The following is an interview conducted by Joel B. Pollak of Breitbart News. It is an extensive and compleat overview of the new book by Mark Levin, “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring The American Republic,” published by Threshold/Simon & Schuster.
I just finished reading the book, and it is a vital edition to the canon of the liberty movement, as well as to an understanding of our Constitution. I wholeheartedly advise reading the book first, reading the below interview second and then reading the book once more with an eye toward the answers that Levin provides below to questions that will undoubtedly arise in your mind during your reading of the text. Or, for a quicker read, you can read the interview first and then the book second, again with an eye toward the answers to questions that will arise as you read the text.
A fruitful read, indeed! –SB
Breitbart News Interview: Mark Levin and The Liberty Amendments
by Joel B. Pollak 12 Aug 2013
Breitbart News: With The Liberty Amendments, you’re attempting to launch a movement to amend the Constitution. Do you expect to be successful, and how long would it take?
Levin: What I hope to do, at least in some small way, is begin a discussion among those of us who believe the Republic is unraveling, and find a way to re-establish the Constitution and reclaim our heritage. When you look at the massive debt and reckless monetary policies of the federal government; the ability of five Supreme Court justices to pervert the Constitution and impose via fiat their personal policy preferences on the whole of society without any recourse; Congress’s legislating, through massive bills, outside its enumerated powers and its delegation of unchecked power to a massive and growing bureaucracy, which legislates thousands of times each year by regulatory fiat; and the increasing authoritarianism of presidents who issue executive orders to create their own law and also blatantly rewrite statutes by interpretation and execution (or not) based on whether they agree with them or not; I think this and much more evinces the growing and steady decline of constitutional republicanism.
And I’ve concluded that Washington is incapable of reforming itself, which should seem fairly obvious. After all, it has designed the federal Leviathan, which is getting bigger and more aggressive. And I was thinking: What has this federal government become? It is not a constitutional, federal, or representative republic, as our Framers understood those institutions. I believe the federal government is increasingly operating outside the Constitution and that we are in a post-constitutional period. This is how justices, presidents, and members of Congress are able to concoct and then impose such monstrous laws as Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, among thousands of other laws and rules every year, on an unwitting population.
This book is written for those of us who fear what is happening to our nation–the increasing authoritarianism and abuse of the individual–and refuse to accept these events either by pretending they are not serious or as the inevitable decline of a great republic. This has been building for decades, since at least the advent of the Progressive era, and, in my view, requires a resolute, decades’-long effort to reverse course. So, the question arises, what do we do? For those of us who care, my book explores some of the possibilities. And they are provided in the Constitution itself.
The Framers knew better than others what it was like to confront actual tyranny. So why wouldn’t we look to these greatest men for answers? So, that’s what I did. If you look at Article V of the Constitution, it includes, among other things, two processes for amending the Constitution. The first process has resulted in twenty-seven amendments: two-thirds of both Houses of Congress propose an amendment, and three-fourths of the states are required to ratify it. In the second process, which is every bit as legitimate, two-thirds of the states decide to convene a meeting for the purpose of proposing amendments, which are then sent to the states for three-fourths ratification. It is a process that essentially bypasses Congress. Let me be as clear as I can: this second amendment process provides for a convention of the states to propose amendments, which in turn must be ratified by three-fourths of the states; it does not provide for a Constitutional Convention. Furthermore, because three-fourths of the states must ratify proposed amendments, there would be no “runaway convention” overturning the entire Constitution, as some might fear monger. I fully expect the most vociferous critics of this constitutional process to be among those who support or have contributed to all manner of constitutional evasions and distortions in favor of the increasing centralization and concentration of power, which is precisely what the Constitution was established to prevent.
Now, this is something I want to discuss at length on my program, and which I discuss at length in the book. I believe our strongest weapon is the Constitution, and therefore we should do all we can to reacquaint the American people with their Constitution. This is how we push back against a mindset that insists they surrender so much of their liberty to federal institutions; it is a mindset pounded home each and everyday by self-serving politicians, in academia, by the media, et cetera. Alexis de Tocqueville, and many others, eloquently warned about democracies acquiescing to the gradualism of soft tyranny and its destructiveness on man’s nature.
