When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another1, . . . oops, no, wait a minute; Mark Levin’s The Liberty Amendments: Restoring The American Republic, has left me channeling my inner Thomas Jefferson, apparently.
A lawyer with a syndicated radio talk show and five-time author, Levin contends that we’re living in a post-Constitutional period, regrettably. From sea to shining sea, with impetus from Woodrow Wilson, a New Deal from FDR and accentuated by current “government masterminds,” delusional aspirations of a utopian society have driven the United States into the tyranny about which our founders warned. Executive-branch actions, judicial rulings, and Congressional initiatives have twisted and thus nullified the safeguards provided in our nation’s operations manual.
Levin, however, is hoping to exercise a portion of Article 52 in doing something never before achieved – amending our Constitution through the state legislatures instead of Congress. In interviews I’ve heard him explain, “You can’t expect Congress to fix Congress.”
It takes 2/3rds of the states (34) to propose and amendment and 3/4ths (38) to ratify, a formidable undertaking Levin acknowledges. He also realizes that convening state conventions to consider Constitutional amendments opens the possibility for amendments he would not favor, a risk he’ll assume as opposed to continuing toward calamity.
This most recent of his books encompasses an action plan to overcome the travesties outlined in Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America and Liberty & Tyranny, preceding works from the president of the Landmark Legal Foundation and former chief of staff to Edwin Meese, attorney general in the Reagan administration.3
The book carries a five-star rating on Amazon, and ranked sixth the week of October 6, 2013, on the New York Times’ nonfiction best-seller list.
The Liberty Amendments provide clarification and re-awakening to our Founders’ intent, addressing the following:
- Limit terms in the House and Senate to 12 years total combined
- Repeal the 17th amendment, enacted in 1913, and return election of Senators to the state legislatures
- Limit Supreme Court justices to 12 years and allow over-ride of the Court’s decisions by a 3/5ths vote of either Congress or the state legislatures
- Require a balanced federal budget, spending no more than 17.5 percent of GDP; institute a flat federal income tax of 15 percent and ban institution of any new tax
- Tame the federal bureaucracy by requiring re-authorization every three years of all agencies and departments, plus require Congressional review of any regulation that exceeds $100 billion economic burden
- Define parameters of the Commerce clause so it’s truly confined to issues transcending state lines and not merely anything remotely affecting commerce generally
- Protect private property with equitable compensation for financial loss caused by government initiative
- Lower amendment ratification to 2/3rds of the state legislatures from its current 3/4th.
- Empowers state legislatures to overturn any federal statute or $100 billion regulation by 3/4ths vote
- Require photo ID, perhaps one provided free, for voting and limit the absentee voting period to 30 days prior (or 45 days for active military)
You’ll note the proposals deal with systemic structure, absent social hot buttons the likes of same-gender marriage or abortion.
The genius of the book is the rationale for each proposal as explained in its individual chapter and presented with the expertise of an historian and Constitutional authority. There are abundant references to the Federalist Papers, and frequent reviews of relevant Supreme Court decisions identifying corruption of the original principal.
“The Constitution’s authors,” writes Levin, “intended it to serve as a steady, reliable, and not easily altered apparatus of governance built upon ‘unalienable’ rights by which a huge, diverse, and vigorous society could successfully govern itself. The amendment processes were intended to elevate any matter addressed in a proposed amendment beyond the realm of day-to-day political issue.”
Levin’s 2015 book at left, with the Liberty Amendments at right.
His proposals, it might be said, aim to idiot-proof our foundational document, for were it consistently interpreted and applied accurately, there would never have been:
- A Dred Scott Supreme Court decision in 1857 protecting slavery
- A Plessy v. Ferguson ruling in 1896 sanctioning segregation
- Internment during WWII of Americans of Japanese descent
- A separation of church and state edict that bans religious expression in public arenas, most notably our schools
- A legal right to abortion
- Dodd-Frank legislation establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Of those items only the last, Dodd-Frank, has yet to be adjudicated by the Supreme Court. In arguing for a 12-year term instead of lifetime appointment to the Court, Levin contends:
“Too often they (the Justices) look for ways to elude the Constitution’s limits in order to impose their own personal policy preferences,” a practice that results even in citation of international law, Levin effectively illustrates.
“The Court has issued numerous politically determinative decisions, nearly all of which promote a trajectory of expanded federal power, including the Court’s own authority, in defiance of the Constitution’s structure and limits,” Levin wrote.
Our Constitution consists currently of 27 amendments, the last ratified in 1992 – denying individual members of both the House and Senate the right to accept a pay raise Congress votes itself until the start of the next term. To illustrate the long road to ratification:
- The 27th Amendment was proposed in 1789, almost 203 years before its ratification.
- There have been approximately 11,530 amendments proposed, but only 27 adopted.
Of Levin’s liberty proposals, repealing the 17th amendment in order to restore a Senate accountable to its state legislature would probably also resurrect adherence to what has unfortunately become little more than a Bill of Rights relic — our abused and ignored 10th amendment (aka: enumerated powers):
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.5
The states formed the federal government, and the Senate was a watchdog guarding against usurpation of states’ authority. That changed in 1913.
“The day after the 17th amendment became part of the Constitution, the balance of power that had existed between the states and the federal government since the Constitution’s ratification was dealt a critical blow,” Levin writes. “The states no longer had a legislative venue, or any venue, to influence directly the course of the federal government. This contributed significantly to the dismantlement of the states’ traditional and exclusive areas of governing responsibility. As a result, today the federal government fills whatever areas of governance and even society it chooses. States sovereignty exists mostly at the will of the federal government. The federal government’s limited nature under the Constitution was transmuted into the kind of centralized power structure the Framers worked so diligently to thwart.”
Although possibly folklore but probably factual, there’s a story that verifies the founders’ concern. Upon emerging from the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin encountered a Mrs. Powell of Philadelphia. The woman wanted to know what kind of government had been constructed.6
“A republic,” responded the eldest of America’s founding fathers, with an after-thought that now rings an eerie warning:
“…if you can keep it.”