Often people can only take so much pressure before they seek to release it in rash and sudden ways, throwing caution and a careful consideration of consequences to the wind.
There were good signs when President Trump was elected that many Americans were entering into that kind of moment. And now, with millions realizing just how widespread and deeply rooted are the problems cool-and-collected President Obama had helped us emotionally paper over, the urge to find release in rash words and deeds is kicking into overdrive.
There’s talk of a “cold civil war,” a bitter longing for “national divorce,” and now, fresh interest in a “convention of the states” to add several big constitutional amendments. However gratifying the fantasy may be of renewing our founding charter’s virtue in this way, it’s ultimately unwise and misconceived.
Liberty-minded citizens could be forgiven for latching onto the convention project out of a combination of frustration, desperation, and high ideals. While our constitutional system helped ensure that policymaking would work more slowly than the passions of the people and the interests of elites might demand, today, even areas of life where substantial reform is clearly needed are languishing. Politics, probably at least in part as a result, has devolved decisively into a mouth-foaming “debate” over the relative moral and coercive power of symbols and semiotics — a great way for rallying pseudo-tribes against other groups, but a terrible way of governing.
With both policy and politics locked in such a frenetic kind of attrition, ordinary reckless strategies of breaking free from the impasse by “shaking the tree” take on a certain kind of calculated logic. At this point — even without reference to ideology or political philosophy — why not crack open the Constitution and see if we can get something more promising going?
Add in the particular convictions and aims of some conservatives and libertarians, and the…