235 Years Later, We Discuss the Ratification of the U.S Constitution
[The Dakota Leader spent a morning interviewing SD Director of Convention of States Shirlee Meier from her home in Sioux Falls, SD, during September, the month when the US Constitution was ratified in 1787].
TDL(The Dakota Leader): Hello, Director Meier! Thank you for joining us today!
SM (Shirlee Meier) – Thank you for having me. I appreciate the interview and spreading the word about Convention of States.
TDL: Well, this is September, and it’s the month when the US Constitution was actually ratified
back in 1787. So, we thought we’d talk to you about Article V, Convention of States, as we have previously reported on at TDL
. But before we get to that, please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in this movement here in South Dakota.
SM – I retired from federal service after about 49 years and I was looking for something to do with my time. I checked out some different groups to volunteer with. I came across this Convention of States
group and I went in, signed the petition, and volunteered. At that time, I did NOT hear back from anyone for 4–5 months. So I signed it again and volunteered and STILL didn’t hear back from anyone. Then I found a number for COS and contacted Ginny Rapini and told her I signed the petition and wanted to volunteer and still hadn’t heard from anyone. I then heard from David Schneider (regional director for COS), and then I became a volunteer, district captain, grassroots coordinator and then state director.
TDL: How long?
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
SM – I signed the petition in 2015 and joined then. And at that time we had a state director, but he wasn’t very active. Also at that time there were only two district captains (two brothers) and they weren’t very active, either.
TDL – What’s a district captain
SM – Someone in charge of a certain district. Call people, follow up with people who’ve signed the petition to see if they wish to volunteer, organize events about Convention of States, anything to spread the word about Convention of States and get people involved.
TDL – And then you just kind of went up from there?
SM - Actually, when I became grassroots coordinator, I didn’t put in for it; our regional director basically MADE me the grassroots cordinator.
TDL – Obviously you didn’t fight it.
SM – No, I just went ahead, took some courses from the COSU (Convention of States University)
and just … did it. After a while as GC, I asked Dave, “Are we ever going to get a state director?” Dave literally told me, “Oh, didn’t I tell you: you ARE the state director!” I said: “Oh, ok!” I was already doing the work of all of them anyway, and so – there it goes.
TDL – And what time was this?
SM – I don’t remember. But in 2016 that was the first time I went to the capital (Pierre) with Dave Schneider, and we were the only two there for Convention of States. I remember as district captain, he said, “Go talk to that legislator.” I said, “Are you crazy! I’m not going to go talk to them!” But eventually I got over that, and now I can talk to legislators without being intimidated.
Gradually, I got to know legislators, and talked to them, and wasn’t so scared stiff. It’s a learning process, but if you just do it slowly, gradually, and get to know people and let them know you.
TDL – Is it true that you send Christmas cards every year to legislators, whether they voted for COS or not?
SM – Yes, and I also send them thank-yous, whether they voted for us or not, to honor their legislative service. Even if I disagree with their vote maybe [laughs].
TDL: Interesting, thank you. So where do you go to promote this and how do you do that, or have already done that?
SM – We do different things. We are in parades, at fairs, town hall meetings (if it’s an hour or so away I usually get a volunteer to help figure out where to host it). We print out fliers to post in towns. Much of it is word of mouth from our volunteers in different districts. Back when we had the Shopping News I used to put an ad in it. I suppose if you knew all of the small newspapers you could put in an ad in all of them. But, really, word of mouth is the best.
TDL: Does everyone agree with your argument of Article V in South Dakota?
SM – No. We have those that oppose us. The John Birch Society and Eagle Forum oppose it. Most of the time it’s because of bad information that they have been given. But if you read Article V of the Constitution, there are only two ways to make amendments to the Constitution: one is Congress in Washington, or state legislators can do it if they vote for the resolution. It’s calling a Convention of States for PROPOSING AMENDMENTS to the Constitution. It’s not opening up the Constitution.
