches has thrived in the post-17th Amendment electoral environment.

Repealing the 17th Amendment, then, is an example of a proposal of the pro-Article V convention coalition that all constitutionalists should support. It is an example of restoring rather than repairing the Constitution.

On that note, there is a big difference between those two concepts. As I explained in a related article:

Ask any antiques dealer and he’ll tell you that there is a big difference between restoration and repair. Restoration is done in a way that will preserve the value and function of the original piece, while repair simply attempts to “fix” what is broken or poorly functioning on the aged item. Someone repairing an invaluable antique will introduce external material, believing that such will strengthen the broken parts.

A restorer, however, knows that only original pieces, no matter how difficult to preserve or attain, must be used to return the treasure to its prior glory.

In the hands of experts, in fact, the antique can be restored in such a careful manner that it will not only retain the value of the original, but it will increase it. 

Perhaps the worst part of dealing in antiques restoration is trying to undo someone’s unskilled repair. What could and should have been done delicately and according to tried and true techniques is scrapped by a hasty repair job, making a proper, lasting restoration much more difficult.

Unfortunately, much of what the con-con group is clamoring for are unidentified (and unelected, unaccountable) delegates to a “convention of the states” to repair the Constitution with materials more abundant but not as sound as those used by our Founding Fathers when they built the federal government.

Term limits, for example. Levin and others demand that any convention must consider an amendment limiting the terms of members of Congress. While such a response might seem tempting at first glance given the extent of the abuses of power by the legislative branch, closer inspection reveals otherwise. After all, term limits would limit the franchise of voters, would throw out good (constitutionalist) congressmen along with the bad, would make a substantial part of the legislative branch a lame-duck Congress much less inclined to pay attention to the people, and would in no way address the lack of understanding on the part of the people themselves, who are ultimately responsible for the kind of representation we get. In fact, term limits are anathema to the American scheme of government established by the Founders at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

The Constitution already provides for imposition of term limits — in the proper sense. They’re called frequent elections. James Madison explained the Founders' idea of term limits in The Federalist, No. 52:

As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people. Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured.

Madison even makes the case that the preservation of liberty is dependent on the coexistence of frequent elections and the exercise by state legislatures as a check on Congress:

The federal legislature will not only be restrained by its dependence on its people, as other legislative bodies are, but ... it will be, moreover, watched and controlled by the several collateral legislatures, which other legislative bodies are not.

Curiously, Levin casts aspersions on nullification, claiming that it is unconstitutional and not an effective weapon in the war against federal overreach. James Madison disagrees.

Besides, the Founders did, after all, impose term limits, by defining the length of terms of office for the various federal officers. No member of the House of Representatives can serve more than two years unless the people of his district let him. That’s the type of term limit that our Founders established and that is a proper restoration of those original principles, rather than a potentially devaluing repair using similar, but shoddy, substitutes.

Next, with regard to term limits on federal judges, the Constitution already provides for those, as well. It’s called good behavior.

Article III, Section 1 states:

The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

Article I divides the power of removing bad judges between the House and the Senate.

If a judge exceeds the power granted to him by the Constitution, then it is the responsibility of Congress to call him on it and charge him for his offenses.

Like his call for congressional term limits, Levin’s similar suggestion for limiting the terms of Supreme Court justices also seems to be a way of relieving the people of their responsibility of governing themselves. Rather than the people being required to ride herd on their federal representatives to impeach poorly performing judges, Levin would take this duty off our plate. 

This arrangement sounds suspiciously like the various “nanny state” programs forced on us by socialists that presume that we can’t take care of ourselves. 

Let’s prove Levin and the social engineers wrong and resist the repair of term limits in favor of the restoration of self-government as provided by the Constitution.

Finally, there’s the balanced budget amendment (BBA) that is being flogged by several “convention of the states” collaborators.

Although calls for BBA con-cons are nothing new, some of the versions being proposed recently are particularly frightening because of the ingenuity and insidious nature of the methods proposed by their creators to alter the Constitution.

