Since we allegedly still live in a nation of laws and not of men, and since the U.S. Constitution is supposedly the supreme law of the land, I ask you to first read these small portions of that document, after which I’ll pose my question.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
You’ll need to read the whole book to properly understand the problems America faces, but here’s the situation in a nutshell. We live in a post-constitutional republic with a federal government that no longer obeys — but sometimes pays lip service to — the US Constitution. Merely electing new politicians to replace the old ones isn’t enough to fix the problem anymore. The system as it stands is rigged against your individual liberty, and unless we fix the system, we’re doomed to live under soft tyranny (defined four years ago here).
Constitutional scholar, lawyer, and radio host Mark Levin urges Americans to use the last resort provided in the Constitution to save the country from tyranny:
Levin aims to change the rules of the game… or, more properly, reset them, to restore the brilliant system put in place by America’s Founders. With the situation explained and his goals set forth in a few introductory pages, he executes the rest of his book with the planning and precision of a SEAL team taking an objective. Each of his proposed “Liberty Amendments” is laid out in a brief chapter that explains its importance, sources it to the writings of the Founding Fathers, and anticipates the more reasonable objections that would likely be raised. Little time is wasted on the unreasonable objections, for Levin does not intend to address an audience of the stupid, greedy, or hysterical. He also knows his statist adversaries are not interested in rationally discussing the death of the Leviathan they nourished for generations.
“What’s he proposing?”
Levin proposes that we use the second of two methods for enacting amendments to the US Constitution, and he offers 11 amendments that would fix the rigged system we’re currently stuck with. If you want to read them by themselves without any background, click here to jump to the end of this post.
For a much more detailed look at why this convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the constitution makes excellent sense, go read the first chapter of The Liberty Amendments, which Levin released for free at the beginning of the month. It’s brief, and everything’s footnoted and explained in detail, including references to historical debates between the Founders. The quotes reveal how and why they drafted Article V of the Constitution, which sets forth the amendment processes.
Here’s the whole carefully-worded text of Article V (emphasis mine):
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall calla convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
What we’re talking about here is not a constitutional convention, because there’s no such process set forth in the US Constitution. A constitutional convention is what a people do when they draft a new constitution from scratch. What Levin urges is something different. Look at that red highlighted text again. This would be a a convention for proposing amendments to the constitution, not a convention for tossing the whole thing out and starting over. Let us not hear any wild-eyed warnings against a “Con-Con,” then.
This is simply the second of two constitutional methods for proposing amendments, where the federal government does nothing but clerical work — verifying that 2/3 of the legislatures of the 50 States have called for a convention, and choosing between two ratification methods. True, we’ve never used this method before, but so what? Until now, we’ve enacted 27 amendments, all using the first method where they’re proposed by the US Congress and sent to the States for ratification. Now Congress has completely lost its moorings and no longer responds to our concerns, and it will never propose amendments to limit itself, the President, the federal courts, or the federal bureaucracy. So be it. The Founders wisely left us another constitutional remedy for this problem, one that allows us to rein in our government without violence. That’s all this is.
“But what if the federal government objects?”
Look at the green highlighted text. If the legislatures of 34 out of 50 States apply to the US Congress to call a convention, Congress must do so. There’s no discretion or wiggle room because the operative word is “shall.” It does not say that Congress “may” call a convention … or “should” or “can” or “might if it feels kinda generous.” There’s only a very limited and insignificant role for Congress in this situation — counting to 34, then picking one of two previously-established ratification methods. They can’t monkey around with the content of the amendments, nor can they stop them.
Also notice that neither the President, the Supreme Court, the federal bureaucracy, the lower federal courts, the 50 governors, nor the State courts have any role here. They’re all just spectators. This process barely involves the US Congress, and the legislatures of the 50 States truly run this show. Once 34 States call for a convention to propose amendments, Congress must call a convention, and all 50 States get to send delegates … even the States that didn’t want the convention to begin with.
“What’s to stop a runaway convention?”
If you’re worried about a runaway convention, where the delegates come up with a dozen good amendments and 800 wacky ones, there’s a safeguard. Reread the yellow highlighted text. The proposed amendments must be submitted to the 50 State legislatures or to 50 State conventions (whichever method Congress picks), and not a single amendment gets enacted unless 3/4 of the States ratify it. This is an inherently federalist process. Even if only 34 States call for a convention, they’ll have to get 38 States to ratify an amendment before it’s enacted. That’s a high bar to clear, so it severely limits the odds of wacky or unpopular proposals becoming law.
If you’re still worried that 310 million Americans are prone to enact a bunch of insane amendments to the US Constitution, I don’t know what to tell you. Why haven’t they already done so? Why haven’t they already tossed the Constitution formally, if that’s what they truly want? You’re either out of touch with reality (because you’re mistaken about your countrymen) or you’ve got no hope to begin with (because you can’t stop 310 million people from tossing the Constitution tomorrow at 6:00 if they want to).
