In American history, the Continental Congress was the means by which our Founding Fathers formally reacted to the abuses of power they endured under their British sovereigns. Before American independence was declared, it was through Continental Congress that the need was determined.
Two-hundred and thirty-five years later, a coalition of liberty groups is resurrecting this historic forum to challenge the ever-expanding authority of the same federal government their forebears went on to create. In a video proclaiming their intentions, a representative cites the Constitution’s provision for citizens to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The “servant government” is obligated to respond or prove itself in violation of its rightful role. Continental Congress 2009 is scheduled to commence in November with three delegates from each state which were elected through a process concluded October 10th.
There has been only a scattering of local stories regarding the event, no major media coverage. Even alternative news sources known to focus on unconventional stories lack significant coverage of Continental Congress 2009. Regardless of its perceived legitimacy or potential effectiveness, this grassroots initiative is a story worth attention. It represents a degree of activism beyond that typically taken. It is more than a protest. It is more than a rally. It is a direct challenge to federal authority spawning from a liberty movement which has surged in the Year of the Tea Party. Observers will be able to track the event online, as the sessions are scheduled to be broadcast on the web. Fightin Words will offer summaries and commentary.
The idea behind Continental Congress 2009, as explained by its organizers, is to affect a “mass movement” which has the capacity to take effective non-violent action to resist a federal government which seems increasingly brazen and dismissive of the citizens from which it derives its sovereignty. The outlook for success is certainly doubtful, particularly given the ignorance of the public to the existence of Continental Congress 2009. However, the First American Revolution succeeded with only 3% of the population, and there is certainly a tremendous amount of rebellious energy which could be harnessed to impressive effect given the right circumstance. Consider, for instance, the original Continental Congress’s first act to organize an economic boycott of Britain. Imagine the impact of a similar effort exerted by a mere 3% of the current population, 3 million people refusing to pay federal taxes.
The effect of not just this new iteration of Continental Congress , but the entire liberty movement, could be good, bad, or wholly indifferent. Among the definitively bad possibilities is the potential for the liberty movement to unintentionally enable gross revision of the Constitution. Earlier this year, the John Birch Society warned of the damage that could be done if the Tea Party movement embraces the idea of a Bill of Federalism and urges state legislators to call for a Constitutional Convention. A Con-Con almost happened in the early 1980’s, but was avoided once the potential for drastic revision to constitutional limitations was communicated.
For those of you who have not followed the Con-Con battles of the past three decades, the basic problem with Congress calling a constitutional convention at the request of 34 or more states in accordance with Article V of the Constitution is that leading constitutional scholars and judges have pointed out that the agenda of such a constitutional convention could not be specified by the state legislatures who would have started the whole process in motion in the first place. In brief, a constitutional convention could become a “runaway” convention similar to our original Constitution Convention in 1787 and come up with a radically new constitution, not just a few specific amendments. Even Article V’s additional requirement that three-fourths of the states must ratify any amendments emanating from a constitutional convention is not sufficient safeguard against a runaway convention given the biased media and political elites that would be involved in the whole process.
The intention of the progressive radicals currently dominating American politics is quite clear when it comes to the Constitution. The document is maligned for being a charter of negative liberties rather than, as then Illinois State Senator Barrack Obama stated in 2001, “say[ing] what the federal government and the state government must do on your behalf,” namely “redistributive justice.” It should be assumed any opening to revise the Constitution, even if initiated in good faith, would be taken advantage of by the founding documents declared domestic enemies. For this reason and more, American citizens should keep a close eye on Continental Congress 2009 and its aftermath (if any), and those in the liberty movement should check their enthusiasm to ensure they not become practical examples of Marx’s “useful idiots.”