Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Olathe Republican Party's monthly meeting and hear from the Kansas director of the Convention of States Project. Senator Pat Roberts also spoke at the event, but I will leave my commentary on that for another time.
If you are unfamiliar with the project, it is a conservative plan to call for convention of states for the purposes of proposing new amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The specific requirements and authorization for such a convention can be found in Article V of the Constitution. The Convention of States Project hopes to use the method to reign in, what they say, is an out of control federal government.
The Article V crowd got a big boost when radio personality Mark Levin released his book, The Liberty Amendments, late last year. Levin's book brought a lot of attention to the effort from those on the right.
Levin's backing of a convention of states has been somewhat of a double edged sword. On the one hand, it has given tremendous publicity to the movement. On the other, Levin has lashed out at other efforts to reign in federal power, like nullification, calling those supporting those movements neo-confederates, a distortion I'd imagine is more about book sales than patriotism.
The nullify movement involves state passing laws that override or conflict with federal laws when the state believes the federal law is unconstitutional and violets their 10th Amendment rights. The largest backer of the tactic is the 10th Amendment Center, who has hosted a few events in Kansas City.
Mark Levin attacks nullification, saying it was something the founders never intended and was something that was never discussed at the original Constitutional Convention. However, history, as well as quotes from many of the founders, show nullification was something they advocated as a way to protect states' rights and personal liberty.
Not only is nullification more than theory, it has been carried out again and again throughout America's history. For example, California, Colorado, and Washington has all nullified federal drug laws by voting to legalize Marijuana in their states. Many other states voted to approve same sex marriage in violation of the Defense of Marriage Act and the Supreme Court ruled in the states' right to do so.
Closer to home, Missouri passed an amendment effectively nullifying portions of the Un-Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and Kansas preemptively nullified federal gun laws that are currently being considered that would ban so-called assault weapons.
The smears Levin has made towards the nullifiers has been met with harsh backlash. They've began organizing efforts to discredit the Article V movement. They point to past efforts by far left organizations like the Ford Foundation and George Soros who tried unsuccessfully to use what they sarcastically refer to as a "con con" to usher in a host of progressive changes to the constitution.
When word got out that a pro Article V activist would be speaking at the ORP meeting, nullifiers showed up to challenge the plan.
Discourse is a good and healthy thing, but it can go to far, moving away from working together to work towards the cause of expanding liberty to something more akin to an us versus them mentality.
This is not a football game, it is the fight for out and our children's future. To put it simply, nullify versus Article V is not an either or thing. It is an all above kind of thing.
A convention of states will take years to pull off. It involves 34 state legislatures drafting a call for a convention. The call must be specific and the same in all 34 states. Then it takes the convention agreeing on a new proposed amendments. Then it takes 3/4's of the states voting to accept the amendments in their legislature. It is a tough and timely process that was intentionally made so to protect the Constitution from being abused by any ideology that might seek to abuse the system to take away liberty from the American people.
Nullification, on the other hand, is much quicker. A law can be drafted, proposed, passed and signed into state law in just a few short months. It can put pressure on the federal court system to go on record when the federal government oversteps their constitutional authority. But, the court can always rule in the favor of the federal government, in which case Nullifiers are forced to either respect the rule of law, as they proclaim to do, and accept the court's decision or work with the Article V crowd to produce an amendment to reclaim the liberty the courts took away.
In both cases, if the states are willing and incapable of defending their rights and the rights of their citizens, than the argument is entirely moot. Currently the federal government uses coercion and other tactics the Supreme Court has upheld in order to force states to bend to their will. The states must be willing to reject those efforts, with force if need be.