If you are a legislator or a donor, you should pay close attention to what I’m about to say here.
The most recent incarnation of an Article V call for a constitutional convention is about two years old and stems from a proposal first made by Mark Levin in his best-seller, The Liberty Amendments. The movement has coalesced under the banner of the Convention of States (COS) Project, headed by Mark Meckler, former co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, (which is now headed by Jenny Beth Martin and noted for its dynamic fund-raising model, and stinginess in actually spending money in support of real grass roots conservative, tea party projects, preferring instead the swankier accommodations of the Ritz Carleton conference-and-banquet circuit. TPP has kind of taken the tea out of “tea party”, and replaced it with a fine single malt scotch.)
The other co-founder of COS is Michael Farris, chancellor of Patrick Henry College in northern Virginia, family-rights activist, and by his own admission, a constitutional scholar.
And behind them is a list of conservative luminaries, such as Ken Cuccinelli, of Virginia, Glen Beck of talk radio fame, whose The Blaze sometimes shills for the COS and has taken some unkind, mocking swipes at Article V skeptics only recently. There’s also Sarah Palin, who I admire anyway, and several others. None of these people’s patriotism would I question.
But in full disclosure I am not a fan of this inner circle of the Convention of States. But this is not because I don’t believe they are patriots, but only that their patriotism may not be utmost in their top tier of most cherished American values. Money, status, vanity, pride, even self-love may rank higher and circumstantial evidence causes one to at least ask. Because I am an old criminal trial lawyer and know a little about human motive, I have come to learn that if a man walks like a patent-medicine salesman, and talks like a patent-medicine salesman, he is likely selling snake oil, not God and Country, at least not as his first priority.
So buyer beware.
I have been following the COS trail now for close to a year, and it seems that their Article V sales pitch is running on a loop, the message they presented in Arizona a few months ago the same as the one repeated in Georgia, then Kansas, and now Virginia, largely unchanged, except to add the previous state on a list of satisfied customers…not for having actually bought and tried the patent medicine, mind you, but for having signed a pledge (a petition) to try and get their states to buy it.
Considering that Virginia legislators routinely introduce bills that would outlaw vulgar truck ornaments and droopy drawers, and confer lifetime hunting licenses on infants (and that’s just from the wacky right) such a petition is nothing special.
Two states, maybe three, have actually signed on, we’re told. Only we’re not sure, since Georgia is listed by COS as a state that is fully on board, but Publius Huldah is giving a speech just north of Marietta this week, trying to deter Gov Nathan Deal’s long overdue signature, meaning the process isn’t quite done. I tweeted Gov Nathan Deal months ago, so it’s been sitting there a long time. Still the COS claims Georgia to be securely in their camp.
This from COS on Feb 6th:
Did you hear it? Did you hear the bang as the state legislative sessions began with Convention of States resolutions filed in every region of the country?
In the last two weeks, guess who filed the Convention of States resolution?Massachusetts
Kansas (with 41 Co-Sponsors!)Pennsylvania
West Virginia (with 60 Co-Sponsors, in the House, 17 Co-Sponsors in the Senate)These states follow suit from the three states that have already passed the Convention of States resolution; Georgia, Florida and Alaska.
Do we have the support of the majority of Americans?Gallup’s National Mood survey stated that 66% of Americans are dissatisfied with Congress because they believe the federal government has become too big and too powerful. The American citizenry is right, but Convention of States is changing that, as we take the power from the federal government and return it to the citizens and the states!How are we returning the power back to the citizens? The Convention of States Action petition is a tool for citizens to tell their legislators to bring the power and the decision making home…and our state legislators are hearing your message!How is it working?
This is sheer puffery. See Arizona, above? The president of the Arizona Senate has stated several time he will not allow the Art V petition to come to the floor for a vote…since summer 2014, yet this Feb 6 COS statement says it was just filed “in the past two weeks”. This also says Georgia has already passed the resolution, but it is still being debated in Georgia? What gives?
COS’s marketing assumption seems to be that no one out here is double-checking their claims, matching them to facts, then asking COS the hard questions about the actual status of each petition in each state.. While bull-horning “full steam ahead to victory”, the pace is slower than it ought to be. It appears more likely that Harry Reid will enter the priesthood before this COS myth will ever become reality. Years.
This is what Vegas calls “long odds”, while America is living from paycheck to paycheck right now, and there is a potential existential crisis with every turn of the calendar page, with two more years to go before the cavalry can get here… if we’re lucky. If this Article V deal can’t get done inside those two years, it will be old news the day after the 2016 election.
“Go away, kid, you bother me.” (WC Fields)
With this slow, languid pace of moving forward, and with money aplenty to make it go faster, perhaps the most tell-tale piece of circumstantial evidence of a hidden agenda by the COS movers has been the manner by which they’ve treated the Article V “skeptics”. Since both are conservatives, and proclaim to be patriots with the same love of country, and hatred for the same kinds of tyranny, you’d think they could get along. I invite you to go read the Article V articles by Phyllis Schlafly at Eagle Forum, or Joe Wolverton at the New American, or Publius Huldah at her site to see the tone they set in arguing against the Article V position. This from Tom DeWeese in 2014:
“….I have a great concern over how the Article V Convention is being promoted. I have been an activist all of my life. I have seen pretty much every tactic used by powerful forces who are trying to railroad the people. The tactics always seem to be the same. Use the facilitation process to bring people into the fold, control the debate, and attack the opposition with accusations of deceit and fringe ideas. (Emphasis mine) I have many times been awarded a tin foil hat by such forces for advocating ideas contrary to their vision for America. So, I’m a little sensitive to such tactics when I see them. And I know that the Tea Party is well aware of such tactics. That, in fact, is one of the things that motivates true Tea Party patriots to take action against rich, powerful, D.C.-based groups that try to usurp or control the Tea Party. Yet, these are exactly the tactics I see being employed today by Article V proponents. Some of my associates have attempted to speak out at meetings where Article V is being promoted, and are not allowed the floor
“…A deliberate attempt to silence opposition should cause people to question the motives of the perpetrators.”