Recent experience suggests that the activists on both sides are the one who will get involved, and the lazy majority will eat their Cheetos and watch reality TV. And here’s where things get promising.
“C’mon. How can this possibly work?”
While utopian statists have a death grip on the federal government, we constitutional conservatives and libertarians outnumber them at the grassroots level. Our ranks crush theirs. This process stacks the deck in our favor because it completely bypasses the masterminds in Washington, DC. Without that giant bludgeon, the statists have nothing. You and I have a snowball’s chance in Hell of meeting — much less persuading during an in-depth conversation — our US Representative or either of our US Senators. But our State Representative and our State Senator? That’s an entirely different ball game. It’s relatively easy to get their attention. None of them lives far from you. Odds are that none of them is very rich or very powerful. Neither does any of them have a bloated staff of underlings dedicated to protecting them from your influence. Very few people go to them for anything these days, largely because all the action’s in Washington where the federal Leviathan has sucked up all the money and power and oxygen.
You have proportionately huge influence over your state legislators. Use it.
“OK, but what do I do?”
Call your State Representative’s office and ask for a meeting. Call your State Senator and tell them you want to have a chat face to face. See what happens. A significant chunk of State legislators already want to see more authority returned to the States where it belongs, and that makes them your allies. Call yours and set up a meeting with each.
If they won’t see you, find five people who share your goals and call back again. They’ll schedule the meeting.
If saving the Republic and your individual liberties is worth $31.62 to you, grab two copies of The Liberty Amendments and write your name, e-mail, phone number, and brainshavings.com/liberty on the inside cover of each book. Give one to your State Rep and the other to your State Senator, and tell them you’d like them to read it. Tell them you’ll be in touch in a month to discuss how to get the ball rolling.
When you have your second meeting, suggest that they co-sponsor a simple resolution that says something like …
Rescinding all previous such applications, the Legislature of the State of _______ hereby applies to the United States Congress to call a Convention for Proposing Amendments to the United States Constitution.
That’s it. Get that started in your State House and in your State Senate, then get cosponsors. Get a majority in one body, then in the other. Once you get the same language passed though each body, you’re done.
One State down, 33 to go … and the other 33 aren’t your responsibility.
“So once the convention is called, what kinds of amendments would we need?”
Here are the eleven amendments Mark Levin came up with. I think they’d go a very long way toward fixing the rigged system we’re currently stuck with, and they would reverse this slide into tyranny.
Nine out of the eleven really warm my heart. I have a different amendment in mind that would balance the budget and limit spending and taxation, but I’m just one guy. I could easily live with Levin’s two spending and taxing amendments instead. Hell, who’s to say you haven’t got better ideas?
Just consider this: if you’re one of the first people to get this ball rolling in your State, who do you suppose might get a call from your State Rep or State Senator when it’s time for them to choose delegates for the convention? Imagine being involved in making history, and in a good way! So go buy two copies, read one, make your two phone calls, and go hand the books to your legislators.
We can save the Republic, but someone has to start the ball rolling. If not you … then who?
Ever wondered why Congress doesn’t work? Think about this: when America was founded, the average Congressman represented 30,000 constituents. Today, it’s roughly 700,000. To make the U.S. House as responsive to all 300+ million of us as it used to be, it would need to grow from its current size of 425 Representatives.
In a post on RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s mealy-mouthed answers about abortion, Allahpundit restates his own reservations about a human life amendment to the U.S. Constitution … based on his understanding of federalism. Here’s the money quote (emphasis mine):
In fairness, if you look at the full quote, you’ll see Steele recovered quickly from the “individual choice” gaffe to emphasize that he meant the individual choice of each state to regulate abortion as it sees fit — i.e. the federalist position. That’s an evolution in thinking from what he told “Meet the Press” three years ago, when he said that the states should have been allowed all along to handle the matter but now that we’ve got Roe on the books, we’d best abide by it. What I don’t get, though, is how he squares what he told GQ with his statement this morning about supporting the GOP’s call for a Human Life Amendment. If he believes in federalism, why’s he trying to impose a constitutional solution that would prohibit states from authorizing abortion?
Back in October, I first noticed that Allah misunderstood the concept … and he still doesn’t get it. Once again, I must emphasize that amending the Constitution is an inherently federalist process.
If he’d study the Constitution he’d understand why (emphasis mine):
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
Through their legislatures, the states get the last word on any proposed amendment, and the citizens of the states have a helluva lot of influence over state legislators. If a federally-introduced amendment does not have the support of the vast majority of the citizenry, it will not be ratified.