Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Trumpocalypse 10: So long, 14th Amendment.

Scott Walker Says He Would Support Article V Convention To Amend Constitution, said the innocuous-seeming headline on Madison.com, written by editors and reporters who bemoan fake news and the fate of newspapers while contributing to their own demise by completely failing to report on real news, by which I mean "did they ask follow-up questions and possibly see what it was Failed Presidential Candidate Scott Walker doesn't like about our US Constitution which is only The GREATEST CONSTITUTION IN THE WORLD?"

They did not.

Instead, the article simply and blandly quotes what appear to be press-release type quotes about how popular the move to amend the US Constitution is among Republican governors, who want to reign in the federal government despite the federal government being entirely controlled by their party.

I'm not a political reporter, of course, which means I have a memory, Google, and the desire to use them instead of just hacking away until I get my paycheck, so I googled "ALEC Article V Amendments."

You may remember "ALEC," which was kind of a big deal before the Democrats decided that they would simply blame 'fake news' for their continuing to lose elections.  "ALEC" is the "American Legislative Exchange Council" and it is essentially a lobbying group for extremely conservative reform.

ALEC has up on their website right  now an application for a Constitutional Convention which it summarizes this way:

The federal government has steadily consolidated its power while eroding state control in ways that are clearly inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Foreseeing this possibility, our constitutional framers created a method for states to introduce amendments to the U.S. Constitution through an Article V Convention. This draft model policy serves as an application to Congress to call an Article V Convention limited to proposing amendments to that will impose fiscal restraints on the federal government; limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limit the terms of office for federal officials and members of Congress.

Now, keep in mind, none of those things are in and of themselves particularly conservative, or bad. Laws which affect both parties equally (like Virginia's stripping of gubernatorial power) can come back to bite you. Remember when the Democrats were mad that GOP senators were stalling things with filibusters? Bernie filibusters all the time, and that Texan legislator won national acclaim for filibustering a Texas abortion law. The "filibuster," by the way, is the ultimate domination of a minority (1 person, or at the most the number of people that 1 person represents) over the majority (us.)

ALEC has also set out, in a 56-page brochure, (available on PDF!) some helpful guidelines for states to call for an run an Article V convention. They include tips like "Don't make applications [for a convention] too general" and "Don't make applications to specific."

It's harder to find out what, exactly, ALEC wants the states to want the US Constitution to say. Back in August 2016 the NY Times published an article about the push for a convention, proving that reporters can report. It noted that the push arose from the fact that the GOP controls most state legislatures. The level of Democratic control of state legislatures is as low as it was at the time of the Civil War, which means the last time the Democrats were this unpopular, it was because they supported slavery.

One big thing ALEC is pushing is a 'balanced budget amendment.' This, too, is not an automatically bad thing. Thomas Jefferson wanted one, but Jefferson also wanted to prohibit the US from printing paper money. (Nor is consistency a hobgoblin in Jefferson's mind: he later busted the budget buying the Louisiana territory.)  Balanced budget amendment talk became big when pushed by a Taxpayers group beginning in the 1980s when Reagan was elected. It should be noted that whenever there is a Republican president, as there has been 20 of the last 36 years, there is nothing that keeps that Republican president from refusing to sign any budget that is not 'balanced.' Same goes for when the GOP controls Congress. The Republican push for a balanced budget amendment is the equivalent of a dieter asking you to lock his refrigerator so he can't raid it.

Then again, under most proposals, you could still raid the 'fridge under a Balanced Budget Amendment, since most proposals would require a budget to be balanced unless 3/5 of Congress -- less than that needed to override a presidential veto -- voted to UNbalance it.

While most articles focus on the Balanced Budget aspect of ALEC's Article V push (which was said to be almost near its goal in 2014, so perhaps even now people, including me, are being alarmist about, but since we were asleep at the switch on the Trumpocalypse, maybe it's time to be a bit alarmist about things again)  ALEC also wants an amendment to limit terms in the federal government. Did the Founders believe in term limits? Maybe, maybe not: Washington stepped down after two terms and every president honored that right up until FDR decided to honor the will of the people, after which the Republicans decided that the will of the people was bunk and proposed the 22nd Amendment. (The GOP controlled Congress at the time.)

But the amendment nobody seems to mention is the "Government Of The People" amendment. In this amendment. ALEC proposes to amend the Constitution to let states nullify federal laws they do not like. Nullification, too, is not a new concept: Jefferson and James Madison argued states had the right to nullify the Alien & Sedition Acts, but in 1809 the US Supreme Court said states can't nullify federal laws, what with the US Constitution saying federal laws are the 'supreme' law of the land.

Nullification was perhaps most famously argued on behalf of the states that would form the Confederacy, arguing that the states could nullify federal attempts to make African-Americans people, not property. Nullifcation has also been used, though, to try to help that cause: Wisconsin argued it could nullify the Fugitive Slave Act: Wisconsin state courts had freed a slave, finding the Act unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court reversed.

The GOP spent most of the last 6 years trying to undo Obamacare, but let's not forget the GOP's state- and federal attacks on equal rights for people, voting rights for minorities, and other fundamental areas of our society. The Amendment would let individual states -- controlled by Republicans and an increasingly-conservative judiciary (Scott Walker in Wisconsin has promoted judges who were or are members of the "Federalist Society," an extremely conservative legal group) -- nullify any laws they found inconvenient or unlikeable. Including, say, Medicare or Social Security? Possibly.  Such a move would make the United States also more balkanized, more like the European Union than like the United States; it would certainly weaken the federal government, which may sound good to some people at some times but should sound terrible to all people at all times, as it is the federal government, not the states, which have secured equal rights to people, extended the vote to women, provided for a base level of care for our elderly and disabled (shamefully low though it is, it's there), modernized commerce with the US highway system, got us to the Moon, and otherwise turned the United States from a backward, agrarian dependency to the only remaining superpower.

For now.


Andrew Leon said...

I wish I could remember where I read/heard this (maybe NPR?), but they were talking to some guy who is a major historian dude (or something) and he was saying how the current Republican Party is the worst group like that (including the Nazis) in modern history. This makes the third time I've wished I had that reference.

Briane Pagel said...

They've really just consolidated their power, and what's amazing is that AT NO POINT have the Democrats bothered to try to do the same. It kind of feels like the Dems at this point are the kid in high school who is upsets that the hot girl is dating the jock, and instead of trying to point out to her how he might be a better match, or instead of trying to become a jock himself to get her attention, he just sits in study hall and says "Well she should like me better she's dumb!"

Andrew Leon said...

It's because it's a completely different mindset.
Liberals tend to believe that people should be allowed to live their lives they way they choose, so it becomes this kind of loose network of people, basically, not bothering each other.
But conservatives all believe in just one way to live everyone's lives, so they tend to band together to enforce that on other groups, because, as long as anyone else is doing something different, THEY are being threatened. Even if that something is 2000 miles away and not bothering them.