Before state legislatures vote for an Article V con-con proposal that could cause real and radical damage to our Constitution, they should first consider whether a balanced budget amendment is necessary and whether it would actually steer our Republic away from the fiscal problems we are facing.

The fact is that determined citizens and state legislators could rescue the United States from its financial peril without resorting to opening up the Constitution to tinkering by state-appointed delegates, many of whom would be bought and paid for by special interests and corporations that would love to get that close to the Treasury.

Thomas Jefferson wrote: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free ... it expects what never was and never will be.” A fundamental requirement of vigilance is holding elected representatives’ feet to the fire by compelling them to honor their oath of office and not exceed the limits of their power as set forth in the Constitution.

There is no historical proof that a balanced budget amendment would drive the congressional hogs back inside the constitutional pen. Even the most conservative estimates indicate that about 80 percent of expenditures approved by Congress violate the U.S. Constitution. That fact wouldn’t change by adding an amendment to the Constitution.

Whether these bills spend our national treasure on unconstitutional and undeclared foreign wars, billions sent overseas in the form of foreign aid, expanding the so-called entitlement programs, or redistributing wealth via corporate and individual welfare schemes, none of these outlays is authorized by the Constitution.

And don’t forget, a committed, concerned, and constitutionally aware citizenry can balance our budget more quickly than any balanced budget amendment and without the danger of letting the wolves of special interests and their political puppets into the constitutional hen house.

Here again, the Article V agitators plan to repair rather than restore the Constitution. Inexplicably and ironically, these self-professed “conservatives” propose amendments to our Constitution that would relieve the people of our right and responsibility of governing ourselves and holding our representatives accountable. Why do the Article V advocates believe we cannot be counted on to regain control of this Republic? Why do these so-called populists have so little faith in the people? Why, in so many of their proposals, do the Article V promoters display the paternalism of progressives?

The Constitution is our most valuable heirloom, and we can’t afford to expose it to the quick-fix repairs being offered in the name of “reining in the federal government.” 

Instead, those of us committed to preserving, protecting, and defending our Constitution should begin devoting the time and attention necessary to the restoration of the powerful term limit control mechanisms included in the original design of the Constitution. 

We must let Levin and the Article V advocates know that we can take care of ourselves and we can control the federal government and we don't need a constitutional convention to fix what we already have the power to restore.


Joe A. Wolverton, II, J.D. is a correspondent for The New American and travels frequently nationwide speaking on topics of nullification, the NDAA, the Second Amendment, and the surveillance state. He is the co-founder of Liberty Rising, an educational endeavor aimed at promoting and preserving the Constitution. Follow him on Twitter @TNAJoeWolverton and he can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Related articles:

Article V: Con-Con or Nothing Is the Cry of This Cause Célèbre

Article V Group Ignores States' Complicity in Federal Power Grab

Article V Convention: Dangerous Precedent, Dangerous Loyalties

Convention of States and Article V: Tearing Up the Talking Points

Compact for America Proposal Could Increase Federal Power

Convention of the States: Wrong on History, Nullification

Convention of the States: Scholars Ignore History

In Defense of Con-Con, Meckler Chooses Ridicule Over Rebuttal

Socialists and Soros Fight for Article V Convention


  • Comment Link Teri Wednesday, 26 February 2014 22:08 posted by Teri

    Mr Wolverton is so wrong! The State Legislatures are NOT the ones to ratify the final amendment that might come from any Convention of States and neither is the Congress. THE PEOPLE are the ones that will ratify it/them. THE PEOPLE. THE PEOPLE. THE PEOPLE. NOT Congress. NOT State Legislatures. THE PEOPLE. That means YOU AND ME. THAT is what Article V safeguards. WE THE PEOPLE and our Liberty and Freedom (those are two separate things, did you know?)

