The Convention of States Project comes undone

The Convention of States  (CoS) is a rival organization of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, and seeks an Amendment Convention with the authority to propose a term limits amendment, a balanced budget amendment, and any amendment which limits the power and scope of the federal government.  It was a wonderful dream, and they have raised millions of dollars, organized thousands of grass roots volunteers, and passed their Resolution in eight States.  They’ve gotten the low hanging fruit, and are having difficulties moving beyond the easy pickings.  CoS is a collaboration of Tea Party veteran Mark Meckler and the prominent Christian attorney, and national champion of the home schooling movement, Mike Ferris.  His Home School Legal Defense Association has an outstanding record, and he is beloved by countless thousands of home schooling parents.

Ferris has left CoS, and his departure will prove to be its undoing .  The imminent success of the BBA Task Force, along with the growing strength of U. S. Term Limits, makes CoS redundant and unnecessary.  If the BBA passes, and term limits passes, all that’s left of CoS is essentially a call for an open Convention, which is anathema to a very large number of Republican State Legislators.  These men and women will agree to an Amendment Convention only if it is strictly limited in the scope of its powers.  This fundamental flaw in political strategy doomed CoS from the day it was formed.

Task Force Co-Founder Bill Fruth learned the same lesson, the hard way.  He originally proposed a ten subject Amendment Convention, then scaled back to a four subject Convention before he saw political reality.  Every time you add a subject matter to your bill, you increase your opposition.  Co-Founder Dave Biddulph learned the same lesson, spending years promoting a three subject Convention.  When Fruth and Biddulph recognized the error of their ways they teamed up in 2010, settled on a single subject, joined with Lew Uhler, and were off to the races.  I came on board in 2013, followed by Dave Guldenschuh*, a refugee from CoS.

CoS had funding from major donors, and these people will soon realize it’s over.  If they really believe in Article V they should switch their support to the BBA, donating either to the Task Force or Uhler’s National Tax Limitation Committee.  If we had $50,000 to hire the Donatelli lobbying firm in Virginia we could save a State that looks out of reach at the moment.  If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Nonetheless, regardless of the money, the coming expiration of CoS is, on balance, a positive for the Task Force.  On occasion they have actively sought to undermine us, and have succeeded.

I can’t help but note that neither Ferris, Meckler, Fruth or Biddulph has ever served a day in a State Legislature.  If they had, they would have understood how bills are passed, and how they are killed.  If you’re passing out goodies, you can combine them all in a Christmas tree bill, but it works the opposite with substantive legislation.  Term limits and a balanced budget amendment both enjoy 75% approval, 25% disapproval.   But the 25% that disapprove of one, is different than the 25% that disapproves the other.  Now you may be up to 40% disapproval of the two combined.  It’s like, arithmetic.

All of us associated with the Task Force can feel the wind at our backs, and it’s getting stronger.

*With the departure of Mike Ferris from the Article V movement, its leading constitutional attorney is none other than Dave Guldenschuh.  Ask Rob Natelson.


This too shall pass

The Trump Republican coalition is shaky, full of contradictions, with much of its success due to Hillary Clinton’s shortcomings.  Republican strength in State Legislatures is at a high water mark not seen since Calvin Coolidge, and the normal midterm swing against the President’s party means further gains in 2018 are doubtful.  It’s possible that full Republican control of the Maine and Washington Legislatures could come in 2018, but it’s probably more likely that we suffer losses, as happened last year in Nevada and New Mexico.  It may be now or never for Article V.

California Democrats are rediscovering the merits of federalism, but it’s a passing fancy.  The Progressive movement is wedded to a strong federal government, and is intolerant of political diversity.  Conservatives are, or should be, willing to let California have its abortion on demand, gay and LGBT rights, and relaxed attitude toward immigration.  But today’s left has a strong authoritarian streak, and allowing pro-life South Dakota to restrict abortions is intolerable.  Since Article V’s appeal is all about federalism, it doesn’t really work for the left.  We really can’t count on any legislative chamber controlled by Democrats, now or in the future.

So it’s no coincidence that the next three months, from now until May Day, are critical for both the Trump administration and the Article V movement.  If Trump is going to be a success, he’s got to deliver the goods.  And if the BBA Task Force is ever going to get to 34, it may have to happen this year, or next at the latest.  For some State Legislators, such as in Idaho, voting for an Article V Resolution carries political risk.  The threat of being primaried by a Bircher is real.  It will be easier to get these votes in 2017 than it will be in 2018, when elections loom.

