July 26, 2017

Article V and the Code of the West

Vassar Bushmills

“While men without honor were waiting to test

                        the unwritten Code of the West” (Roger Miller)

When two people sit down to discuss the Constitution one reality becomes clear very quickly; either one is against it, and the other for it, or they are both for it. (Don’t ask me why, but when both are against it, they don’t discuss it all. They just share smiles, or sneers (with the Left they are easy to confuse) and self-congratulate about what they mutually hate, in that Us vs Them manner we’ve become accustomed to the past several years.)

As you know, the American Left had, until the rise of Barack Obama, masked their antipathy for the Constitution and the ordinary people of the United States, their true feelings about them only shared in private company.

They only want their inner circle to know their true purposes.

Obama changed all that. It was candidate Obama who informed us, in his august condescending manner, that the Constitution, as written, had it all wrong, then went on for eight years trying to rewrite it via executive orders. That superiorist image he had of himself may well have been his Party’s undoing, for by the time he left office the Left had entirely dropped any pretense of admiring constitutional precepts, setting off a “war to the finish” between two truly intractable ideological enemies, the forces of liberty versus the forces of authoritarian privilege.

Through their own arrogance and an astonishing alliance of unremarkable, scarcely noticeable folk, with perhaps a little nudge by the Invisible Hand (if you believe in such things) the Left lost their advantage, and the worm turned. In November they were defeated and we have begun undoing the Obama legacy.

Article V of the United States Constitution, a brief synopsis:

It seems I can’t begin any conversation dealing with the nature of conservatism without mentioning just how much the American landscape has changed in the past 8 months.

I’m not the scholar in the room, just a keener-than-average observer of the human condition, and have been following this phenomenon called the Article V Movement from its inception in 2013 without ever choosing sides. It’s easy to be “for it” if it can reasonably be achieved, but also reasonable to be very cautious if it appears the path may be filled with land mines.

With Article V this has always been the case; a great concept for straightening out a wayward government but possibly a very rocky road filled with explosives, and therefore never fully tried. Constitutional scholars have debated this for years.

Article V is a short article, containing only 145 words, and only one sentence, which makes it both the shortest article and one of the longest sentences in the Constitution.

Article V only deals with how the Constitution may be amended, laying out two different paths.

The first way all Americans know, for it has been the only one tried. It might be fair to say then that this second option in Article V, what all the “movement” hubbub is about today, was drafted to be a back-up to the Congress-initiated amendment process.

It states:

“The Congress….on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments… (here the article moves onto the process of ratification, just set out)

This is what is causing all the commotion.

The ambition of its advocates is to convince two-thirds of the states (34) to “make application” to Congress to call for a Constitutional Convention so that the states could propose an amendment, or perhaps several, to right some of the wrongs the Congress has allowed to fester during the Obama years.

The goal of the opponents to this plan, the Anti-Art V (think Anti-Federalists) is to convince those same states to think twice about their votes, that the road ahead is not only filled with good intentions, but land mines. Everything isn’t as squeaky clean  as it has been to appear through marketing.

Considering the fact the Congress has almost buried any distinguishing marks between the parties in the run up to the last election, almost oblivious to the needs of the voters, it would appear that this situation would be a perfect justification for an Article V call by the states to force some necessary changes.

But, since in four years, since 2013, this has not happened, such an outcome has now become problematic.

To date, only 12 states have completed their legislative processes to officially be signatories to an “application to Congress”, which is awfully slow. At that rate, it would take another 6-7 years to reach the magic number of 34, (assuming some states haven’t retracted their petitions in that period). So while the Congress may not be aware, the people and the several states are keenly aware that the chances the people there today will be in Congress even in two years, much less seven, are unlikely. The people are already making lists and checking them twice. And at this point, I haven’t even included Democrats in my calculation.

When other Article V movements had gotten close, they ran into major changes, a war, or a change in administrations (which is another way for the people to speak for themselves) as when, under Jimmy Carter an Article V attempt for a Balanced Budget Amendment petered out when Ronald Reagan was elected almost as unexpectedly as Donald Trump was in 2016. The Art V fervor subsided when even a Democrat-majority Congress became more responsive to the people’s restlessness, giving them the Gramm-Rudman-Hollins Balanced Budget Act (1985).

The threat of an Article V convention has always seemed to have greater impact as a threat than as a reality. (I wonder if this fact has figured into the modern Movement’s calculus?)

