PART 2 of 2
Timothy N. Baldwin, JD.
October 8, 2013
Moreover, there have been many conventions within individual States. They do not result in the annihilation of their constitutions, societies and liberty. In fact, one could argue that more—not less—individual liberties have been recognized and protected in updated state constitutions. All of these experiences and scholarship—including our own normal legislative procedures—shed light on the reality that contradicts Dr. Vieira’s chaotic presentation of a “black hole” amendment convention.
What is more, if Dr. Vieira can propose that such a chaotic event results from Article V, how can he claim that the rest of the Constitution is so rigid and self-evident that it is not subject to divergences of order and absolutes? How is the commerce power so crystal clear, yet Article V so impervious to known factors and procedures?
If the commerce power can be so easily defined that any person (including those who do not have multiple degrees from Harvard) can interpret it without contention, how does Article V fall outside the realm of normal modes of interpretation and enter into the mysterious world of unknowns? In reality, Dr. Vieira’s interpretation of Article V only confirms what James Madison said (above) about the judiciary’s role in deciding the “particulars” to explain the Constitution. It is the particulars of “case law” that have brought us to our point today, which is remedied through Article V.
Ultimately, Dr. Vieira admits that an Article V convention would BENEFIT our situation considerably. He said, “if everything went according to plan (which raises an host of other questions) a set of good amendments could, in principle, go far towards saving this country.” INDEED IT COULD! But he argues against it because he claims “it would take five, ten, or even twenty years to see significant results.” Is this a bad thing? What does he expect to take place in less than five years?—war, destruction, collapse, mushroom clouds? The reality is, those kinds of events force constitutional conventions faster than any other.
He may be unduly pessimistic anyway: The last state application campaign for a convention, early in the 20th century, successfully forced an amendment in 14 years. But that was before the days of the Internet and most other modern methods of communication and organization.
Personally speaking, the time frame he proposes is VERY exciting—to think that we could change our country’s future in my lifetime! This fits nicely with Thomas Jefferson’s proposal that our Constitution be sent to an Amendment Convention once every generation (approximately 20 years) so that each could correct any errors of previous generations. Dr. Vieira only confirms the reality and hope that we could improve our country’s condition in ONE generation! Saying “we don’t have time” is not a reason to reject the only fundamental and peaceful remedy we have to changing federal jurisprudence and our future.
Dr. Vieira then argues that our attention should focus on the Militia. The purpose of this article is not to rebut his position. Certainly the Second Amendment was intended to “secure a Free State.” But how can one claim that it is impossible to get people to use their MINDS to restore liberty and then claim that the people will (or should) use WEAPONS to restore liberty? What is more likely? What is preferred? My view of human nature is that people prefer to use their brains before their blood to accomplish a goal. We should use, not oppose, this basic component of our existence.
Then there is the question that must follow the Militia-answer: THEN WHAT? If the States were to use militia force (and yes, it is force) against the federal government or other States, would this not ultimately lead to a constitutional convention? It absolutely would. Even under Dr. Vieira’s theory of what is to come, we must do what other constitutional scholars have pronounced regarding Article V:
the time has come for academic lawyers to stop carping and bemoaning the possibility of a constitutional convention to consider the federal deficit. It is time for legal scholars to begin to think seriously about how such a convention should be structured and what its agenda and substance should be.
We should use Article V for the purpose George Mason stated in the Federal Convention Debates of 1787. “To Mason, it seemed clear that the Constitution would require amendments from time to time, ‘and it will be better to provide for them, in an easy, regular and Constitutional way than to trust to chance and violence.’”
JB Williams’ reasoning for rejecting Article V is contradictory and illogical. He states,
[Mark] Levin’s call for a Con-Con [in The Liberty Amendments] ignores the reality that our Founders placed everything needed to restore the Constitutional Republic in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and assumes that his ten new amendments will be an improvement upon the Founders work.
[Mark] Levin should realize that our Founders provided everything we need to restore our constitutional republic, if people would only stop trying to reinvent the wheel and stick to the basics.
These statements are particularly odd, because part of what the “Founders provided . . . to restore” our republic was Article V. They included it to allow the States to control an otherwise control-less federal government. Williams not only misses the obvious, but he attacks convention advocates for doing exactly what he says they should be doing! Williams also uses illogical formulas and misstated facts to argue against Article V. They follow.
In his numbers 1 – 4, Williams states that an amendments convention would be a matter of typical Republican-Democrat dynamic. He also states that the convention would be controlled by Congress. He is wrong on both points.