The amendment process of which I speak was proposed and enacted by the Framers, who considered it crucial to accomplishing the ratification of the Constitution, for it was specifically established to address the possibility of an oppressive federal government. In particular, George Mason insisted two days before the Constitutional Convention’s end that there needed to be a lawful and civil way to address an oppressive federal government, which he believed inevitable, short of violence and revolution. The Convention delegates in Philadelphia agreed. Thus, the Constitution provides that at least two-thirds of the states could ultimately get together, essentially bypassing Congress, and propose amendments to the Constitution which, in turn, all the states would then consider, three-fourths of which would be required to ratify them. This is no easy task. But it is the path the Framers provided in the Constitution to lawfully and civilly address an increasingly oppressive federal government, which ultimately would not control itself. So, we turn to the Constitution to save the Constitution, and restore the Republic.
As I write in the book, I admit that this is something that, originally, I was skeptical about. But having now thoroughly studied the intent of the Framers in this regard, it is crystal clear they put this process in place to provide us recourse under the kind of circumstances we find ourselves confronted with today. I need to underscore that this is not some radical or novel idea, although it has been largely ignored. It will be ferociously opposed by the proponents or beneficiaries of an all powerful federal government, or dismissed by those who delude themselves that nothing of this sort can happen in America and, as they will undoubtedly claim, Americans are resilient and we have overcome worse. But it is those who seek to further impose this alien design on our society who are the target of this amendment process. Their objections, albeit self-serving, are understandable. As for the others, let me say it is because Americans are resilient that I believe we are not destined for all eternity to suffer a miserable existence, which is precisely why we must take matters into our own hands by embracing the Constitution. It was President Reagan who famously stated: “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us that we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”
The book is called The Liberty Amendments for a reason. I have proposed eleven amendments for people to think about, not because I am all-knowing and all-powerful, but because they are my suggestions to encourage people to think about or, even better, to become active in reclaiming their heritage through this state convention process. The amendments I propose are not abstractions, but concrete suggestions, based precisely on what I believe, through research and scholarship, the Framers intended for this republic. I discuss each amendment at length in the book, and it is impossible to do them justice in a short interview. But it is worth remembering, whereas the statists promise a utopian paradise that conflicts with our constitutional order as justification for an ever-growing federal government, and many Republicans embrace the status quo, as designed by the statists– I call them neo-statists–I say let’s enthusiastically embrace the Constitution rather than fear it. Let’s be positive about it. It offers us liberty, opportunity, security. These amendments are all aimed at reclaiming our founding principles by unraveling the federal Leviathan and reducing the excessive and growing power of the ruling class.
Do I think this is doable, and how quickly? Absolutely, or I wouldn’t have written the book. The Framers thought so, because otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered including this process in the Constitution. Will it happen tomorrow? Absolutely not. But I dare say that at some point it will. Because the situation in this country will reach a point, with lost liberties and economic dislocation, that I believe the people will look for a legitimate and non-violent means by which to save themselves. The nation’s demise is not inevitable, unless we do nothing. We can prevent this, if we, the people, have the desire and motivation to do so. People want to know how we can do it. And the only way I can think of–I’m open to others–is by turning to the Constitution and the recourse the Framers left us.
One other point. Look at the statists. They play for keeps, and they are resolute. They never surrender, and they are never done with their social engineering and societal experiments. For example, for a century they have pushed national health care. They finally achieved it with Obamacare. Yet, Obamacare is just a start. It is a platform from which they intend to pursue endless lifestyle calibrations. The individual will be tormented and coerced endlessly. We conservatives, on the other hand, get impatient. We are too quick to abandon the battlefield. We must be as resolute, as defiant, as ambitious for liberty and constitutionalism as the statist is for the opposite. As I said earlier, there is an American spirit, and we must rekindle it and spread it. We need not accept this, we must not. We have children and grandchildren to think about; we must think about future generations, and not just the next two or three. We must encourage people to engage in the Constitution in the way that our Founders intended.
Breitbart News: Let’s get right into the book. I am going to ask you questions about each of your proposals, playing devil’s advocate to some extent, to bring out some of your ideas.
On your first proposal, which provides term limits–isn’t the judgment of the people enough? What if there is a great conservative legislator–wouldn’t you want him or her to remain in Washington?
Levin: For every great one there are twenty-five who are not. Here’s the point. No one Senator, Congressman, or President is going to save the Republic or advance society in some spectacular way. It is the civil society, where people acting in their private lives, involving themselves in voluntary economic and community activities, that is the strength of the nation. The civil society has to be strong if a country is to be strong.
In Egypt, Gaza and these other places, constitutional republicanism doesn’t work and can’t, because they have no civil society. In America today, the problem is that the federal government is devouring the civil society. The result–the redistribution of power from the citizen to the sovereign, and an endless array of rules and regulations involving darn near all that we do.
