If all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

There are ins and outs of politics  — the inside game, and the outside.  The outside comes from the voters  — public pressure.  With millions of dollars at its disposal, the Convention of States (CoS) has succeeded in mobilizing the grass roots around the country, and is able to generate phone calls, emails, and attendance at legislative hearings.  These are Tea Party people, committed to the use of Article V to repair our broken system of government.

In fact, CoS itself is a bottoms up, grass roots political movement.  Over three years ago Lew Uhler invited CoS founder Mark Meckler to his office in Roseville so I could meet him.  Meckler lives in the Gold Country of California, about 100 miles north of me, so when he showed up wearing a big black cowboy hat, it gave me pause.   At least he wasn’t wearing one of those big silver belt buckles.

He explained why CoS has three sections:  a BBA, term limits, and a reduction in the power and scope of the federal government.  He went around the country, talking to the grass roots, and this is what they said they wanted.  By selecting these three subjects, he knew he would excite the grass roots, motivate them to pressure State Legislators around the country.

And pressure them they have, just this year in South Dakota, and Arkansas, and Utah, and Wyoming, and Arizona, and Idaho.  They lost them all.  They couldn’t play the inside game  — persuading Legislators of the wisdom of your approach.  Because, by definition, the grass roots are political amateurs, they don’t understand what is politically feasible.  Meckler, himself, is an amateur, never having served in public office.  Before proceeding with CoS, he should have talked to a pro.  But, on the other hand,  he had made a very good living the last few years.

Task Force Special Agent Loren Enns has learned the inside game, and he’s learned it very well.  He put 10,000 miles on his rental car in 2016, criss-crossing the State of Wyoming, speaking directly to Legislators in their far flung home towns.  He didn’t attempt to pressure them, he reasoned with them, and they have responded, with a 20-10 vote in the Wyoming Senate today, and Wyoming, at last, is our 29th State.  Loren’s been hanging around Cheyenne for three weeks, and he has exhausted its attractions.  On to Idaho for a relatively young man who has acquired a valuable political skill.  I’m confident that once the Task Force has concluded its work, Agent Enns will be able to put his newfound skills to work.

Two and a half years ago I called up freshman Rep. Tyler Lindholm of Sundance, Wyoming about introducing our Resolution.  I called on a Sunday afternoon, not knowing that you don’t make political calls in Wyoming on Sundays.  Tyler didn’t mind, and we had an excellent discussion of Article V and the BBA.  Tyler was one of eight Wyoming Legislative candidates who had signed a pledge card to support our Resolution.  As it turned out, he was our original sponsor.  And he, along with his sidekick Rep. Dan Laursen, get to take a big bow today.  Former Speaker Bill McIlvain, along with his nephew, State Senator Kevin Lundberg of northern Colorado, also helped out.  Bill introduced me to current Senate President Eli Bebout, a man I greatly admire, and who made sure it got through the Senate, with the strong support of Sens. Jeff Wasserburger and Cale Case..

When I first met Tyler at the Capitol he was wearing a big white cowboy hat, which was fine, except he’s six feet seven inches tall, as skinny as a rail, and it was all a little too much.  It turned out Tyler was a great guy and a strong patriot.

I was sitting with Tyler and Dan in the audience of the Senate Rules Committee in 2015, waiting for the Committee to convene, and our Resolution to be voted out.  It was all supposed to be greased by then Majority Leader Bebout, but I wanted to be there, just in case.  Tyler told me there were a couple guys from Gun Owners of America who were there to oppose the bill.  I found out who they were and so I went over and asked them what the hell they were doing there.  The BBA didn’t have a damn thing to do with the Second Amendment, and so on, and so forth.  I got a little hot under the collar, and I think Tyler and Dan got a kick out of it.

I’m off to the woods, to hoist one to Tyler, Dan, and Special Agent Enns.



Deliberate ignorance

In drafting Article V, as with all of the Constitution, the Framers were succinct.  Their plain words were clearly understood at the time.  But the practice of politics and government has so devolved, or degenerated, that what was plain as day in 1787 seems incomplete.  How would an Article V Amendment Convention actually work?  Opponents of a BBA pretend it’s unknowable in advance.  This is hogwash.

The Legislature of Tennessee intends to prove that proposition this summer, at an Article V BBA Planning Convention on 7-11-17 in Nashville.  This planning convention is a Convention of States, at one time a commonplace in this country.  If you want to see what an actual Amendment Convention, called by Congress, would look like, go to Nashville.

The first of a series of such Conventions of States began at Albany in 1754.  Benjamin Franklin put forward a plan for uniting the colonies, but it was premature, and rejected by the Crown.  The next Convention was in Philadelphia in 1774, and called itself the First Continental Congress.  Before it could conduct its business, one procedural conflict had to be resolved.  How would the voting be conducted, by State, or by population, or some combination of the two?  The small states insisted on one state, one vote, and their view prevailed when Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, a large State, took their side.  Every Continental Congress, every meeting of the Congress of the Articles of Confederation, and every Convention of States has followed this rule.  If this rule had not been adopted at the First Continental Congress, the small States would have walked out.  At any future Convention of States, the small states would do exactly as they did in 1774  — if it’s not one state, one vote, we’re leaving.  There are more small States than large, so it always works.

