Congress makes the case for Article V

If Congress can’t fix the health care system, and can’t pass tax reform, and can’t pass a budget, what can it do?  It can get almost all of its members reelected.  Which guarantees that the next Congress won’t accomplish anything either.  The legislative branch of the federal government is broken, except for its ability to maintain its own power.  Elections don’t matter.

The only answer is, of course, for the states to use their power under Article V to stage an intervention.  But we’re told that’s too dangerous, because the states can’t be trusted.  They’ll abuse their power, and undermine our constitutional rights.  So what we really need to do is elect better people.

I’ve been having the same argument for over 30 years, and it’s starting to sound stale.  But, just maybe, Congress is so obviously cocked up that people realize something has to be done.  The Phoenix Convention of States will, hopefully, give the whole effort a second wind.

I wasn’t on the floor, but the feeling I got from watching the proceedings was that these state legislators were beginning to function together as a self conscious unit.  It was like the first day of a legislative session, with members gathering at the Capitol from all the far corners of the state.  They meet, they organize, and they start acting like a legislature.  You may be from Idaho, and you’ve got South Carolina on your left, and New Hampshire on your right, but you’re all part of the same team.  It’s a good feeling.

If there was a sense of camaraderie, it could be the start of something big.  For this to amount to anything, there has to be another Convention of States in 2018, with 30 or more states in attendance.  Then things could really take off.  In the mean time, the Phoenix Correspondence Commission will need to keep the flame alive.  It should be organizing soon.

Meanwhile, we’ve got the spectacle of Congress to provide us with a daily dose of dysfunction and deficits.  The only consolation is that the worse it gets, the better the case for Article V.

Will any Republican candidate for the U. S. Senate, in a contested primary,  want to be associated with this dysfunction by supporting Mitch McConnell for Majority Leader?  The way things are headed Sens. Flake, Heller and Wicker are going to be toast.

What can they say?  Vote for me, and get more of the same?  Not a winner.

The only way to run for Congress in 2018 is to run against it, and damn near everybody in it.  They’re all corrupt, incompetent, or both.  They’re creatures from the swamp, and they need to be discarded for a fresh start.  One by one.

In today’s political climate, why would you even want to run for Congress, unless to overthrow the powers that be?

Unless the swamp somehow appeals to you.

Why do you want to be a United States Senator?

The authors of Shattered, the inside story of Clinton’s 2016 campaign, tell a story of a campaign without a cause.  Hillary felt it was her turn, that she’d earned it, and was entitled to the Presidency.  She had no other rationale for her candidacy.  Throughout her entire campaign, she was angry and frustrated that no one could come up with a convincing reason she should be President.  She practically comes out and says it:  why can’t somebody tell me why I’m running?

Presidential campaigns without causes don’t do well.  In 1980, when Sen. Ted Kennedy couldn’t come up with a reason he was running against President Carter, he was doomed.

Senate races are different.  Being the most highly qualified candidate is often enough.  But in a Republican primary between two roughly equal conservative and qualified candidates, the winner will be the one who can communicate a message, frame an issue, draw a contrast.

Roy Moore won because he had a message.  He will be an agent of change within the Republican caucus.  He’s not going to the Senate to join the club.  He’s going to drain the swamp.  And that starts with deposing the King of the Swamp, Mitch McConnell.

Offhand, I can’t recall this happening before in American history.  When has a Senate Majority Leader been so unpopular in his own party that promising to oppose him is a winning issue in Republican primaries?  But then, when have we had one with a 9% national approval rating?   And back home, his approval is just 18%.  

What we saw in Alabama we’re going to see again in Mississippi, Arizona, and Nevada.  The incumbents in these states are tied to McConnell, and he’ll spend most of his remaining money defending them.  In states where the seat is open, like Tennessee and possibly Utah, will any of the leading Republican candidates even want any of McConnell’s money?  You take the money, you pay the price.  Worth it?

In open seats, or in seats where an incumbent Democrat is being challenged, who wants to be seen as Mitch McConnell’s man?  Ask soon-to-be-former U. S. Senator Luther Strange about how that works out.

Or would you could ask Roy Moore, the anti-McConnell.  Soon-to-be Senator Roy Moore.


The King of the Swamp

The filibuster is a modern innovation.  It’s not in the Constitution, and it wasn’t used routinely until the 20th century.  It’s just a Senate Rule, which can be eliminated by a simple majority.

Senators like the filibuster because it magnifies the importance of each Senator’s vote.  It makes each Senator more important, and more powerful.  It prevents the Senate from getting much done, but Senators care about their individual power more than they care about serving in a functional institution.