But the notion that we have to rely on one president or five legislators–that is the problem. We’re not going to find national salvation or reformation in one politician, nor should we. We ought not to [depend on] them to lead us to the Promised Land. Furthermore, in a world of imperfect people, and imperfect institutions, you have to have a system, as the Framers understood, to deal with this. Their system was to diversify power through a matrix of checks and balances, the enumeration of duties and roles, and limitations on central authority vis-a-vis the individual, including in the Bill of Rights. During the early period of the House of Representatives, fifty percent of Representatives served one term. Senators were chosen by state legislators. So, yes, we might lose some great Congressman or Senator, but the rotation of citizens in and out of public office was considered essential to the Framers, and for good reason. As you can see today, we now have a professional ruling class, led by governing masterminds, and an army of bureaucrats, much of which is immune from the voters’ reach. And not just the Framers, but great philosophers on whom they relied, such as Locke and Montesquieu, would reject the notion that a representative republic could co-exist with or survive under an entrenched ruling class exercising enormous power over society.
Breitbart News: What about Madison’s point in the Federalist Papers that a national government encourages the concentration and promotion of talent? Wouldn’t we struggle to open up the process and attract the best talent to government if we make it difficult for politicians to have political careers?
Levin: Right now we have effective lifetime terms, people who serve three, four, five, and six Senate terms, or twenty or more years in the House. There’s many reasons for this including gerrymandering, incumbents’ doling out tax dollars, et cetera. Regardless, how does any of this open up the process and encourage consensual government and citizen participation? It doesn’t. The goal here is to make sure representatives are more representative by spending more time with the people in their districts and less time cloistered in Washington, surrounded and influenced by a different group of people peddling their interests. There is a growing disconnect.
Let’s take Virginia, for example. You have the state Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, bringing the first lawsuit challenging Obamacare; yet the state’s two Senators voted for it. And this happens not only because of the different influences, but because–and this is related–the Senate is not constituted as the Framers’ had established. Before the 17th Amendment, most Senators were elected by state legislatures. That way the states have direct input in the federal legislative process. Today, senators treat their own states as they do any lobbying group–no better, no worse–and the states have no effective voice in the federal system. The Constitution would not have been ratified by the states had the Senate been constructed as it is today. And we should keep in mind, the 17th Amendment was a project of the Progressives, along with the federal income tax, both being enacted in 1913. I think it’s time to take a sober look at that.
Breitbart News: That’s a good segue into your second proposal–to repeal the 17th Amendment and have Senators elected directly by state legislatures. Doesn’t that limit the importance of the primary process–which has been critical for conservative candidates?
Levin: My proposal would make the process more interesting and relevant, and I believe we would see more people getting involved in the governing process because they would care very much about their state senator or delegate if they knew that these officials were going to participate in selecting the next U.S. Senator. The way the Senate is constructed today is nonsensical. The Framers did not want both houses to be elected directly. They wanted the Senate to represent the interests of each state.
As for the primary system, I would encourage people to get involved in it, and that would not change with respect to election for the House. The broader problem is that the federal government is so powerful, and getting more so, and its authority increasingly concentrated, that we need to look at how and why the system has broken down. So, this is about more than primary election, or one election cycle, within a system that is distinct from what the Framers intended. In my view, there needs to be a rebalancing of the system to undo the centralization of power–a reform that reestablishes the constitutional construct that has been undermined by the statists.
Breitbart News: In your third proposal, you provide for a supermajority to override Supreme Court decisions, and for term limits for Supreme Court justices. Wouldn’t that prevent a conservative court from blocking unconstitutional legislation passed by an out-of-control majority, as in the early New Deal period?
Levin: I’m proposing these amendments because of the very problem you’re talking about–because we haven’t had a majority of originalists–and the only legitimate interpretative method for any justice is to apply the language, intent, and meaning the Framers applied to the Constitution. Otherwise, what is the standard? Personal preference? Result-oriented political outcomes? All dressed up as justice? This isn’t about Republican or Democrat, this is about a stable and honest standard for interpreting and applying the law. If you look at the Court’s record from the start, it is mixed. There have been some great decisions and some diabolical decisions, and everything in between. The men, and now women, who serve on the Court are no different than the rest of us. They have biases and imperfections and frailties. They are human beings. The purpose of lifetime tenure was intended to ensure that justices would be unencumbered by politics or daily events. But what are we to do if a majority of the justices, only five lawyers, conduct themselves otherwise?
The goal here is several-fold.
One: As Thomas Jefferson got older, he commented on the problems of the Supreme Court and how it had quickly evolved into an institution foreign to the Framers. And he wasn’t alone. James Madison did, too. Politics aside, how do we decide who should serve on the Court? I strongly oppose the notion of electing judges. That would most certainly politicize them beyond what we have today. I support the notion of an independent judiciary. But what we are talking about here is not judicial independence, but judicial supremacy, where five justices can set national policy without any recourse whatsoever. Why should that be the case, especially since the Constitution provides no basis for this?
