Friday, August 29, 2014

Take Our Country Back ... Constitutional Crisis?

The Convention of States project seeks to limit the scope, power, and jurisdiction of the Federal Government. To put it simply, COS intends to exercise one of the Constitutional tools that our Founders put into place as part of the checks and balances of power when they designed our Constitutional Republic.

Some misinformed groups or individuals erroneously refer to Convention of States as a “Constitutional Convention” or a “Con-Con.” Nothing could be further from the truth, in that the Constitution does not authorize a “Constitutional Convention,” but instead I believe it morally compels the legislators of the several States to exercise their duties under Article V to amend the Constitution in order that the government may better be representative of the people.

John Adams in 1788, just 8 years after completing the Massachusetts Constitution as its principle author, counted eight explicit balancing mechanisms in the new Constitution of the United States. He proudly proclaimed them as evidence of the Constitution's republican virtue. These instances of government branches checking one another were as follows: (1) the states v. the central government, (2) the House v. the Senate, (3) the president v. Congress, (4) the courts v. Congress, (5) the Senate v. the president (with regard to appointments and treaties), (6) the people v. their representatives, (7) the state legislatures v. the Senate (in the original election of senators prior to the 17th Amendment), and (8) the Electoral College v. the people.

Today we can look back upon this list of balances and see that most no longer apply. From the passage of the 17th Amendment, to the various powers shifting from the States, and many flawed court decisions, virtually every one of these protections have been diluted. As a result, our central government has predictably grown out of control.

Article V of the Constitution empowers those State Assemblymen and Senators in every State Capital to rebalance that power; and while doing so are more accountable to you and I. They live in our neighborhoods, work in our cities and rural communities. These are the politicians that are truly accountable to “We the People,” and our Founder’s knew that one day they may be called upon to right a central government that has gone astray.

Some argue for example, that the State of Nevada “needs” the Federal Government. That over 25% of our State’s revenue comes from the Federal government. In light of this should we not ask how much revenue that State would receive if the federal government only owned as much land in Nevada as it does in Texas? Over 84% of Nevada’s land is owned and controlled by the federal government. Less than 2% of Texas’ land has those same restraints.* The federal government doesn’t pay property tax, but instead just as in so many other areas like our schools, they impose unfunded mandates which adversely affect the people and communities that live on or near these lands. Should Nevada be allowed to sell or lease these properties their state revenue would be substantially higher, and the new jobs and businesses that are built upon these lands would increase the standards of living for all Nevadans.

The John Birch Society and Eagle Forum argue that we should just stick to the original Constitution, but there are currently two Constitutions in play. The Constitution as written by the Founders, and the Constitution that is interpreted by the Supreme Court. We all have read and are familiar with the Constitution as it was written, but the Constitution as interpreted by the courts has led to bad decisions like Dred Scott and several others. The fact is that most of the Amendments written in the past hundred years have been interpreted pretty close to the people’s intent upon passage. Prohibition, the repeal of Prohibition, the right for 18 year olds to vote, these have all been clearly written and are not really up for interpretation. Those amendments that have been troubling are the ones that were intentionally written to be open to interpretation in their structure and their intent like the 16th Amendment. The most compelling argument regarding the above groups strategy of inaction, is that an Article V Convention of the States is part of our original Constitution. Why would we choose not to exercise this part of the Constitution, but vehemently enforce the other articles and amendments?

So in closing this is not about conservative or liberal ideology; this is about State’s rights, and the rights of the people to be fairly represented in their government.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist #85; what has come to be known as the “final argument” for the ratification of the Constitution, that “We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority. “ And so I encourage you to empower yourselves with knowledge of our history and our Constitution, and to empower your State government with the task of calling for a Convention of States with the sole purpose of limiting the scope, power, and jurisdiction of this Federal Government that is no longer responsive to “We the People.” Contact your representative in the Assembly and your State Senator; let them know that you support them in these efforts. We need them to exercise their rights under Article V; and make no mistake, this will require herculean efforts on their part but the rewards are great. The United States is still that “shining city on a hill” radiating the light of freedom and independence to all the world. It is that very freedom that is at stake, for once it’s lost none of us will ever see it again.