Ballot Box, Bullet Box or …?   Leave a comment

Election cycle after election cycle has produced growing tyranny.

At the same time, polls show that the American people are highly (60-75%) dissatisfied with the current government and feel there is never any progress toward resolving the real issues of the country no matter which party is in control.

When the Republicans were in the majority of all three branches of government, tyrannical regulations continued to grow and so did spending.

When the Democrats were in the majority of all three branches of government, tyrannical regulations continued to grow and spending increased even faster than under the Republicans.

Now that we have divided government, tyrannical regulations continue to grow, spending has stabilized at an unacceptably high level, but the problems are mainly being kicked down the road. Solutions are addressed in one chamber to be ignored by the other and if it gets passed by the Senate, the President will veto it. If he doesn’t and it becomes law, the administrative state will bury any solution that moves toward self-government deep, deep in a vault never to be seen again.

States have good ideas, but the federal government ignores the states or threatens them with draconian action if they “get out of line”. The solution when the ballot box doesn’t work is … some would say revolution, but revolutions are bloody and result in graveyards and involve completely setting aside the existing form of government. I like the government our Founders designed. I’d like to pull it out of the swamp it’s been buried in and wipe the muck off, see if it might actually work in the 21st century if given a chance. If only our Ruling Class would allow that …

Our Constitution provides the means to peacefully correct the current mess, but Congress as currently arranged is not going to pass the REINS Act (requiring a thorough Congressional review and up-down vote on all federal regulations) or constitutional amendments requiring term limits, balanced federal budgets, repeal of the 16th Amendment (personal income tax), and the17th Amendment (direct election of Senators) and restructuring (or repeal/replace) of the 14th Amendment (where it interferes with the 10th Amendment).

Fortunately, if Congress won’t act to send amendments to the states for ratification, then the Constitution provides an alternative means to avoid armed revolution. An amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate (uh, yeah, not going to happen) or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures.

I was taught in political science classes that an Article V convention to amend the U.S. Constitution is a scary thing that never turns out well. It’s never happened in the United States, unless you count the convention that replaced the Articles of Confederation with the U.S. Constitution. That history gives us a reason to be nervous of such a gathering, but the question we need to ask ourselves is: should we fear that gathering more than we fear the unchecked growth of governmental tyranny?

My professors, who were almost all on the moderate left, feared a conservative uprising to create a permanent ban on all abortions, relegating women to barefoot pregnant culinary servitude, imposing a theocracy, and making Ronald Reagan President for life. Today, I’m sure they worry about conservatives doing many of the same things. But let’s be honest. Those on the right fear what a liberal uprising might do on such issues, including making Barack Obama President for life, and the very real risks to the First Amendment protections for political speech, the 2nd Amendment, the 4th Amendment and 10th Amendment. Heck, I worry about the potential effect on the entire Bill of Rights. There are those who believe that the dangers of a runaway convention are so severe that we cannot risk ruining our Constitution by even allowing such a convention to take place.    

(When I wrote the following six months ago, I was not convinced. Now, I think it may well be the only way to save the republic. Lela)

For a long time, I agreed. Now, I’m not so certain. I haven’t drank any koolaid yet, but I’m re-evaluating my position, because:

  • The federal government has grown far beyond its constitutionally imposed limitations. 
  • All branches of the government have participated
  • Each exercises unprecedented control over the lives of the citizens.
  • The “administrative state” acts as a fourth, extra-constitutional branch of government that falls outside of the normal checks-and-balances of the federal structure. 

The federal kraken has grown into a leviathan that we may not be able to tame without an Article V amending convention.  We have three choices – continue with growing tyranny until we slide into a totalitarian state (yes, it CAN happen here), explode into a revolution (consistent with our national DNA), or take an intermediate step that may seem radical, but might avoid bloodshed.

In Federalist No. 48, James Madison wrote: “The conclusion which I am warranted in drawing from these observations is that a mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits of the several departments is not a sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the same hands.”

Madison was prescient.  The American Constitution may be the best document of its kind ever written, but even the mighty Constitution itself has not been enough to restrain against the encroachments of a tyrannical concentration of federal government power.  Madison predicted this day and the Framers provided a safety valve for it. Perhaps it is time the citizens rise up, through a Convention of the States and restrain the federal kraken again.

I don’t write that without trepidation. I’m a federalist, so I tend to trust the states far more than I do the federal government, but the America of the 21st century is not the America of the 18th. There are risks inherent in such a gathering. California and Texas have radically different ideas of what the country should look like. However ….

The Founders made this mechanism available in the Constitution itself to avoid another blood-soaked armed revolution. Thirty-eight states must ratify any amendment. Take a look at the red-blue map and look at the states so represented. I couldn’t find 38 states that could form a radical left or right bloc. I did count 38 states that might be in favor of stuffing the federal kraken back in the cage from which it has slithered.

Each state’s legislature would need to weigh carefully the delegates to this convention and give them specific instructions on what they may and may not meddle with. Alaska is unlikely to send delegates who oppose the First Amendment protections on speech, the Second Amendment protections on fire arms, the protections on fair trial, privacy, or states’ rights. I think we might be surprised at how California and New Jersey feel about states’ rights once they realize that the power to infringe upon their rights is also part and parcel with the power to infringe upon the rights of other states. The body of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are probably safe from being heavily meddled with by 38 states – well, actually 75 of the 99 legislative bodies in the 50 states. Nebraska has a unicameral legislature, by the way. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be debate at the convention on the Bill of Rights. I just can’t see 75 legislative bodies agreeing to ratify substantial changes, even on the 2nd amendment and most especially on the 10th. If anything, I think they’d want to make that one clearer.

The following 17 amendments may be a different matter. They should be a different matter because many of them were ill-conceived, enacted with era-specific agendas, resulting in unintended negative consequences that may, in some instances, outweigh the positive consequences. No, I’m not saying these amendments should all be repealed. I’m saying they want examination and reform as needed and, if Congress won’t do it, then the state legislatures must.

Else, we’re ending as a nation because what we have currently is not working.

State legislatures would need to carefully weigh how their authority would be wielded by their delegates at the convention. I’m encouraged by the December 7 meeting of state legislators that addressed this issue. Choosing delegates would be instructive in itself. Following the convention, just as in 1789, the amendments would have to go to each legislature and 38 of them would need to agree to them to make any changes our constitution. Some states might put it to a direct vote of the people. Others would probably create ratification committees. Again, the debates triggered would go a long way toward educating the public on the Constitution and (perhaps) giving our generation ownership of it. In 1787, the whole Bill of Rights was put up as a package, but that needn’t be the process for whatever a convention came up with in, say 2015. More than likely, it would be a line-item ratification just as congressionally-generated amendments have been.

Though it’s not without risk, what better example of states rights and self-government do we need in the 21st century?

The alternative is we wait for the situation to become so bad that Americans take up arms against Americans. Oh, yeah, we did that once before. Southerners started shooting at Northerners, the President declared war and, after four years of bloodshed, the “winner” forced the loser to cede states’ rights in favor of an imperial administration. The country has been on a liberty-damaging trajectory ever since.

What if we had called a constitutional convention in 1860 and resolved the slavery question through compromise and negotiation instead of bloodshed and tyrannical reconstruction?

Which do we in the 21st century prefer?

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