“…Something really smells about this Article V movement. Its arguments don’t pass scrutiny. Its tactics are underhanded. Its source of funding is not in the open. I think honest Tea Party members and dedicated freedom activists should ask a lot of questions before risking our precious Constitution to their lot.”
I also outlined this problem almost a year ago, Article V, Searching for Honest Brokers, recalling the great debate between (then governor) Ronald Reagan and William F Buckley. (You can watch that debate by linking to it inside the article). I saw it live, which dates me, but also identifies me as one who has been around and has little truck with modern mockery, name calling, and insults, all of which I consider to be infantile grade school games, unbecoming to adults. This isn’t RedState.com.
But the greatest impression anyone would come away with from that debate is how congenially two honorable men could debate a really hotly-contested issue, looking one another in the eye, each knowing the other to be as deeply committed to the United States as the other.
Call me old fashioned, but this is how I imagine a debate over as serious a subject as an Article V application to Congress should be; the same respectful tone, the same mutual understanding between patriots of equal passion and strength of courage.
Even better, consider the ratification debates that existed between the Federalists and anti-Federalists, the latter standing fast in their refusal to ratify the Constitution unless there was attached to it a more specific statement of individual rights, as the anti-Federalists would not accept that those rights are inferred in the Constitution. The result was the Bill of Rights, and aren’t we all thankful for their being spelled out, considering the assault that has been made on them. The Constitution has been amended 17 other times, with only a couple of any merit (e.g., XIII) and more than a few disasters (e.g, XVI, XVII, XIX), and others unnecessary or for housekeeping. Assaults on the Bill of Rights, however, have numbered in the tens of thousands since the rise of the left around 1900, in the state and federal legislatures, and filings in the federal courts, but have largely remained intact. Had the Anti-federalists been locked out, as the Article V skeptics have here, I shudder to think where the First and Second Amendment would be right now.
This Constitutional sort of cordiality cannot be found in this Article V movement, and it taints the entire process. The mockery and invective slung at the Skeptics, not to mention their being shut out of the public debate, defines these Movers at least as perhaps having lesser motives. Too old to behave like modern snarky, spiteful kids, I have to look for some other driving force behind this sort of behavior.
Moreover, this threatens the process itself, and, as I have stated elsewhere, puts at risk the reputations of the state delegates who put their own credibility on the line, for when it comes time for a show-down with the Congress, it will be they, and not Mssrs Meckler, Farris, et al, who will have to develop a contingency plan for going forward if/when things don’t work out according to script. Actually several.
The Article V “skeptics” are divided into two camps, the strict constitutionalists and “don’t carry a briefcase to a knife fight” camp. If you haven’t guessed, I’m of the latter, although I deeply revere the former, for like the soldiers in foxholes in WWII, it’s nice to be able to pause and reflect from time to time about what it is we’re fighting for….and the Constitution is a beautiful lady and worth the fight, just as she stands. But what it is that will protect her in this current fight over tyrannical federal expansion will be some possibly rough and tumble brinksmanship, not slick constitutional briefs stacked inside a leather briefcase.
Now, the Article V promoters, the “movers”, believe (or say they do) that this call for a convention can be achieved through process, with nary a briefcase (or shillegah) raised over the head. This is sheer folly. The Congress has seen this before. In 1983, (under Ronald Reagan and a Democrat Congress) there was a Balanced Budget Article V movement formed, which was only two states short and probably would have prevailed. But (the Democrat) Congress, hoping to derail this nasty collision between the states and Congress, quickly passed the Gramm-Rudman tax bill to halt this runaway mad-as-hell citizen/state revolt. And the law served as a relief valve for voter anger for several years, before Congress began its wastrel ways again. But the dynamite was diffused.
So, here we are again. But it remains to be seen if the power interests inside the Washington establishment would be similarly disposed to cut a quick deal, for their power has grown exponentially in the past 30 years. Still, as a betting man, I think it is clear that the Congress, and the Washington Establishment, all of them, have no intention of simply ceding back to the states and the People, (the original signatories to the Constitution) even 5% , let along the needed 20% plus, of their taxing and spending power, by a simple petition of process, as offered by the Movers.
So buyer beware.
My advice to Skeptics has been that there is no way to stop this Article V train. The Movers are too well-funded and connected. But like the Tea Party Patriots, whose financial model they likely employ, they couldn’t organize a decent church picnic if it required real hard work, risk, rolled up sleeves and the prospect of getting dirty. The Vegas long odds are likely correct, that the required 34 states will be years in coming to pass, or, in mercenary-speak, at least twenty million dollars from now.
The chances are greater that Obama will destroy ISIS with five sorties a day, by air power alone, than this Article V plan, as currently constituted, will get within ten feet of Congress in our lifetime. Nor do they deserve to because of the manner in which they have vilified so many fine patriots.
All I am suggesting here is a collaboration between Skeptics and Movers. Face to face they should find some common ground and move ahead, shoulder-to-shoulder to one of the two conclusions both sides assure us will happen.
For further background, if you’re interested:
The Final Word on Nullification is that there is never a Final Word
Article V, Selling Tainted Beef to the States
The Article v Convention Conundrum