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We’re on the cusp of just such a change again, so, in the historical sense, the time is not as ripe for Art V as it was  in 2013, for much of what the people want this new government and a remodeled Congress (work in progress) to restore to them, including an eventual balanced budget, may come to them anyway.

Just six months in, it’s impossible to say whether the new Trump Administration will have the same palliative effect on public wrath as Reagan did, four years in, in part because, while Reagan could move Democrats in his direction by using the bully pulpit directly with the people of blue states, Trump has not yet availed himself to do the same thing with Republicans in red states. That engagement is still to come.

Of course nothing I say here will mute the enthusiasm of the current Article V movement. They won’t quit, especially if there is money in it. They will just fade away.

Still, while their wheels are still spinning, the Article V movement is in a kind of limbo, subject to events outside its control.

So, with their Aquarius no longer in the ascendance, it might be a good time to give this current iteration of the Article V movement a little organizational overview.

It’s been my experience, over many years, to know that anytime you have a fixed objective and the active strategies beneath it, in support of it, are contraindicative of that objective, it should cause one to pause and reflect what else might be going on there. Money is often involved.

Men Without Honor

Mark Levin was the current movement’s godfather with his 2013 best-seller The Liberty Amendments, in which he suggested Article V be employed so that the states could reassert power over the Congress if and when the need should arise.

A noble ambition. And several groups took up the call, some to push only one amendment, a balanced budget, while others had a more ambitious agenda. But they have never coalesced under a single operational banner. Levin allied with the Citizens for Self-Governance, founded by Mark Meckler, one of the original “Big” Tea Party pioneers, of Tea Party Patriots fame, who in turn spun off the “Convention of States” or CofS, which spearheads many of the Article V programs and generates much of its news.

There are others, Heartland Institute, Compact for America, each with different platforms for pursuing Article V. So when anyone mentions a state petition one is never sure who the moving advocates are, or if they are in synch with the others.

Some are even of the Left, people such as leftist Harvard professor, Lawrence Lessig and leftist groups such as WolfPac. (For some reason, Lessig’s name shows up in the early histories of some conservative Article V start-ups.)

When George Mason and others took up the Anti-Federalist banner in 1787, the Constitution became whole. One historian, Elvin Lim, called it a “Lover’s Quarrel”.

Well now, there’s the rub, for there was never any “lover’s” in the quarrel that quickly enveloped this Article V issue. Nor has there been any “debate” or even any pretense of one, as when parties air their differences directly face-to-face or through a common forum, in front of affected parties (the consumers, the legislatures and the citizens) to critique each other’s positions.

Instead, by and large the Article V promotion has been carried out like an expensive ad campaign, to promote a brand rather than reach an objective. All the product’s positive aspects are highlighted, never mentioning any of the potential negatives, as voice-overs are required by law today to say about side-effects in the advertising of prescription drugs. No warning label is ever been attached to any Article V promise I’ve read, while the anti-Article V groups have posted entire lists of things that could go wrong. “What-if’s” I call them. But if they should show up at an Article V event to include those “what-if’s” they are shown the door. The bum’s rush.

So the entire Article V debate has become a campaign between statements of absolute certainty that it can’t fail, and contrary statements of uncertainty, what if’s, that so far, the pitchmen for Article V have refused to answer.

That said, I still consider almost all of the advocates of the Article V solution to be men and women of honor.

But it has always been my dog in this fight to expose the men and women otherwise disposed who, by nature or ulterior or even mercenary motives, have employed historically-Left, Alinsky-style  tactics to defame the opponents of Article V as a means to achieve an end they likely can never gain anyway.

To me, the success or failure of the current Art V convention drive is inconsequential to the exposure of such men without honor who intentionally breach the natural comity between patriots.

No one should know this better than Mark Levin, who is now pushing his new book, and high among his arguments is that the Left doesn’t believe in the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. I’ve made his same observation for many years, as first revealed to me by a group of Soviet lawyers in 1992.

In America classical liberalism was replaced by hard-Leftism in the Carter years, and the Democrats and Left have never looked back. The Left got to that place of preeminence by dark alley Alinsky-tactics against their own moderate party members, slowly driving them out. Barack Obama was a sterling end-product, his rise made possible by a media and academy who had banished Truth from their precincts.

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But to see this used among conservatives in gut-wrenching. Still, this Article V dispute has taken on just such an aspect, and it needs to be exposed. As I stated above, an entire website had been created to expose the really ugly side of this debate.