And yet the opponents of a BBA say no one knows how voting would be conducted at an Amendment Convention.  That’s false.  The men and women who will attend these Conventions will abide by their oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and they will be guided by the prudent precedents set by our forebears.

BBA opponents say that the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 was a runaway Convention.  False.  Before the Convention submitted the Constitution for ratification by the States, it requested and obtained the consent of the Congress of the Articles of Confederation.  If it was a runaway Convention, why did Congress agree to submit it to the States for ratification?   It hadn’t runaway.  It had done exactly what most people knew it was going to do  — make a proposal to start over..

We have two types of opponents.  Common Cause doesn’t care about Article V.  They just don’t want a BBA.  And the Birchers don’t care about a BBA.  They just don’t want Article V.   It’s paranoia, pure and simple.  There are evil people plotting everywhere.  It’s difficult to reason with these people.  Our best hope is Nashville.  Because the people at Nashville will be the same people who will be at the subsequent, Amendment Convention, everyone will be able to see with their own eyes who, exactly, are these people?  Can they be trusted?

Those are some of the questions that will be answered in Nashville.

The old world order is new again

The new world order of globalism is dead.  Now, it’s Back to Bloodjust as Tom Wolfe foresaw in his 2012 novel.  The old world order, based on national self interest, is back.  First Brexit, then Trump, and on it will go.  The center won’t hold.

Nationalism was discredited in WW I, and became anathema after “Nazi” somehow became identified with “nationalism”.  Globalism was invented as an alternative to nationalism.  The ultimate goal of globalism is border free, with all of us citizens of the world.  It was a fantasy, and reality is starting to sink in.

Everyone deplores the phrase “America First”, but no one argues with it.  Unless, of course, you don’t like this country, in which case it’s offensive.  But the vast majority of Americans are fond of their country, and the idea that we would pursue our own self interest doesn’t seem odd at all.  It’s normal.  If you’re not for yourself, who will be?

The First World war was a hundred light years ago.  The crazy military nationalism of a century ago is, today, an anachronism.  If Hitler showed up in Germany today he’d be a national joke.  Does anybody really think those German kids today could be ordered to invade France?   The world has changed, and we’re stuck in the 20th century.

NATO was formed to keep the Germans down, the Russians out, and the Americans in.  The Germans don’t need to be kept down anymore, and it’s up to them to keep the Russians out, and we’re no longer willing to be in.  I think those are facts of life, and eventually the generals and arm chair generals are going to have to face them.  They may be willing to fight the Russians, but they’re Chiefs, and the Indians won’t follow.  Not this time.

If you’re a red blooded American nationalist, you want a Navy that rules the waves, all of them, in every ocean of the world, in concert with our allies.  It’s in our national self interest, in spades.  So Trump is going to get himself a whole lot of brand new ships, and they will cost a fortune.  Add in tax cuts, infrastructure, rising interest costs on the national debt, and a refusal to curb entitlements, and you’ve got one hell of a deficit.

I think we’ll get that 3-4% growth that we need, and we can stop these deficits fairly soon.  But for the first two or three years of the Trump administration, I’m looking for massive deficits.  Huge.  Trump will say he’s priming the pump, and Congress can always be talked into spending money.

There’s a good chance, unfortunately, that we may not get to 34 this year.  In which case, we’ll be back at it in January of 2018, for the final push.  After a year of Trump deficits, and no end in sight, selling the BBA may be a little easier.

Deep in a hole, digging furiously

Maryland Democratic State Senator Jim Clark was a founder of the Article V Balanced Budget Amendment movement in 1975.  Democratic Maryland may have been the first State to pass a BBA Resolution.  Working with the National Taxpayers Union, Clark traveled the country promoting the cause, and was as responsible as anyone for getting 30 Resolutions passed in just four years.  It was bipartisan, Democrats and Republicans working together for a common cause.  But that was long ago.

Now “Common Cause” is leading the charge for rescission in Maryland.  (Who, exactly, is common to their cause?)  A floor vote on the rescission Resolution is set for Tuesday, and the Democrats in the State Senate hold its fate in their hands.  As the Democratic Party seeks to redefine itself after six years of steep decline, do they really want to be the political party that opposes balancing the budget?  65% of Democratic voters favor a BBA.  Why won’t they listen?

If they think a rescission will stop this movement they are all wrong.  We have three States in reserve.  Even if New Mexico and Nevada rescinded, we can still get to 34 without having to pass in a legislative chamber controlled by Democrats.

And when we do get to 34, and have an Amendment Convention, and propose a Constitutional Amendment to balance the budget, we will have to be candid about how this was finally accomplished.  What started out, with Jim Clark, over 40 years ago, as a bipartisan movement, became trench warfare  — Republicans fighting Democrats every step of the way toward balancing the budget.  No elected Democrat in the country did anything to help.  Do the Democrats really want to be the party opposed to balancing the budget?   Why don’t they try something completely different, like arguing against massive budget deficits and a ballooning debt?