TDL: Ms. Meier, why is an Article V Convention of States even necessary? What about the argument that we just need to interpret the Constitution as it’s written, and that’s what we need to do and that’s it. Why go the extra mile of the process of an Article V Convention of States?
SM – Number one, that came about as the Founding Fathers were signing the Constitution, and George Mason said wait a minute: we have given Congress a way to make amendments to this Constitution, but we have not given the PEOPLE a way to make amendments to the US Constitution, and he wanted that in there, and so it was put in there. Otherwise, ONLY Washington, DC, and your legislators would have the power to do that, and no power at all for the people themselves to do that.
Also, with the idea of interpreting, we’re not living under THAT Constitution, so to “interpret” the current one is to have nothing like what the Founders actually wanted us to live under. The one the Founders gave us is 39 pages. The one that we actually live under NOW is 2,000 pages, when you add in the Supreme Court rulings and Administrative Rules from the Executive Branch.
TDL: That’s a sizable difference.
(Pictured. The US Constitution of 39 pages and the 2010 version with all Supreme Course decisions, over 2000 pages. SD Convention of States Booth, Turner County Fair, August 16, 2022).
TDL: How many states does it take to call a Convention of States, by the way? In fact, can you explain the actual process for all TDL readers
SM – OK, in order to call a Convention of States for proposing Amendments to the Constitution, you need to have 34 state legislatures pass a resolution which is basically the same resolution (only a few words difference) for each state, because they (Washington) will throw it out. Now, they’re (Congress is) notified, and they get a copy of it, and if a resolution differs substantially from all of the others (with subject matters being different) it’ll get thrown out. So, Congress does have the power to throw it out IF it does. Ours has only three topics: (1) Term limits on Congress in Washington, DC; (2) Fiscal responsibility; (3) Rein in the power and scope of the federal government. That’s it. Those three.
TDL: How do you that?
SM – How you do that is you get 34 state legislatures to pass the same resolution. Once a resolution is passed in 34 states, Washington – and this is the only part that they will play – will set a time and place for the meeting. They cannot wait 2–3 years. They have to set it immediately. But even if they don’t, the state legislatures CAN pick their own time and place of meeting. And, also, the state legislatures, once they’ve met in one place, they can change the venue at will.
Then the state legislatures select their state delegates. They can send 1 or they can send 15. It doesn’t matter, though, because it’s always one state, one vote. And the states HAVE to pay their delegates’ room and board and expenses while they’re at the meeting.
So when they come together to make up the amendments, they would divide up into like into three different committees covering the three different subjects. They’d discuss this and discuss the wording of each amendment that they look at. They may come up with 1 or 20 amendments. That’s up to them.
TDL: But only on those topics.
SM – Yes. If any other topic is brought up, like gun control or abortion, or anything that is not part of those topics, that person (delegate) CAN be sent home by the Convention. That’s up to the state legislature. And each state gives their delegate a COMMISSION – which is a formal charge they have to obey …
TDL: Just like in 1787.
SM – Yes, just like that. They did send some home in 1787, too.
So once they come up with their amendments, each of their amendments has to be approved by 26 states in order to come OUT of the Convention itself. Once that’s done, if that’s done, they have to go back to the states for ratification. Each of the amendments has to be ratified by 38 states in order to become a direct part of the Constitution.
TDL – So, directly. The Supreme Court, or Congress, or the president has no say at all?
SM – No say. This is a function of the states. Remember, the states created the federal government, and not the other way around.
TDL – So at that point, those amendments are now officially a part of the Constitution, like the 27 we have?
SM – Yes.
TDL – Thank you for that explanation. And this Article V process has always been there?
SM – Yes, it’s always been there. George Mason
absolutely made sure that it would be in there.
TDL: Have many legislators
in South Dakota agree
with you regarding an Article V, Convention of States
SM – Not enough. Many, but it’s hard to know, as it’s an election year. We’ve lost some supporters, but we’ve also gained some new ones that support it. It’s hard at this point, right now, to tell you exactly where we stand. We won’t know until the election’s over in November, but right now I’d say 50–50.
