Given the direction of our republic into complete cultural, economic, and political collapse, it may be that drastic circumstances must call for equally drastic measures. On Friday night, Hannity aired a one-hour special with a studio audience on Fox News Channel that featured Mark Levin and his latest book: The Liberty Amendments -Restoring the American Republic. Hannity put up Levin’s proposed constitutional amendments for review by the esteemed studio audience, but the first matter to be examined was Levin’s proposed method of amending the constitution: Rather than wait for Congress to repair itself, a hope based entirely in futile notions about the ability of the American people to somehow force the change, he instead argues that Article V of the constitution already provides the means by which to amend it without the approval or consent of Congress or any other branch of the federal government. He is proposing an amending convention, convened by two-thirds of the states, with any produced amendments requiring ratification by three-fourths of the states.
For those who are somewhat confused about all of this, I would refer you to Article V of the US Constitution that provides for the two legitimate procedures by which to amend the constitution:
“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.”(emphasis added.)
Bluntly, two-thirds of the legislatures of the states can initiate this process. Three-fourths have the ability to ratify them, just as if the Congress had proposed them. The difficulty of this process alone makes it entirely unlikely that the process might become a so-called “runaway convention.” As Levin responded on this point when asked during the course of the Hannity show, the simple fact is that there is nothing revolutionary about this process except that we, the people, have never initiated it, and it could be initiated at any time. Perhaps it is time we start.
Some of the comments on my last article on this subject seemed to raise the same objections, and while I understand the reservations, the simple truth of the matter is that if the statists existed in sufficient numbers that they could hijack this process, they would have initiated it themselves some time ago. There are clear dangers, but I think what Levin has here accomplished is marvelous for one particular reason, as became clear in a question from Breitbart’s Joel Pollak during the course of the show: The eleven amendments Levin proposes do not confront any political issue in particular, apart from perhaps taxation. Instead, they are all structural and procedural issues with respect to the federal government. Rather than attack a particular issue where the federal government can be shown to be out of control, they each confront defects in the original document, or in one case, reverse a defect imposed by previous amendments.
In focusing so tightly on the constructs of our federal government, Levin avoids the pitfalls of specific divisive political issues, leaving them to be resolved by virtue of a political process amended and restored to the framers’ intentions. In this sense, the proposal is at once elegant and simple. It is elegant inasmuch as it addresses the central failings of our national political process and the aggregation of power in the federal bureaucracy, and it inserts new forms of protections against a runaway federal establishment that imposes law and regulation with no effective check by those it purports to serve. The reversals born of such a slate of amendments would be slow but intractable, as power would necessarily begin to shift from the central government to the states. His proposal is simple because it relies on a process that is already part of our constitutional system, and need not be invented, nor rely on the approval of the federal establishment that would naturally resist it.
One of the criticisms that was raised had been about the repeal of the seventeenth amendment. Terry Jeffrey of CNSNews.com asked if returning the selection of Senators to the states’ legislatures wouldn’t hurt the civil engagement of the populace. My answer would be somewhat different than Dr. Levin’s, because I would tend to consider it this way: Which elections need the most bolstering in terms of civic participation? National or state and local? I would suspect that if electing one’s state representatives and senators would be crucial in electing members of the US Senate, interest in state legislative elections would be certain to grow. I might also point out that in many respects, this might well serve conservatives most of all, since it is we who tend to show up reliably in off-year and state/local elections. The so-called “low information voter” does not. To the degree this would draw more to the process, it may also help reduce the total number of such uninformed voters by engaging them in their state governments, thereby lifting the veil of ignorance behind which they may now suffer.
Indeed, one could argue that the seventeenth amendment had been contrary to the framers’ intent, not merely because it repealed their process, but because of its net result in muting the states as voices in the federal government. It is fitting then that even in Article V, the point is demonstrated by its closing clause:
“…no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”(emphasis mine.)
It could be said hereby that the seventeenth amendment deprived all the States of any form of suffrage in the US Senate. After the seventeenth amendment, States effectively have no direct suffrage of any form, thus rendering them voiceless in the federal government that had been their creation.
Naturally, there were ten amendments more than the repeal of the seventeenth discussed, including an interesting proposal that would permit the overturn of federal regulations by the states. There were also term limits for Congress, and there were term limits for the federal judiciary. There was even a method by which the states could overturn Supreme Court decisions. What all of these proposed amendments share is a singular focus on the construction and process of the federal government. That is a brilliant approach to reform that would have the effect of more slowly and carefully reversing our course.
I’ve given a great deal of thought to Levin’s proposal, as I have proposed some of these same ideas in some form in the past. As Levin points out, the Congress and the Courts, never mind a runaway executive have no reason whatever to reform themselves. If they are to be reformed, we will need to be the instigators. This then ought to be our mission, the effort of our time. If we are to be blunt about our nation’s prospects on its current course, it must be admitted that the future looks bleak. None should think this is a project that will be done in a year or in an election cycle. The fact is that this process begins with local and state politics. It means getting our state legislatures in shape so that the delegates they would send must be of a mind to author the kinds of amendments that Levin proposes here.
I realize there are risks implicit in any move to convene delegates for the purpose of amending the constitution, but the simple fact is that the constitution has been amended in a de facto methodology by the results of extra-constitutional rulings of the court, outrageous legislative initiatives in Congress, and the tyrannical fiat of executive whimsy that threaten every right of the American people. We are already nearing the precipice from which there will be no return, where plummeting into the abyss will be merely a matter of inertia. If George Mason insisted on this second procedure as the last effective rampart against federal tyranny, then I say we must exercise it. The only alternative is almost too terrible to imagine, and violence will be the only feasible outcome. There are many who make bold oaths, explaining that they would be happy with that occasion, but I wonder how much of that is bravado. Perhaps it is easier for some to make idle pronouncements than to stand forth and make serious efforts aimed at avoiding that sort of catastrophe.
When I consider even the simple repeal of the seventeenth amendment, I realize Levin is right. Such an amendment could never pass a Senate now subservient only to the Washington DC establishment, so that to restore the voice of the states, it will require their insistence and instigation. If you missed this episode of Hannity, I hope FNC will make more of it available. Here is the opening clip: