The next Speaker

When Boehner throws in the towel one of the candidates for his job should try something new.  Campaign as a member friendly Speaker, who would push a rule allowing remote voting, and attendance.  You could fly to D.C., get sworn in, set up your office, and go home  — and stay home.  When there’s a committee meeting you need to attend, you’d go to your local Congressional office and participate remotely.  Your constituents could be in the room with you while you do your committee work.  You might fly to D.C. once in a while for a floor vote..  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You could vote from your office if you want.  Would your constituents rather have you home in the district, where they can keep an eye on you, and set you straight if necessary, or would they want you rubbing shoulders with all the fat cat lobbyists?

Most people would spend most of their time in D.C.  You can be a more effective committee member if you’re physically present.  But members should be given the choice.   You could do week on, week off.  You could do whatever you, and your constituents, wanted to do.

This would definitely make it harder to be Speaker, but it would be manageable.  I think the members would want it, and vote for it.  This is the 21st century.  The technology’s there.  Why not give it a try?

I’ve believed in this idea for a long time, and wait in vain for somebody to push it.  What makes it relevant is San Diego.  We may have 20, or 30, or even 40 people participating remotely.  This will be a technical and a managerial problem, but it can be dealt with.  We’ll show Congress how it’s done, and maybe they’ll be inspired to give it a try.

The first meeting of the Federal Assembly is a month away, and it’s time for the big push.  I sent out around 65 emails to Presiding Officers (PO’s) in the last two days.  We’re having a cc tomorrow and we’ll figure out who is going to work the 15 states I didn’t work on.  Once we get fifteen or twenty commitments this thing should snowball, especially since remote participation is encouraged.  Some of these people will probably call in for the hell of it.  It’s something a little different.  PO’s are generally pretty responsible people.  I would argue they have a positive duty to take part in a meeting of this sort  — dealing with their constitutional duties under Article V.  They should, at the minimum, ask their Majority Leader to cover for them.  It’s a Saturday, for God’s sake.  There’s no excuse for a PO to blow this off.

Most of these PO’s that I’ve talked to don’t know that many of their peers from other states  — but they know a few of them.  If we can get these people talking to each other about this thing it will build the momentum.  The next couple weeks will be critical.

My wife and I drive to Montana on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Be there a month.  By chance our route takes us through Idaho Falls, the home of Idaho Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis.  He killed our bill, and wants to kill it again.  I’ll be calling for an appointment to see him. I want to explain the Federal Assembly, and ask him to show up.  He may not even see me.  It’s worth a try.

Because it’s taking place at all, San Diego is a success.  How great a success will be determined by how many participate.  But there will be such a thing as the Federal Assembly.  It’s a meeting of delegates from the states, exclusively devoted to discussing their duties under Article V, and, more specifically, one proposed Article V Amendment  — the BBA.  Nothing exactly like it has been done before.  There’s a reason it’s happening now.

It’s the tide.


Ohio filled up quickly.  When the tribes were defeated at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 it immediately attracted swarms of settlers, many of them Revolutionary War veterans exercising land grants they had been awarded for their service.*  By 1803 it was admitted as the 17th state.

The Western Reserve, in the northeast, was largely settled by New Englanders, the southern part by Virginians, and the middle by Midlanders.  Colin Woodard, in “American Nations”, identifies Midlanders as the American arbiters  — when they vote with Yankees, Yankees win.  When they vote with Virginia, Virginia wins.  They are not meddlesome moralists, like the New Englanders.  But they’re not libertarian southerners either.  They’re in the middle.  They were even before the founding.  They have been throughout our entire history, right up to today.

The first Midlanders were Pennsylvania Quakers, staunch pacifists.  They refused to fight in the Revolutionary War.  Their political dominance in Pennsylvania faded, however, when they even refused to fight the Indians.  The Germans who came immediately behind the Quakers were strongly antiwar.  They came from a country nearly ruined by sectarian wars.  They hated war.  But they weren’t pacifists, and while Midlanders began as Quakers, they soon became more German-American than anything else.  Quakers (they were like Shakers, except they only quaked with religious enthusiasm) faded into near irrelevance.  The Germans kept coming, in huge waves.  There was even talk of keeping them out, there were so damn many of them.

Midlanders believed in minding their own business.  They didn’t like slavery, but they didn’t want to fight a war over it.  So they were Democrats leading up to the Civil War.  But Lincoln convinced enough of them  — barely  — to win Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and thus the Presidency.

Midlanders will decide the election of 2016, just as they’ve pretty much decided every election.  It’s been North vs. South since the very beginning, and the Midlanders get to decide.  The American heartland, the Midwest, middle America, the Midlands  — whatever you want to call it  — has the same values it always has.  They want to mind their own business.  They don’t want to tell people how to live their lives.  The Germans who settled middle America were Catholic, Protestant, and Dissenters  — Moravians, Amish, Mennonites, Pietists.  They got along with each other.  They weren’t going to fight over religion, or anything else.  They were tolerant.  It is the ethic of Middle America  — tolerance.

Middle America is tolerant all over the world.  It doesn’t want to fight in wars overseas, pick winners and losers.  Let the people of the world find their own way.  Let’s mind our own business.

That’s what Middle America wants to hear.

* Including my direct ancestor, John Pettyjohn.