Two: Is it is possible that a conservative or liberal president would be able to put several justices on the Court? Yes–and it is possible today. The difference is that under my proposal, they will rotate out. I’m looking at this from a systemic view, trying to apply the Framers’ mindset to it, not a political or party view. During our history, we have had some great, adequate, and awful justices, as would be expected. But the awful justices, including those who’ve served their final years even with dementia, cannot be removed unless they’re impeached, which is a dead letter. This is no way for the third branch of the federal government, with enormous power, to operate.
Third: As I point out in the book, there are several examples of justices who, over the years, have demonstrated outrageous behavior, either due to bigotry, lack of ethics, mental ailments, etc. And there have been those who’ve blatantly conducted themselves with an ideological agenda. Whatever the reason, the justices can maintain their independence, as the Court would as an institution, even with term limits.
My amendment also empowers Congress, with a three-fifths vote of both Houses within a 24-month period, to override a majority opinion of the Supreme Court. The reason is straightforward: Why shouldn’t the larger body politic participate in the great decisions that impact the broader society, as opposed to only five lawyers, if there is enough sentiment in the country for a different outcome? And it’s five today going in one direction–tomorrow, with the change of one justice, the Court swings into a completely opposite direction. I’m not proposing that we democratize Court decisions, which would be disastrous, or that Court decisions be easily overridden; rather, I am suggesting that we provide a way for society to steady itself, in certain exceptional cases, without having to rely on the infallibility of five lawyers. In such matters, there must be a form of recourse. The Dred Scott decision, the most notorious of all, comes to mind.
If you think about it, this is not a radical approach at all, but a matter of common sense based on experience–a rebalancing that promotes republicanism.
Breitbart News: Your next two proposals limit spending, and limit taxation to 15% of income. Is there a distinction between that and a flat tax–you’re still giving Congress discretion to create a progressive income tax within that 15% limit, aren’t you?
Levin: What I suggest is a 15% top limit–and that there can be no other form of taxation, including the death tax, corporate income tax, nor can there be a national sales or value-added tax (VAT), etc. I suppose that within the 15% limit, if Congress wanted to create four hundred different brackets, they could. Also, in principle I’m not opposed to a “fair tax” [i.e. national sales tax that eliminates income and payroll taxes], either–my problem is the amount of money that the federal government takes from an individual. With a 15% top tax rate, the vast majority of what the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does will end. The vast majority of the IRS will end, too. Again, I’m not opposed to a fair tax, though it’s more difficult–I like it very much. But that’s something that can be fought out at a state convention.
My amendment on spending builds on an idea of Milton Friedman–that is, to limit spending to a particular percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The figure I chose is 17.5%. I picked 17.5% because if you look over relatively modern history 17.5% of GDP is significant enough.
One other thing I propose, which may seem modest but is actually important, is moving up Tax Day from April 15th to the Monday before the Tuesday of federal elections. And that’s because there needs to be a real connection between the payment of taxes and voting for federal officials. You really can’t look at the calendar and find two dates much further apart than our current tax and voting days. The ruling class in Washington doesn’t want people to connect the reality of confiscatory taxes to the allure of grand promises. But my experience is that after I pay my taxes, I’m ticked off, and I want to know where my money is going. I think it would have great appeal to a great number of people.
These two amendments address a dire condition: the reckless federal spending, borrowing, and money printing, which threatens to destroy this society and is already an unsustainable burden on future generations, and the insatiable demand for more and more of the individual’s property. It will only get worse, much worse. Congress will not and cannot reform itself; it has set the nation on this path. Why should we accept this outcome?
Breitbart News: In your sixth proposed amendment, you suggest limiting the federal government by requiring, among other measures, that each government department be re-authorized every three years. What about the Department of Defense? Why risk the loss of that critical department?
Levin: Why should it be a new risk? If Congress wanted to abolish the Department of Defense today, it could. What my proposal does is require an affirmative vote. I don’t think Congress would vote to eliminate the Department of Defense. But I do think they should go on record every three years to defend all of the departments and agencies that now exist; otherwise they should sunset. I wonder if members of Congress can even name all the departments and agencies that exist. The point is that we pay for these entities, and they issue endless regulations and rules, and they should not operate without having to defend their very existence every few years.
