Monday, March 21, 2022






        Every day, major pundits and others – mostly on the liberal Democratic side of the ledger – bewail the threat to democracy in new laws adopted by several Republican-controlled states that appear to restrict minority voting rights.


        They’re mostly correct. With no proof, backers of those new laws assume every person living in this country legally has the government documents the new laws require before many voters can vote by mail, vote early or even go to an ordinary polling place.


        But there’s a far bigger threat waiting in the weeds, one that could threaten not only voting rights, but many others assured by the federal and state constitutions, from abortion on demand to emergency room health care and much more.

        This threat goes by the name of “Convention of the States Action.” It is the work of far-right activists who claim they mean no harm to anyone, but want a new constitutional convention similar to the one conducted in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, several years after the Revolutionary War.


        This putative new convention is authorized by Article V of the existing Constitution and would have the authority to change almost everything in that most hallowed blueprint of American democracy, so long as 38 state legislatures agree.


        Right now, that seems like an impossible number. But only 34 legislatures need to vote for a convention for it to happen, and 18 have already approved, most recently West Virginia, whose state House and Senate okayed the convention on just one day in February. One legislative chamber in each of eight other states has also approved.


        So a new constitutional convention is now more than halfway to reality, with no time limit on when other states can join the effort and no time limit on when the other halves of partially-approving states can vote.


        So far, the effort looks like a purely GOP thing, with approving states including Florida, Texas, Alabama and more than a dozen other GOP-controlled states. No Democratically-run state is on the list.


        Individual backers include Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Donald Trump cabinet member Ben Carson, former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. That’s essentially a list of conservative Republican luminaries.


        Sponsors of the potential convention say it would be strictly limited to discussing Constitutional amendments that “limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, impose fiscal restraints and place term limits on federal officials.”


        But there is nothing in Article V limiting what a new convention could pass.


        How many Americans today believe the current Bill of Rights, with its freedoms of speech, press and assembly, plus its ban on formal connections between church and state would survive in a convention dominated by Republicans loyal to ex-President Trump?


        Even if the convention were to observe the limits its sponsors suggest, it’s plain that health care, freedom of movement between states, allowing states to make almost all land use decisions within their borders and the basic rights guaranteed today have fiscal implications. A convention could pass an amendment banning abortions that would supersede state laws like those assuring the procedures would continue in California even if the Supreme Court negates the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.


        It could also end birthright citizenship, under which anyone born here is automatically a citizen, wherever their parents hailed from. That could be done in the name of ending immigration by pregnant women, the rationale being that schooling their children here is a public expense.


        So in reality, there would be no limits on such a convention and its products, if 38 states ratify them. Article V sets no time limit for ratification, so these things could be voted on in various states years or decades down the line, when political leanings in many places may have changed.


        There’s a reason why no constitutional convention has been held since the original one: A general sense of the danger in letting anyone tinker with or reverse basic American principles. That’s exactly what a convention of the states could bring, and that’s why it’s such a dangerous possibility.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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