TDL: Director Meier, South Dakota elected, overwhelmingly, both President Dwight Eisenhower in 1952
and 1956, and also President Ronald Reagan in both 1980
. Although Convention of States is nonpartisan, were you aware that both of these Presidents advocated, either as President
, or before being elected
[audio included on both links] an Article V Convention of States to restrain government?
President Eisenhower – National Endowment For Humanities; President Reagan - Wikipedia
SM – Absolutely.
TDL: Let’s clear this up: is the Article V, Convention of States organization
, either nationally OR here in South Dakota, funded by George Soros, The Open Society Institute, the World Economic Forum, The Government of Communist China, The Government of Russia, The Government of North Korea, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The United Nations, Michael Bloomberg, The Council on Foreign Relations, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Ford Foundation, Apple, Inc, Blackrock, or Hydra
SM – No, we are not [laughing]. We are funded by donations from volunteers, large and small. Some on a regular basis (monthly) and some not so. We are just volunteers, but we don’t have any high-paying people just support us.
TDL: Tell us about Convention of States South Dakota organization itself
. Who IS it made up of, and how does it function?
SM – OK, we are all volunteers. We do not have any paid employees!
SM – None. None of us. Our regional director (not in the state) is paid. We only have, nationally, about 50 paid employees (people who do our website, our attorneys, etc.). Everybody else is a volunteer. They volunteer their time, talents, and treasures and that’s it.
TDL: Is there any possible way that the organization that you’re president of in South Dakota in any way misinterpreted what Article V reads or means?
SM – No, because I can get the Constitution and I can read exactly what it says, if you’d like me to.
TDL – No, ma’am, that’s fine.
TDL: On another topic, as we previously reported
, didn’t the John Birch Society itself, with the US Congressional record
, didn’t they support a Convention of States back in the day?
SM – Yes, they did.
TDL: If that’s true, why are they against it now
SM – There was a change and there was a, how do I say, a difference of feelings among individuals, and they turned against it. It was a personal feelings thing. Not anything substantial.
TDL: As an aside, wasn’t the John Birch Society the organization that erroneously called Dwight Eisenhower a “Communist”
during the late 1950s?
SM – Uh-huh, yes.
TDL: What’s the term “Con-Con,”
and who came up with it?
SM – “Con-Con” stands for Constitutional Convention. And there are those who say that if we use Article V that we are using a Constitution Convention. This is not true. Big difference between a Constitutional Convention and an Article V Convention with the States proposing amendments. The original Con-Con was to repair the Articles of Confederation. They realized that they couldn’t repair them. So they rescheduled their meeting and came up with our US Constitution. If you read Article V, you see that all that is is a proposing of Amendments to the Constitution. And it still has to go through the process that we mentioned. You’re not rewriting the Constitution. You’re just adding amendments to the 27 that we have now.
TDL: Is it true that states
– even colonies
– got together all of the time to solve problems throughout US history in order to solve problems?
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
SM – Yes, they did it all of the time
. Sometimes it was two colonies, sometimes three. It was for various issues: taxation, or various things.
TDL: And they did this even as colonies?
SM – Yes, even as colonies. They didn’t all come together. Sometimes it was 3¬–4, depending upon the issue.
TDL: How about the “runaway” convention idea
? You want to deal with that? Can that even happen
SM – No, it cannot happen. And where they come up with this is when we got our Constitution, we got it because it was a “runaway Convention.”
TDL: You’re saying that other people think that our 1787 Constitution process was a “runaway convention?” What were we “running” from or to?
SM – Because there are those who believe that the US Constitution we have is illegal. They still believe that we should STILL be under the Articles of Confederation
. This is because they didn’t read history, and so they’ve put on this myth and attached it to not only 1787, but also to now. And they also say that those colonies that met, they didn’t have the authority TO meet to construct the Constitution. However, all but two had the authority to do “whatever was necessary” to come up with a Constitution and to make it work
TDL: And this was because, under the Articles of Confederation, we’d just had Shay’s Rebellion a few months before
, and the government, such as it was, was worried about even lasting at all.