Of the States that have applied for the Balanced Budget Amendment, nearly half of them are Democrat-controlled. Despite what some attempt to portray about the Democrat-Republic paradigm, Republicans are not the only Americans who want less federal government. One sees how Democrats are much quicker than Republicans to denounce federal spying, privacy intrusions, needless “drug wars” and the like. This proves the point, and Williams puts too much stock in the Republican Party relative to Article V. To be clear, Article V will not be about Republican and Democrat politics.
Additionally, Williams ignores the evidence showing that, legally, Congress cannot control anything in the amendment convention. Williams also discounts that people who are and have been disenfranchised with normal politics will be invigorated to participate in Article V (including a large number of libertarians), because they will see it for what it is: a REAL way for the States to reign in federal power. This is not usual politics, nor is it intended to be. Therefore, each point is wrong and should not be used to reject Article V.
In his number 5, he states, “Ratification of any amendments that survive that process is even more difficult, requiring three-fourths of the states or of congress to ratify.” Williams actually shows why Article V would NEVER be unlimited—it is WAY TOO DIFFICULT to get a consensus of the delegates and the States to ratify any amendment that was not patently needful to correct our jurisprudence.
And what remedy of liberty is not difficult? (Have these “liberty leaders” changed their political strategy from principles to pragmatics?) That Article V is difficult shows how effective it can be to restore liberty. This means that the rewards will be equal to or greater than the work it takes to accomplish the liberty amendments. Williams’ number 5 should likewise be rejected as a basis for rejecting Article V.
In his number 6, he states, “The process could very well take years, during which time the nation will be hoisted into Civil War over the convention as we sink deeper and deeper into a socio-economic abyss.” What does time have to do with attempting to make the kinds of changes needed to avoid “Civil War”? And how can Williams predict such an Armageddon event? I have responded to the “time argument” of Dr. Vieira above, and it applies here.
Next, Williams claims that Americans are too dumb to know that we need less federal power. He points to the current Obamacare rivalry in Congress as his proof. This isolated and incorrect view of the political condition of the States is no compass to follow. Williams misses a fundamental point of political science—one that the Founders knew was inherent in the political system created by the Constitution. Political statesmen of 1787 knew that the people would have a different relationship to the federal government than to their states, which produces different results in those governments. Likewise, they knew the federal government would have a different relationship to the people than the state governments would have. All of this, of course, is based on human nature—psychology and sociology.
The way this distinction translates into political dynamics is simple: the farther away and bigger the government is in relation to the people, (1) the more susceptible they are to corruption, and (2) the less control the people have over the government. The Federalists explained the possibility of abuse this way, “The people can never wilfully betray their own interests; but they may possibly be betrayed by the representatives of the people.” Couple this with the federal judiciary’s “rubber stamping” Congress’ commerce and tax power, and the effect is worsened and deepened. This results: the federal government acts without regard to the people’s will—all the voting notwithstanding. As such, using federal laws to predict the content and results of Amendment Convention is unfounded.
Adding to the need of Article V, the Founders did not realize that the people’s power (which is inherently disorganized and diverse) would become overshadowed by the power and influence of lobbyists and other powerful entities (which are inherently organized and unified and thus more effective on legislators). In this sense, minority factions have more power over Congress than the whole of the people and States. If one brings into the equation the corruption of foreign influence, the people become even more remote in influencing Congress. This is not the case with Article V, which is a direct, grass-roots action of the people for a specific and limited purpose.
Williams then sets up a straw man to knock down by stating the following,
I agree that our government must be altered before abolishing it altogether is the only solution left. However, the Rights already belong to the people and their states. If two-thirds of the state legislatures had the good sense and backbone to stop the runaway Federal Government from destroying the entire nation, they would simply pass and enforce The Balance of Powers Act in their state and begin to stop unconstitutional acts by the Federal Government without any need for a Con-Con. (emphasis added)
Williams attempts to redefine 200-plus years of American history to judge the character of the States in reducing federal power. He states that if the States do not nullify federal law that they would not do so at an amendment convention. This mistakes a very large matter. This is like saying, if you do not marry a person of another ethnicity, you are racist. The truth is, even the most conservative of us do not necessarily believe that nullification is the answer—or even constitutional—just as people like Dr. Vieira do not believe secession is constitutional. Yet, those same people believe in (much) less federal power.
That States have not passed “The Balance of Powers Act” does not mean they do not want to limit federal power. The litmus test of the States preferring less federal government is not in nullification, interposition or secession. The test is simply that they recognize the need to redefine certain federal powers. On this point, many liberals and conservatives alike agree. It cuts across party labels and ideologies. This is the beauty of Article V.