The election of 2016 showed that the people have figured out what Mark Levin is talking about, that the Democrat Party, as currently designed, is not interested in pursuing or protecting citizens’ right to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness” as the see fit, without the permission of the state.

So, I have an idea for a Public Forum

As a defense lawyer, it’s the intended consumers of this Art V product, the legislatures, individually and collectively, that I want to represent here. They are the ones who must put their careers on the line should this product not produce as advertised. Trust me, should it fail, most promoters of Art V will simply fade-to-quiet, pursuing other objectives. But a few, courtesy of the Donate button at their website may also be lounging on their new beachfront property in the Leeward Islands by the time the dust clears.

I would urge the legislatures to tread lightly, as Mother Nature taught us, to be suspect of any promises that assure with any certainty an outcome of basically what is a “untested”, never tried before. Fact: No one can know with certainty what will happen once 34 states march up to the door of Congress with a signed Application to call a Convention. And anyone who says they can, in Mark Twain’s words, is a “damned liar”.

But since no more than a few hundred people will ever read this, or forward on, I’d like to offer a different solution that requires little more than people with a few dollars and a venue… to allow proponents and opponents of an Art V application to offer their arguments in a Q&A format, for the benefit of the legislatures, and the viewing public, in a manner consistent with the courtesies that should be accorded all patriots.

Hire a hall, then  bring cameras, and send out invitations, and get PBS, Fox, Cernovich, Glenn Beck, to put it out on the airways.

A traveling roadshow for all the states to send representatives to see and hear..

But for format, instead of Alinsky, or The View, I recommend Buckley v Reagan. To my mind no finer example of the collegial discussion-debate  can be found than when William F Buckley (for) and Ronald Reagan (against) sat down to debate the merits of the proposed Panama Canal Treaty in 1978. (Buckley’s treaty won, but 80 years later, history has not yet decided whose argument won.)

Watch it for several reason, but especially how Americans who love America are supposed to behave when they disagree with one another.

Then understand that the template for what we are seeing today, particularly by the “scholarly Left”, but found more and more on the Right, as seen from some in this Art V argument, was first shown to the world by Marxist scholars in the 19th Century.

Frederich Hayek edited a series of 19th Century essays, Capitalism and the Historians in the early 1960s, depicting the contests between left-wing “facts” and empirical facts in the rise of capitalism in Europe.

It consisted of scholarly communist lies (pick a subject, Climate Science works today, but in the 1870s in Europe it was factory work displacing village life) placed in academic journals where the only form of rebuttal could be in other journals, with real facts, which were never rebutted.

Yes I know, the American media has been using this tactic since the Vietnam War at least but only just now uncovered and resisted.

The key to Marxist propaganda was in never agreeing to meet interrogators in any venue where they would have to face refutations of their facts. Never answer any question directly, especially in front of an audience whose minds may be changed by those facts. Marxist truth was always based on never having to proved wrong..

Sound familiar?

The American Left has been writing history with false narratives for at least 5o years and managing daily news with fake news for at least as many.

To take the measure of the men and women laying claim to both conservatism and scholarship, I think the sort of format offered by Buckley and Reagan, where the affirmative and negative are presented collegially, as patriots do when in the company of one another, would be the perfect way to do it.

Since Mark Levin started this off, I would hope he would support such a venture, and would find time to be there for the Affirmative. As should Professor Barnet, Michael Farris and others. And principals for the Negative would be representatives from Mrs Schalfly’s (RIP) Eagle Forum, the John Birch Society/New American and of course, Publius Huldah.

I am sure someone would pay for this, just for the informational theater.

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VASSAR BUSHMILLS

Contact:           vbushmills@yahoo.com

Twitter:           @Bushmillsvassar

Publications: Famous Common People I Have Known and Other Essays

                            Donald Trump, the Common Man and the American Theology of Liberty

(Both books in Kindle format only, Publishers and agents welcome, as both need to revised)

Support:          Yes, I’ve never been paid a nickel to write.

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About Puma ByDesign 210 Articles
Unhyphenated American female, born and raised in the Empire State and who like most New Yorkers, in spite of being a registered Democrat, I voted for the candidate, not the party which meant voting often across party lines throughout the years. In 2008, coming to terms once and for all with the fact that Democrats and I had nothing in common, I left the liberal cesspool forever. Of course, I now have a grudge to settle after decades of being lied to and so I blog to right the wrongs and expose the lies.