Minnesota and Virginia, on the other hand, may be easier in 2018, if they’re needed.  Without them, we need to run the table in Wyoming, Idaho, Wisconsin, Arizona, Kentucky and South Carolina.  If that fails, and we go into 2018 needing another State, it may get down to one of them.

Rep. Jerry Hertaus is leading our campaign in Minnesota, and is doing everything right.  He’s arranged with House and Senate leadership for a light floor schedule on Feb. 6th, and expects a very strong turnout for a seminar that will include presentations by our Bill Fruth and Dave Guldenschuh.  Many of these legislators are unfamiliar with Article V and the BBA, and all their questions can be addressed.  But we’ve learned through bitter experience that the learning curve on Article V can be lengthy.  We only have a one vote margin in the State Senate, and there are a few who may require another year of education on the subject.  And if Minnesota is going to be number 34, putting the spotlight on it in 2018 may be needed to go over the top.

The Virginia Senate, unlike the House of Delegates and the Governor, is not up for election in 2017.  We have a 21-19 split, and it will be the same next year.  Speaker of the House Bill Howell is a strong Article V man, but he has no influence in the Senate, which seems, to an outsider, almost as bizarre as the South Carolina Senate.  But we may get a Republican Governor in the November 7th election, and if he’s willing to push the issue, he should be able to command the attention of the Senate.  Nothing else seems to interest them.

You never, ever, give up, but if we don’t get a Balanced Budget Amendment with the current political alignment, we may not get it done at all.  Even then, all the progress which has been made would not go to waste.  Unlike the BBA, which should be bipartisan but isn’t, the term limits movement has a lot of Democratic as well as Republican support.  With the boogie man of a runaway convention pretty well disposed of by the BBA Task Force, it could be the limitation of Congressional terms which breaks the wall of Article V.

The better bet is on the BBA.  We started the year off strong in the Wyoming House, and everyone involved is ready to go all out in 2017.  While the rest of the country watches the progress of the Trump administration, a separate, and equally important political drama will be played out from  Boise to Madison, Phoenix to Cheyenne, and Frankfort to Columbia.  If you’re a constitutional conservative, it’s more significant, in the long run, than anything Donald Trump has planned.



Pioneers take the arrows, settlers take the land

The Article V campaign for a Balanced Budget Amendment has been active for over 35 years, and currently has 28 of the needed 34 State Resolutions needed for success.  Because it’s taken so long, and has suffered so many disappointments, alternative Article V campaigns have tried to pick up the Article V ball.  Perhaps a different approach would have more success, it was believed.  Inspired by Mark Levin’s The Liberty Amendments, the Convention of States organization was formed four or five years ago, and it has accumulated eight State Resolutions.  The Compact for America is another alternative, and it has four Resolutions.  U. S. Term Limits is now very active, and hopes to quickly gather Article V Resolutions for its proposal.  There are also active organizations promoting an Article V “Countermand Amendment”, and a “Single Subject Amendment.”  The latest entry is from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, which calls for a nine subject Amendment Convention.

The BBA Task Force has always supported any reasonable proposal to use Article V to restore Constitutional government.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of all of the Task Force’s “competitors.”  Some of them may lose their rationale if the BBA succeeds, and as a result efforts have been made to undermine the entire movement for an Article V BBA Convention.  What these people fail to appreciate is that the BBA movement is an ice breaker, and once a path to success has been cleared, those who follow will have clear sailing.

The arguments and obstacles used against us are too numerous to mention, but the “runaway Convention” bugaboo is the main problem.  This myth, concocted, originally, by Robert F. Kennedy, and promoted by the likes of Tip O’Neill, Walter Mondale, and the AFL-CIO, has been fervently embraced by the John Birch Society and a few other alt-right outfits.   This has been the problem, and it’s only solution is to personally engage individual State Legislators on the issue.  The large majority of these men and women can be talked to, and eventually see the light.  Only a few are bull headed and are beyond reason.

Dealing with State Legislators, directly, is a time consuming process.  Loren Enns spent weeks on end, criss-crossing the State of Wyoming, putting 10,000 miles on his car, meeting State Legislators in their far flung districts.  As a result of all this hard work, we passed the House 35-23, and have a supermajority of support in the Senate.  Bill Fruth has spent years in the field, criss-crossing the country, speaking to hundreds of State Legislators.  All this labor has created a fallow field for Article V.

Loren didn’t need to tell them that a Balanced Budget Amendment was a good idea.  They all want a BBA.  What he had to do was convince them, one by one, that there wasn’t going to be a runaway convention.  So whichever Article V organization follows up in Wyoming, they won’t have that hurdle to overcome.  All they need to do is convince the State Legislators on the merits of their individual proposals.  A whole lot easier.