    And in agreement with other comments on other articles here, the 16th and 17th amendments destroyed some Constitutional safeguards, along with a couple other amendments. Those can be undone one day people wake up and learn what the Constitution is really about, as opposed to what public school and universities have taught it's supposedly about for the past 120 years. I think the biggest danger is that the Founder set up the Constitution and Bill of Rights so that the Federal Government had very limited (numbered/enumerated) powers, and ALL other powers were left to the States (where the Constitution points them out only) and to the People (all other powers, because all the powers rightly emerged from the People in the first place.) The States were intended to safeguard and protect their citizenry from the Federal Government, by 'appointing' those who sat in the State Legislatures. However, now those Lesgislators are elected the same way that our State Representatives are, meaning the 17th Amendment ENDED "Senate" (though maintained the name only) and created a second "House of Representatives". So now both our Senators and Representatives are beholden to people and corporations, no to the States. The Sates are no longer safe. That means We The People of the states are no longer safe from Federal intrusion. The 16th amendment did the same thing by removing the protective "ceiling" over our heads of "no direct taxation" to today where we are directly taxed, and special groups of people are taxed. Totally screwed up our nation! The Convention of States lies OUTSIDE all that. It puts the power back in the hands of the PEOPLE.

    Learn the TRUTH about the Convention of States here:

    Learn the TRUTH about the Constitution in a FREE online class here:

  • Comment Link Scarlett Saturday, 25 January 2014 15:46 posted by Scarlett

    The author of this article says term limits=frequent elections. Nothing could be further from the truth. Frequent elections do NOT limit the number of terms. Without limiting the # of terms there is NO WAY to stop them aka the "corrupt in Congress" from BUYING their way back into office. Think NASCAR jacket; wearing all the sponsers. There is something wrong when Corrupt Congress is allowed to vote for their own raises, allow themselves to do inside trading when we the people are not, to impose corporate sponsored illegal laws upon the citizens but not upon themselves. Aren't they citizens too? With your argument of frequent elections=term limits, are you saying it is ok for those corrupt in congress not representing the people to repeatedly get elected? Senator Byrd of W. Virginia was in office for 51 YEARS. John Dingell of Michigan was congressman for 58 years. How can they represent the people when they ARE NOT the people, they are corporate sponsored government?
    Whether anyone likes it or not, Article V along w/ its proposal of a Convention of States was put there as an emergency cord by the Founders to pull if we ever found ourselves being bullied as we are by our Federal government, which we do not have control over at this moment; we have lost control of it. Without the Convention as put in by the Founders and the Constitutional amendments (which MUST BE RATIFIED BY 3/4THS OF ALL OF THE STATES) we have nothing to stop what has been happening from happening again. The Federal government has assumed the rights that belong to us and to the states; the rights that are not spelled out and listed in the Constitution. According to the Bill of Rights, amendment 9 and 10, those rights not specifically pointed out, or "powers" belong to us and the states. Those are the rights the federal gov has claimed, destroying our sovereignty.
    Nullification is needed, though for now it is a temporary fix. Until this provision provided to us in Article V is exercised, (as we must spell out for the federal government what they can and cannot have/take/do as we have seen that they have not exercised the proper responsibility that has been entrusted to them from the people; only the Corporations they represent, except w/ their NASCAR jackets worn inside out. We see the election process CANNOT FIX THIS.
    Nullification is needed in conjunction with this process, to get rid of the corrupt laws; we need the Convention to make amendments to prevent bad laws from being made again, as we see that is no other way to STOP these corrupt congressmen from making more corrupt laws.
    We need to come together, recognize the good in both arguments, and implement the good in both arguments instead of being divided, which is a tool of war. "Together we Stand, Divided we Fall."
    Stop fighting if you really indeed want to save our Republic. If you do, you will put these arguments of yours aside and start the fight against the real enemy.