Special Agent Loren Enns was in Cheyenne for third and final passage today, and prevented a disaster.  Five of our votes were off the floor, and we weren’t going to hit the needed 16.  So Loren got a continuance until Monday, when the votes will be there.  Wyoming would be 29, but that may only last a day if Maryland rescinds.  Just more work to do.

The big positive news is from Idaho, where we passed out of Senate State Affairs, 5-4.  If we were going to lose Idaho, we were going to lose in this, Sen. Bart Davis’ committee.  Former United States Senator Larry Craig, Greg Casey, and Georgia’s finest, Dave Guldenschuh testified on our behalf.  President of the Senate Little provided the winning vote.

It may not have been an easy vote.  My understanding is that the room was full of Birchers, of which there are a lot in Idaho, especially in the panhandle. It’s going to take a while, and plenty of work, but Idaho is looking very strong.  Speaker Bedke is as strong an advocate of the BBA as any legislator in the country.

CoS is now 0-5 in the five State Senates where they had a floor vote, losing in Utah today.  I don’t think they’re blaming us for that one.  Everyone is doing what is necessary to assure everyone involved that the BBA Task Force, and no one associated with it, did anything to discourage voting for CoS in the Arizona Senate.  To say that our lobbyist did, is to impugn his professional integrity, which I’m sure he doesn’t appreciate, and will straighten out in no time.


Our shrinking, hardening bubbles

Turn off the bubble machine!

You try to be open minded, and get outside your bubble.  So you keep up with things at the WaPo, and read Politico, and check out CNN occasionally.  But lately, there’s not much point.  The elite media, or as I call it, the Hive, speak with one voice, and has one thing to say:  Trump is a disaster, a moron, and illegitimate.

But they’ve been wrong about him for close to two years, and they’ve learned nothing.  This may be what their core audience wants, but outside that bubble are others, and they are losing their relevance.  I’m hoping for a lot of good things from Trump.  If he can break the bubble of the Hive, as he is intent on doing, it will be his most significant achievement, politically.  Since the age of television began in the 50’s, the Hive has pushed the country left, and it’s been very effective.  I like to think with Trump, and the internet, it has met its match, at last.

I think it’s important to recognize the significance of what Trump is doing with his America First trade policy.  Since the founding, tariffs have been one of the most important political issues in this country.  The Federalists wanted tariffs, the Jacksonians didn’t.  After the Civil War, the Republicans wanted tariffs, and the Democrats in the South and West didn’t.  After WW II, the Republicans were the champions of free trade, and the Democrats were more pro-tariff.

Bill Clinton pushed the Democrats toward free trade, and now Trump has made the Republican Party skeptical of unfettered free trade.  In the grand scheme of things political, this is a very big deal.  These sorts of shifts on fundamental economic policy happen very rarely in our history.  And yet the Hive wants to talk about some gay provocateur being disinvited to CPAC.  But maybe that is what people are interested in, and I’m becoming a curmudgeon.

After losing in the Arizona Senate a couple days ago, the Convention of States (CoS) is trying to blame their failure on the BBA Task Force.  Apparently they think a lobbyist for the Task Force told some Senators to vote no on their Resolution.  This is untrue, and needs to be quashed.

I’ve been associated with the Task Force for over three years, and the public and private stance has always been, with respect to conservative Article V proposals:  come one, come all.  We all want to use Article V to attack the center, the federal government.  The more the merrier.

Before associating myself with the Task Force, I found the CoS on the internet.  This was October of 2013, and I wanted to get involved with an Article V movement.  I didn’t really care what it was about, term limits, the BBA, repeal the 16th Amendment, I didn’t care.  I just wanted to use Article V.  So I called up CoS, and someone explained to me what they were doing.  As soon as I heard it was a multi-subject Resolution, I told them they had made a mistake.  It wasn’t going to work.  Any experienced and half way intelligent State Legislator can tell you:  you don’t combine two or more major proposals into one bill.  You’re multiplying your opposition when you do.

Nonetheless, when I was in Helena with Bill Fruth a couple years ago, and I noticed on the Legislative Calendar that CoS was up in Senate Judiciary, I hung around the Capitol for a couple hours, and signed up to testify on the bill.  I was in the audience, lined up behind a microphone.  When my turn came I gave as forceful and full throated endorsement as I could.   And I still believe that.  If CoS was politically feasible, I’d be all over it.  But it’s not.

But maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe after the BBA Convention is successfully concluded, there will be enough confidence in Article V, and enough appetite for some more attacks on the center, that CoS could succeed.  It’s their only hope.  Since most of the CoS are actually very good people, and committed patriots, I wish them well.

We’ll be asking our lobbyist to clear all this misunderstanding up in the Arizona Senate.  The Task Force, in no way, shape, or form, recommends a no on CoS.

Loren Enns will be on hand in Cheyenne for final Senate passage tomorrow, as #29, Wyoming, is brought into this world.  Each one is more precious than the one before.  Let’s hope it’s the first of half a dozen.