The Task Force has an excellent chance of getting to 34 this year, and if we do, and an Amendment Convention is held, the Article V dam will burst, and I hope and pray we get half a dozen more.  A great deal of damage has been done to the Constitution, and it will take more than one Amendment Convention to do the needed repair.

All these other Article V organizations need to understand what our success would mean to them.  Most of them are well funded, which the Task Force is not, and never has been.  If some of this funding could be directed in an effort to help with the BBA, it will be money well and wisely spent.

Never give in, an inch.

I imagine Trump thinks of himself as in the great tent of the Sultan, full of activity, where important decisions are constantly being made.  The elite media are camels, who would wreak havoc inside, and seek entry by shoving their noses under the tent’s edges. Armed with a club, Trump immediately interrupts whatever he’s doing when he sees a nose, runs over and whacks it.  Either that, or he’s playing whack-a-mole.  And the more time and energy he puts into whacking moles the less he has for business.

It’s who he is, and how he got where he is, and we all better get used to it.  I have a hunch Press secretary Sean Spicer won’t pay any price for what the media portray as a PR disaster.  I think he did what Trump wanted him to do, which was dis the press.  Who doubts that the elite media despise Trump, and conspire against him?  The only thing they debate among themselves is means and methods, and how far they’ll go.  They mean to take Trump down, like they took Nixon down, and they won’t quit.  They’ll be trying to destroy his Presidency next month, next year, as long as he’s in office.  It’s the only way to redeem themselves, and put themselves and their friends in the Democratic Party back in power.

They didn’t do this to Reagan.  After he was shot, he was a national hero, and they left him alone.  But to these people, with Trump, it’s personal.  And he knows it.  They’re never going to cut him any slack, so why shouldn’t he give as good as he gets?

Trump can do this, unlike any other politician of my long lifetime.  It’s a marvel.  It takes guts, and brains, and you wonder how long he can pull it off.  I remember thinking  back during the primary, almost a year ago now, that he was on a political tightrope.  He kept ginning up controversies, and getting away with it, and you had to believe he was going to push it too far.  But he never fell off the wire, so you have to believe he knows what he’s doing.

I ran across a video of Trump at a town hall in Reno, in October of 2015.  He’s asked about marijuana and he says it’s an issue for the States.  He favors medicinal marijuana, but other than that it’s up to the States.  AG Jeff Sessions understands this, as shown at his confirmation hearing.  This is big news where I live.

I’m just south of Frog City, U.S.A., as Angel’s Camp, Calaveras County styles itself.  When Babbie was a teenager she and her girl friends entered a frog in the annual frog jumping contest there.  Calaveras County is emerging as a power in marijuana cultivation.  Our climate allows at least two crops a year, and planting conditions are ideal.  These farmers operate strictly in compliance with State law and County Ordinance, and have a good relationship with local law enforcement.  I know these guys, and they’re good people.  Yeoman farmers in the Jeffersonian tradition, as Calaveras County Supervisor Jack Garamendi calls them.  There was a cloud over their operations under Obama.  They expected a total hands off policy from Obama, but that’s not what they got at all.  They will be much better off under Trump.  Federalism is in the bones of all the Republicans around him, and they’re not going to mess around with States rights over marijuana.

I’ll be seeing these guys Super Bowl weekend.  We’ll be raising a glass to Trump, the federalist.





If we can say “America First”, can we say “States rights”?

States have rights, under the Constitution.   It’s right there in the 10th Amendment.  To claim these rights, they must use the federal courts, but since 1936 these courts have largely refused to enforce them.  They only have one, legal, recourse:  Article V.  The way it’s looking, the States will exercise their power under Article V for the first time in the year of our Lord 2017.  What a great year to be alive.

Meanwhile, as a resident of California, I’ve been thinking about 2018, and I’ve got a candidate for Governor, if he’ll run.  It’s Peter Thiel, the Trump supporting Silicon Valley billionaire.  He’s thinking about it, as evidenced by his willingness to spend an evening with MoDo of the NYT.  That’s a major commitment, so I take him seriously.  I’m working on a piece for American Thinker on the subject.

I’ve been a little down lately, and I think I know why.  It’s withdrawal, from politics.  With Trump, it’s mainly about governing now, and that part never interested me as much as pure politics.  But looking ahead to 2018, right here in my back yard, has got me going again.  When Babbie and I first moved here, in 2002, I got a little involved in the Simon for Governor campaign, a complete fiasco, and haven’t done anything locally since.  But in 2018, Thiel is Real.