Disparate Impact should be an issue in next year’s election.  Next week the Supreme Court is going to toss this “doctrine” in the ash heap.  No Republican in his right mind will do anything but applaud.  Hillary, on the other hand, will be outraged.  She’s got to do everything she can to gin up her black support, so she’ll go ballistic when this decision comes down.  In doing so she will kill her chances in November.  The missing white male votes in the upper Midwest, the guys who stayed home rather than vote for the rich twit, Romney, are going to vote this time, and they’ll vote Republican, based on this issue alone.  It is a perfect illustration of the government picking winners and losers, based solely on race.

The fact is that these guys, and their sons, are routinely discriminated against by the government.   It pisses them off.  They don’t like discrimination, especially when it’s directed against them.  They watch what happens in places like Ferguson, Missouri and that pisses them off as well.  All these wildings, mob violence by packs of young black hoodlums, that pisses them off too.  Race riots in Baltimore piss them off.  There’s actually a lot to be pissed off about.

Responsible politicians must tread lightly on this ground.  Stoking racial resentments is a bad idea, on all levels.  But to acknowledge reality, to say that discrimination against whites is not the road to racial harmony, is only to do justice to the truth.  If a politician is so chicken shit that he can’t do that, then those deer hunters and ice fishermen of Wisconsin will stay home again.  And the Republican  — if they are a coward  — will deserve to lose.

The people of this country want a leader with some balls.  Someone totally unlike Jeb Bush.  A guy with balls tells the truth.  When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an evil empire he told the truth.  And he showed some balls.  When this Supreme Court decision comes down next week it’s a balls check for every Republican.

Those guys in Wisconsin will be watching.

Que no haya novedad

May no new thing arise.

People don’t like change.  Period.  We like what we know, and dislike what we don’t.  As Jefferson put it “…mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

So what’s insufferable?  How about, for openers, $18 trillion in debt and looming bankruptcy?   Thus the birth of the Federal Assembly.

It is a new thing, consisting of the leaders of the 50 state legislatures, meeting to discuss their responsibilities under Article V.  The Delegates to the Federal Assembly are the Presiding Officers of the 99 state legislative chambers.  They are elected by their members when their legislative chamber organizes.  They meet, voluntarily, where and when they choose, and discuss whatever they collectively agree to discuss.  Their first meeting, in San Diego on July 25th, has been called to take up the proposition that Article V Amendment Conventions should be conducted with One State, One Vote, and that topics of discussion at such Conventions shall be strictly limited by the language of the Resolutions which called them.  If the Delegates to San Diego wish, they can take up other matters as well, such as what, exactly, would qualify as germane under a call for a Balanced  Budget Amendment.

Lord willing, the San Diego meeting won’t be the last for the Federal Assembly.  Prior to the 2016 legislative season, another meeting will almost certainly be needed, probably in conjunction with the December NCSL meeting.  Ideally, the second meeting of the Federal Assembly will be held at the Capitol in Annapolis.

If there is an Amendment Convention next year there might not be a need for a 2016 meeting of the Federal Assembly.  But in any year in which an Amendment Convention is not held, the Federal Assembly should meet.  It should discuss what sorts of Article V Resolutions need to be pursued.  Even assuming a BBA has been proposed and ratified, much more will need to be done to restore constitutional government in this country.  The Federal Assembly is the perfect forum for such discussions.

What other functions could be performed by the Federal Assembly?  Here’s a possibility.  The BBA could include a provision that gives it temporary veto power over federal appropriations.  If Congress passes a budget that is in violation of the BBA, you wouldn’t go to court to challenge it.  You’d go the Federal Assembly, which would have the power to enforce the terms of the Balanced Budget Amendment.  It could supervise the transfer of federal lands to the states, if so authorized by an Amendment.  It could do whatever a Constitutional Amendment empowered it to do.

Every member of a state legislature takes an oath, and swears to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States  —   including Article V, which places the ultimate responsibility for preserving and protecting the Constitution on these same state legislators.  The Federal Assembly is a mechanism for them to exercise this power, and fulfill their responsibility.  It has always existed, inchoate and unborn, in Article V.

It comes to life in San Diego.

This too shall pass

The tide has been with us for a year and a half.  It still strengthens.  Things are going to get even better, politically.  A lot better.  We’re going to kick ass in November of ’16, and the new President and Congress will have an historic opportunity to do some serious damage to the perversions, distortions and general lawlessness  inflicted on this country by the Progressives.  And if the new President does well he or she will be given another term, and some good could come of that.  Then the Democrats will have their shot at power.  They’ll be different than the Democrats of today.  That’s the genius of the American two party system.  Losers change  — they change as much as they have to in order to win.  Anybody who talks about extended one party rule doesn’t understand that dynamic.  There are exceptions.  That’s the rule.  If you’re smart you expect things to play out the way they usually do.

What we will have done with this tide we’ve ridden?  If it’s done in Washington, it will be a lot less than it could have been  — if it had been done by the Federal Legislature.  If the Presiding Officers (PO’s) of this country’s state legislatures chose to institutionalize their function under Article V they could create such a body.  Not by law.  The Federal Legislature would be entirely voluntary.  It would be advisory only, until such time as a Constitutional Amendment conferring actual power upon it were ratified by 38 states.  Initially the only function of the Federal Legislature would be to recommend to the state legislatures possible subjects of Article V Amendments.   26 votes would be needed for the Federal Legislature to act, in any way.  If 26 states can agree on an Amendment, and 34 identified who will pass it, the proposal can be put out for ratification.

Right now the membership of the Federal Legislature is far more conservative, and mindful of the Constitution, than any other political body or group of elected officials in the country.  It has the power to put on offer a return to Constitutional principles, including not least federalism.  If the offer is accepted by a large majority of the people, by ratification, we can turn this country around on a dime.

Call it what you will, but there is something to be created.