President Trump has called for the elimination of the filibuster, and he’s as right as rain.  If you’re running for the Senate, and you support the President’s agenda, it behooves you to campaign on ending it.  If you’re a McConnell man, on the other hand, you want to be part of the Senate clique which runs it, and you like the filibuster.

Supporting McConnell, and joining his team, means you get a shot at being in the inner circle.  More importantly, it brings cash.  McConnell is able to spend millions for his preferred candidate, as he just did in Alabama.

But it beats me why anyone would run in a contested Republican Senate primary as a McConnell man.  People want the swamp drained, and Mitch McConnell isn’t just a man of the swamp.  He’s the Swamp King.  And his money is dirty.  It’s swamp money.

First Alabama, then Mississippi. Montana?

Senators from Mississippi have been an unimpressive lot.  Haley Barbour is the big foot Republican in the state, and he’s a big business, anti-populist establishment man.  His two Senators are Cochran and Wicker, and they are no more than running dogs for the Chamber of Commerce.

In 2014 Sen. Thad Cochran had no business running for reelection.  He looked and sounded like he belonged in a rest home.  He lost the first round of the Republican primary to a Tea Party man, State Sen. Chris McDaniel, 49.5% to 49%.  In the runoff Barbour and his deep pocket establishment money resorted to running ads on black radio stations calling McDaniel a racist.  So black Democratic votes in the Republican runoff primary returned Cochran to office.

It was disgraceful, and a lot of Mississippi Republicans are still angry about it.  They’re carrying a grudge, and when their other establishment Senator, Roger Wicker, runs for reelection next year they’ll be ready for him.  McDaniel, or some other real Mississippi conservative, will take Wicker on in the primary.  And if what’s happening in Alabama is any indication, Wicker could be in for a load of trouble.

AG and former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is not a particularly bright man.  He made a major mistake in not telling the President that he intended to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.  And now he’s making Trump look like a fool.  The man Jeff Sessions recommended to Trump, Sen. Luther Strange, is going to lose tomorrow, big time, and the President will have egg all over his face.

Sessions never told the President about the political problems Strange had back in Alabama.  A lot of Alabamans believe Strange made a corrupt bargain with the disgraced Governor who appointed him to Sessions’ seat.  That trumps Trump, and will cost him the election.

This election is a cause for great joy among real conservatives all over the country.  Mitch McConnell will have a bloody nose tomorrow night, and all those who think he’s nothing more than a shill for his contributors have cause to celebrate.

Every state, and every election, is different, and what happens in the deep south may not be reflective of the rest of the country.  But Alabama will give hope to every anti-establishment Republican in the country.  Even in Montana.

State Auditor Matt Rosendale is the establishment candidate in the Republican Senate primary in Montana next June.  He’s supporting Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader.  The anti-establishment candidate is State Senator Al Olszewski, who refuses to pledge allegiance to ruling Senate leadership.

If Al is as upset at the debacle going on in Washington D. C. as I am, he needs to start talking about it.  This is what I’d say.

“If you’re happy with the way the U. S. Senate is being run right now, I’m not your candidate.  One of my opponents, who has announced his loyalty to Senator McConnnell, is who you need to vote for.

“But if you think that what’s happening in the Senate is a disgrace to this country, and an embarrassment to the people of Montana, then I am your guy.  And I’m asking for your vote to go back to Washington and drain the swamp.”

The reality of Phoenix, and the myth of the runaway

The Phoenix Convention has breathed new life, and brought fresh blood, to the Balanced Budget Amendment movement.  Every day, as you read of the latest debacles in Congress, an Article V Convention seems more and more inevitable.  The sooner the better, of course, but however long we have to wait it will be worth it.

With Phoenix, and its Correspondence Commission, institutions have been created which are of enduring significance.  The 2018 Convention of States  —  probably in Nashville or Indianapolis  —   will build on the success of Phoenix.  My fondest wish is that these Conventions of States become an annual exercise.  Article V isn’t just about balancing the budget.  It’s really about taking power away from Washington, and returning it to the states, and the people.

For 230 years people have read the Constitution, and Article V.  The Phoenix Convention of States was, for the first time, a prelude to Article V in action.  It was exciting for a lot of us to be there.  It all felt real.

A number of delegates were a bit unclear about Article V when they first came.  But then they had that “Ahaa!” moment, when they “got it.”   For state legislators, it’s a feeling of empowerment.  They’re the ones ultimately in charge, and when they realize that, it energizes them.

They look at Congress, and shake their heads, and know they have a responsibility to do something about it.  And they will.