“Our last best hope for the country…A new convention, I believe, would be a very good thing.”
by Vickie Deppe – May 2023
No, this isn’t a statement from an Article V activist; it’s a quote from John Davenport, Professor of Philosophy and Peace & Justice Studies at Fordham University published in USA Today. In what may be a journalistic first, a reporter for a liberal-leaning legacy publication has provided fair—even positive—coverage of a major Article V initiative. The article, featuring comments from Professor Davenport and Convention of States Project Senior Advisor Rick Santorum, moves beyond whether a convention should occur and instead centers on what should be on the table.
This article contains three key takeaways for Article V advocates:
- We must pursue genuine bipartisanship.
The high bar of ratification provides little comfort to those who believe they will have no meaningful impact at an Article V Convention. Professor Davenport is not alone in his assessment that a convention perceived as driven by the concerns of one party to the exclusion of the other could produce “great resentment.” The time has come to stop trying to assuage naysayers and instead focus on backfilling them with legislators from the other side of the aisle. Republicans—who may be in the majority if the convention occurs within the next few years—should take the initiative to advocate for supermajority votes at the convention and begin a sincere dialog with colleagues from across the political spectrum to find amendments that can secure the broad support necessary for ratification…because federalism is good for everybody.
- It’s time to reframe the discussion.
Professor Davenport seems to be under the mistaken impression that the last time we came close to having a convention was at the turn of the 20th century when support for the direct election of senators was gaining momentum. In fact, applications for a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment reached and sustained the necessary 34-state threshold for decades beginning in 1979. Congress sidestepped its obligation to call the convention by passing the impotent Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act. It’s not left vs. right. It’s DC insiders vs. the rest of us.
- A general convention has great potential to bridge the partisan divide.
Professor Davenport believes that a “narrow focus will prompt more left-leaning states to turn away.” He explains that “pre-scripting” the convention muzzles certain viewpoints. He instead advocates “a more open-ended convention call that allows open debate on a broader range of common consensus topics that will have appeal to Americans outside of…staunch conservatives.” The high bar of ratification and our centuries-long history of orderly interstate conventions tell us that a general convention is every bit as safe as a limited one.
Professor Davenport’s new book, The Democracy Amendments: Constitutional Reforms to Save the United States, is scheduled to be released this month.