SM – That’s right. So, anyway, some of these believe that the very Constitution we’ve been living under that our Founding Fathers gave us is illegitimate.
TDL: Very interesting. What, if you know, is the solution that the John Birch Society, or even the Eagle Forum, has for our out-of-control government, if not an Article V COS? Article V itself is only 143 words
SM – They basically do not have a solution. It’s basically leave things as is and it’ll work itself out. That’s basically it.
TDL: Do you think they can articulate a solution without using the word “not” in it?
SM – No [laughing].
TDL: Why hasn’t South Dakota passed the resolution
, even though above us, in North Dakota, they passed it years ago
, and just below us, in Nebraska, they passed it earlier this year
. Even Wisconsin, a much “bluer” state than South Dakota is, passed it in 2022
as well. Why the reluctance here in South Dakota, which is supposedly much more conservative (certainly than Wisconsin)?
SM – Well because in South Dakota – and I’m going out on a limb here, and some might not like this – but we have a lot of RINOs. They may have an “R” behind their name, but they vote like the opposition. They’re not true, real conservatives. Because if you talk to them and ask them why they vote on some things, their answer is not clear. And also, there are those who are more worried about their careers and being IN the legislature and living up to their true values. They can basically be bought off or scared, and I don’t think that’s right that legislators should be threatened by other legislators. People should vote their conscience. And if they can’t do that then they shouldn’t be in the legislature. That’s my honest opinion.
TDL: You’ve gone all around the state at various venues. What are you hearing from South Dakotans on this issue, generally?
SM – Well, I can tell you, especially at the fairs, etc., they’re not happy with the COS being voted down, and the legislators that opposed us and what they did. I heard that so many times, and they named names. And they’re not happy. The people in SD want a COS passed here. I can tell you that. There are more for us than against us. Some are more timid in their statements than others, but they want it passed and think it should’ve been done a couple of years ago.
TDL: You take people on bus tours to Pierre to lobby for this every year during session. Has that changed over the past few years?
SM – I can tell you that when I first started going, there were only two of us there, myself and Dave Schneider. This year (2022) we had 120 people. We are growing more and more people, and we have to have more people to have this. And even some legislators are coming around. Some legislators will never change. They think they know best and that’s that. But more and more people are coming and showing up and supporting Convention of States. And we have almost 17,000 petition signers here in South Dakota.
TDL: Let’s say South Dakota passes the resolution this year. What does Article V Convention of States here in South Dakota, or nationally, do in that case afterwards?
SM – OK, if we pass it here (hopefully we’ll be state number 20) we will stay active because there are those who’ll try to have it rescinded, and we’d have to start all over again. But regardless, we will be active with the legislature until a Convention of States is actually called. And then we’d stay active listening to the Convention itself!
TDL: What do you think about the recent poll by the Trafalgar group
that showed that most people – including 81% of Republicans and 50.2% of Democrats – support an Article V Convention of States?
SM – I think that’s right on target. We do have many Democrats that like it, but their leadership won’t let them vote for it or speak for it. But that’s about it. There’s a lot of independents and Libertarians that support us as well.
TDL: Who was Senator Tom Coburn
SM – Senator Coburn was a senator [from Oklahoma] in Washington, DC, and he left because Washington, DC, was so corrupt, and he joined COS as an advisor, and he advised us on different things, and unfortunately he passed away from cancer in 2020.
TDL: Wasn’t it true that he once asked now Supreme Court Justice (then nominee) Elena Kagan whether the US government had the power to require people to eat vegetables
SM – Yes [laughing].
TDL: And isn’t it true that the late Senator Coburn, when he was in the US House in the 1990s, was part of the 1994 “Contract With America”
wave election, producing, if not a balanced budget by 2000
, at least the smallest deficits nationally we’ve had in decades
? I mean, was there anyone in Congress who did more to cut spending in Washington, DC than he did?