Then, Williams makes a lot of unfounded statements that are really unworthy of lengthy comment, such as, “Why don’t ‘constitutional experts’ follow the constitution instead of attempting to re-write it via a very dangerous and cumbersome amendment process, which they will never be able to control?” Using Article V IS following the Constitution to control a control-less federal government!
Williams continues his biased assessment by attacking Mark Levin, stating,
I’m afraid that the simple answer is that the advice offered is not intended to provide any realistic solutions, but rather to simply sell books to good people in desperate need of solutions.
Such a statement reveals that Williams is no statesman on this issue.
Lastly, Williams strangely concludes by stating Article V is not a power or act of the people. He says,
Too many “patriots” are searching for solutions from others like Levin, when it is the people themselves who are the only solution available. I’m starting to think that the purpose of such books is to keep the people in the bleachers awaiting the next book, while they could be taking appropriate actions on their own at the local level.
Williams fails or refuses to recognize that Article V is THE MOST fundamental movement of the people there can possibly be in our constitutional system. It would change the course of our constitutional history forever, just as Dr. Vieira admits. It would have the effect of undoing decades of federal judiciary decisions giving Congress seeming plenary power. All of the other remedies under the sun cannot accomplish such a task in such a fundamental and peaceful way.
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In summary, those who use the two arguments stated above to oppose Article V have less ground to stand on than those who advocate its use to restore liberty. The time has come for patriots to embrace what our Founders gave us to remedy the kind of federal problems we are experiencing today.
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© 2013 Timothy N. Baldwin, JD - All Rights Reserved
E. Donald Elliott, Constitutional Conventions and the Deficit,
1985 DUKELJ 1077, 1081-82, Duke Law Journal (December, 1985).
2. Elliott, Constitutional Conventions and the Deficit, 1985 DUKELJ 1077 at1085.
3. I recommend studying this book on the subject of nullification, interposition and secession. Cogan, Neil H., Union & States’ Rights: A History and Interpretation of Interposition, Nullification, and Secession 150 Years After Sumter, (University of Akron , 2014).
4. Dr. Vieria observes that the PRINCIPLE of Article V is correct but argues the PRACTICE is not a good idea. This begs the question of whether patriots in the liberty movement should put practice over principle. As many are aware, many leaders in the “liberty movement” state that we are to never vote for a “lesser evil” because of the principle, regardless of what results. According to Dr. Vieira’s position on Article V, “liberty movement” patriots should begin using pragmatics and not principles to direct their decisions.
5. That Dr. Vieira would say that using the Militia does not “require or entail violence” is meaningless because it ignores the very nature of a militia—“the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The use of arms is the use of violence to “secure a Free State.” Militia’s purpose is not political, legal or otherwise peaceful in nature. So, while a Militia may not actually use force in a given situation, its purpose is to use force when necessary, and under what circumstance can one imagine a Militia not using force in a “Titanic” situation of society as presented by Dr. Vieira? And what world experience can he point to show that the Militia’s purpose does not require or entail violence?
6. Elliott, Constitutional Conventions and the Deficit, 1985 DUKELJ at 1080.
7. Elliott, Constitutional Conventions and the Deficit, 1985 DUKELJ at 1082-83, citing 1 THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787, at 121 (M. Farrand rev. ed. 1937).
8. The book, Union & States’ Rights, proves this point well.
Timothy Baldwin, born in 1979, is an attorney licensed to practice law in Montana (and formerly Florida) and handles a variety of cases, including constitutional, criminal, and civil. Baldwin graduated from the University of West Florida in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in English and Political Science. In 2004, Baldwin graduated from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, AL with a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree. From there, Baldwin became an Assistant State Attorney in Florida. For 2 1/2 years, Baldwin prosecuted criminal actions and tried nearly 60 jury trials. In 2006, Baldwin started his private law practice and has maintained it since.
Baldwin is a published author, public speaker and student of political philosophy. Baldwin is the author of Freedom For A Change, Romans 13-The True Meaning of Submission, and To Keep or Not To Keep: Why Christians Should Not Give Up Their Guns–all of which are available for purchase through libertydefenseleague.com. Baldwin has also authored hundreds of political articles relative to liberty in the United States of America. Baldwin has been the guest of scores of radio shows and public events and continues to exposit principles which the people in America will need to determine its direction for the future.
Web site: libertydefenseleague.com