But I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks — no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men [to Congress]. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.
— James Madison, Speech on June 20, 1788, at the Virginia Ratifying Convention
In the above quote James Madison was telling the Virginia Ratifying Convention that under the new Constitution we would not be putting our confidence in those elected to Congress to secure our liberty or happiness, but rather we would depend on the virtue and intelligence of the voters who would be selecting the members of Congress. Furthermore, he is saying that beyond this, no theoretical check and no form of government can render us secure.
In a similar vein, The John Birch Society has been working for over 50 years to preserve our constitutional republic by creating an informed electorate. With the exception of our support for the Liberty Amendment in the '60s and '70s, we have not advocated that we need to change the Constitution to achieve our goal of preserving our republic.
However, nowadays many pro-Article V convention conservatives are telling us: “Our government is broken.”
I’m sure most of you have heard the refrain “our government is broken” many, many times by now. But have you thought of how this simple, apparent truism captures the semantic high ground for the constitutional convention (con-con) movement.
If the government is broken, then the next impulse of red-blooded Americans is to fix it. But how?
That’s where the smooth-talking Article V advocates burst into our consciousness with a solution based on changing the Constitution.
As Mark Levin, author of The Liberty Amendments, puts it: “It’s time to turn to the Constitution, to save the Constitution, if you love the Constitution, before there is no Constitution.”
So, Levin and a whole host of Article V admirers are telling us that the way we preserve our republic is to use the Constitution to change the Constitution.
That’s where you can easily end up when you begin by asserting that our government is broken.
How about considering a different starting point?
“Our electorate is broken.”
This statement leads us to think of just how little virtue and intelligence is exhibited by American voters. Very few understand the Constitution and the role it should play in our constitutional republic. Too few understand why a democracy is bad and a republic is good. As proof of just how few well-educated voters there are, consider how few constitutionalists are elected to office at local, county, state, and federal levels.
Year in and year out, American voters are electing people to education boards who are acquiescing in the cultural and political revolution in our public schools, people to county boards who are implementing Agenda 21 planning (under a whole series of deceptive names), people to state legislatures who don’t understand how to use nullification to protect us from unconstitutional federal laws and regulations, and people to Congress and the presidency who blatantly disobey the Constitution.
Wouldn’t you agree that our electorate is broken?
What’s the solution? Change the Constitution? Are you kidding?
With our broken electorate, no variation on our Constitution is going to work. There are just not enough virtuous and well-informed voters to elect sufficient numbers of constitutionalists to office at all levels to turn things around.
And, there are certainly not enough well-informed voters around to ensure that an Article V constitutional convention would go well for the constitutionalist side.
As mentioned above, The John Birch Society has been working to restore our Republic for over 50 years by creating an informed electorate. We’ve had many successes over the years that were localized as to issue or time span or geography.
What we need is to continue to follow our educational strategy, but at the same time to recruit sufficient numbers of new members to create a political climate that will lead to constitutionalist majorities being elected in thousands of localities, hundreds of counties, and tens of states.
With that level of success we would see our “broken government” begin to work once again.
No changes in the Constitution needed, thank you very much.
Yes, the voter education approach is hard and often doesn’t produce immediate results. But if this is the only way to preserve our constitutional republic, then that’s the approach we should take.
As Robert Welch, the Founder of The John Birch Society, was fond of saying: “There is no easy way.”
Please help preserve our Constitution by educating the ill-informed supporters of an ill-advised Article V constitutional convention about the pitfalls of their approach and the advantages of our approach.
Go to our “Choose Freedom — STOP a Con-Con” action project page on JBS.org to learn more about this project and then to take action.
(This article is also being published in the November issue of the JBS Bulletin.)