  • Comment Link Mikey-Pinkie Rings Saturday, 25 January 2014 01:01 posted by Mikey-Pinkie Rings

    R. C. Jackman,

    You may find this hard to believe, but there is great danger in having an Article V convention for several reasons. I won't reiterate the reasons listed in the article. There is another, sneakier possibility that many have not considered, but is even more dangerous.

    Imagine that the delegates closed the doors to the Article V and did their business. In the course of their deliberations, they produce a different document that has different provisions. That is completely possible, especially given the first constitutional convention which did exactly that with the Articles of Confederation. Now, imagine that one of the altered articles is Article V itself! If Congress alone were given the power to ratify the new proposed Constitution, imagine the betrayal we would feel.

    History has a way of repeating itself.

  • Comment Link Jet Graphics Friday, 24 January 2014 23:35 posted by Jet Graphics

    Under the republican form of government, the "people" do not have a "right" to control the Federal government.
    All they can demand is specific performance to the compact.

    Under the (indirect) democratic form, the "citizens" who joined up, surrendered rights, are subjects of said government, and must obey.

    Under the socialist democratic form, the "socialists" who signed up with FICA, became excepted from the protections of government, and descended to status criminals.

    And the "customers" who signed up for usury (interest) with instrumentalities of the Federal Reserve signed 'signature cards,' wherein they agreed to abide by the RULES of the BANK. (Of course, we all should know that the U.S. governor of the "Bank" and "Fund" is our good friend, the Secretary of Treasury, who shall NOT be paid by the US Gov - see Title 22 USC Sec. 286a.)

    The only real remedy is to withdraw consent from usury and socialism and subjugation to servant government and return to the republican form of government.

  • Comment Link Dennis Friday, 24 January 2014 20:55 posted by Dennis

    Mr. Wolverton,

    If you are correct, and I agree with you in principle on many of your points, then why are we such a mess now? If it is just a matter of holding our elected officials feet to the fire, then why has this not happened?

    You mentioned that the delegates appointed by the states would not be accountable, as they would not be elected. Tell me about the present level of accountability of our elected officials in our federal government.

    Our two-party system has become more of a two-party war. This accounts for the high re-election rate incumbents. You are practicing the same warfare by addressing me as a "self-proclaimed-conservative". I can assure you that I, sir, am every bit the conservative that you claim to be and more. Please try not to belittle those whom you debate, particularly when our values are very well aligned.

    Please tell me the purpose and intent of the Article V convention.

  • Comment Link R. C. Jackman Friday, 24 January 2014 15:11 posted by R. C. Jackman

    Our Constitution allows for an "Article V Amendment Convention". It is not "a repair convention", or "a restoration convention", or "a con-con", or "a convention of the states", or "a reining-in convention". It is a constitutionally sanctioned convention wherein delegates meet to consider possible Amendments to our Constitution, without the many distractions that our Congress continually faces. Any proposed Amendments would subsequently have to be approved by the States, just as all Amendments must be approved before they are formally adopted.

  • Comment Link CRAIG JORDAN Friday, 24 January 2014 14:59 posted by CRAIG JORDAN

    The incumbent reelection rate in the House is ninety-two percent since 1946. In the Senate the rate is lower but still has been around seventy-nine percent since 1946. Prior to the turn of the twentieth century it was highly unusual for anyone in Congress to serve more than two consecutive terms. I wonder why one would question the founders inclusion of the Article V convention as a means of amending the Constitution when the Congress is not following the will of the people. Congress is held in extremely low esteem by the people, yet congressmen are reelected at exceedingly high rates and yet you say that term limits aren't needed. To me this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever because it is obvious that voting is not changing outcomes.

  • Comment Link sirburban Friday, 24 January 2014 14:05 posted by sirburban

    "Term limits" is the misguided attempt to diminish a citizen's duty to steer the government by the north star of the Constitution by placing the government on autopilot.

  • Comment Link MemphisMickey Friday, 24 January 2014 13:36 posted by MemphisMickey

    Amen Brother Joe!

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