SM – Not during the time he served, no. Not that I know of.
TDL: And yet he left the US Senate early before his second term ended in 2015
and joined Convention of States as an advisor
. Speaking of former US senators, what do you make of the fact that former Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat from Wisconsin, is writing a book opposing an Article V Convention of States
? What do foes on the conservative side think of being aligned with him, who famously tried to limit the First Amendment
via the McCain–Feingold law, which was ultimately held as unconstitutional
SM – It’s like a lot of things. Probably a lot of people do not know this. If people would really check into the history, and in their state, they’d be surprised at some things they support, or don’t support, in the past.
TDL: Speaking of books, what books do you recommend people read in order to understand the actual Article V of the US Constitution, or the Convention of States itself?
SM – I would recommend Professor Robert Natelson’s “The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant”
and “The Law of Article V.”
These are both excellent books on what our Constitution actually says and what Article V actually means.
TDL: I see you did a Convention of States Christmas tree last year in Pierre
. Are you and SD Convention of States going to do another one this year?
SM – Yes [laughing], we have applied. We’ll see. We haven’t heard back yet.
TDL: Do you think that, if you do put up the COS Tree again in Pierre this year, that the John Birch Society or the Eagle Forum or others opposed will have a “we’re against that tree over there” tree at the State Capitol in Pierre?
SM – [Laughing] – It wouldn’t surprise me. I don’t think they’d be allowed to do that (laughing).
TDL: Article V COS supporters, either here in South Dakota or elsewhere, do they have “rocks in their heads?”
SM – Ha-ha-ha. No. We do not have “rocks in our heads.” We think, we do our research before we go forward. We don’t just shoot from the hip like, ahem, the author of “rocks in their heads.”
TDL: Do you think that’s an appropriate way for SD politicians to speak about regular South Dakota voters?
SM – No, I do not. I do know that the person who said that, he really doesn’t care about South Dakota voters. He only cares about his own ambitions. He’s said other things about South Dakota voters as well
TDL: Director Meier, I know you won’t debate, but do you think our politicians in South Dakota will debate someone like, say, Mark Levin on this subject
SM – No. And I can tell you that Convention of States will not debate politicians, etc., because it has been proven to us is that they will take things that we say and turn that against us. If anyone wants to hear it, there was one between Michael Farris and the John Birch Society, and that’s on YouTube
. That’s the last debate that we did and that we will do.
TDL: So I take it you’re going to travel to Pierre yet again
this next legislative session in 2023, and keep on advocating for SD to pass the Article V Resolution?
SM – Yes, we will be there.
TDL: You’ve mentioned more people are coming every year in support of Article V. How about those opposed to it?
SM – Umm, it varies. They’re losing ground as to why they oppose us. It’s becoming more and more evident, as more are learning the truth about Article V, and there’s less and less opposition to it. I do know that those opposed are getting more vocal and outspoken to you in person. I think it’s like someone who’s losing a battle: they get more aggressive.
TDL: Who’s your favorite Founding Father, generally?
SM – George Washington. My next one is Abraham Lincoln (though he’s not a Founding Father).
TDL :Why Mr. Washington?
SM – He was a very Christian man. He stood up for what he believed, even in opposition, and he didn’t back down. And he wasn’t in it for himself; he was in it for his country and his fellow man. His whole character, he just stands out in my mind.
TDL: Are you going to keep on doing this
, even though you’re retired and this is all volunteer?
SM– As long as I can I plan on it!
TDL: Director Meier, thank you for your time, and Happy Constitution Month!
SM – Thank you! Happy Constitution Month to you, too!
Editor's Note: The Dakota Leader neither endorses or opposes COS. This segment is intended for educational value during the commemoration of the 235th year, post ratification of the U.S Constitution.
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|Post Date: 2022-09-17 08:12:29||Last Update: 2022-09-17 11:29:01|