That’s not the only part of my reform. What’s also required, in my opinion, is an institutional way to ensure that Congress has a final say on regulations that have a significant economic impact on the nation, so departments and agencies can’t impose their will by fiat and without oversight. Even though Congress already has this power, it does not exercise it given its own internal and procedural chaos. I believe they’ve reigned in a federal regulation perhaps once or so. My amendment compels the establishment of a joint committee of members of the House and Senate, appointed by various leaders in the House and Senate; moreover, before any department or agency can issue a regulation or rule that has a significant economic impact–$100 million or more. If the joint committee votes yes, the regulation proceeds; if it votes no, it’s killed; if it doesn’t vote within six months, the proposed regulation is considered defeated. This is a small yet important step in revitalizing separation of powers and representative government, forcing Constitutional congressional review of decisions it had delegated to executive entities.
In addition, states will also have a say in federal regulations, since so many of them affect their sovereignty and citizens who reside within their boundaries. States can also override regulations that have a significant economic impact ($100 million or more) by a three-fifths vote. Moreover, [according to the tenth proposed amendment, below] states can, by a three-fifths vote, overrule a federal statute. The purpose is not the dissolution of the federal government, but the true sharing of responsibilities–and the kind of balancing and checking of authority necessary given the ubiquitous nature of the federal government. The states will actually have input into their own fate.
Breitbart News: Would your seventh proposal, which aims to promote free enterprise by limiting the Commerce Clause, nullify laws such as Obamacare?
Levin: What these two amendments [i.e. the seventh and eighth] provide is the re-establishment of private property rights and arrangements, and the affirmative promotion of rationing of commerce and trade. The reason the Framers met in Philadelphia to begin with was out of concern that the states were obstructing commerce, one between the other. I not only restate the original purpose of the Commerce Clause, I make clear what it is not intended to do by stating that is it not a plenary power granted the federal government to micromanage economic activity and private property rights. Furthermore, the amendment provides that what goes on purely within a state–not including navigable waters and so on–is no business of the federal government, period.
What would this do to Obamacare? What would this do to any law? Over time, when an amendment becomes law, the government has to adjust to it. The Supreme Court would have to abandon its own precedent for what the Constitution now compels, and develop a new interpretation–one which actually comports with the original purpose of the commerce clause. So, a new case, if brought properly, could be a big problem for Obamacare.
The proper application of the Commerce Clause, as intended by the Framers, would create an enormous burst of economic productivity, opportunity, wealth creation, etc. That is why I want to repeat, as I said early on: we need to think like Americans again, and not be cowed like defeated subjects. The idea is “ordered liberty,” not “ordered tyranny,” which is where we’re headed.
Breitbart News: And that brings us to the eighth proposed amendment, which expands the Takings Clause to protect private property. In your book, you discuss many cases, but I noticed that you did not mention the famous Kelo v. New London case, in which the Supreme Court said that a local government can use its powers of eminent domain to take private property for private use.
Levin: First of all, there is a big debate among lawyers about takings and outright seizures. But there is also the problem of regulatory takings. There are so many rules, and the Supreme Court has given enormous leeway to the federal bureaucracy, that very rarely do people succeed in court when challenging regulations as unconstitutional takings of property. In essence, the taking must be nearly a 100% seizure for them to win in most cases. My amendment says that the federal government must reimburse property owners for regulatory takings that cost over $10,000 in market value. That will have the salutary effect of also limiting how abusive the government bureaucracy has been in harassing private property owners and usurping their interests.
Unlike Kelo, my amendment would restrict the taking power–and would apply to takings at all levels of government, not just the federal govenrment. You’ll notice that I don’t specify the federal government in the amendment. I say “government.” I also make the point in the chapter, near the end, that states may not be happy with this amendment. However, citizens don’t care if it’s the federal or state government seizing their property, or denying them legitimate use of their property. They want their property protected. This amendment would apply to all levels of government. Obviously, the states would have to agree to reform themselves under the state convention and ratification processes via this amendment or one like it.
Breitbart News: The ninth amendment that you propose would make it easier for states to propose and ratify constitutional amendments, requiring only two-thirds of the states to agree to ratification. Would that not make it easier to pass bad amendments–such as has happened in the past, with the 18th Amendment?
Levin: We’ve had some bad amendments, we’ve had mostly good amendments, but here’s the problem: the Constitution has already been and is already being amended, and often, through the back door if you will. So much of what the federal government does has no constitutional basis. The most recent and notorious example is Obamacare, where every branch of the federal government acted unconstitutionally. Therefore, this is not an academic debate. As I say, we live in a post-constitutional period. The fact is that the Constitution has been mangled and disassembled. This was the design of the Progressives. Woodrow Wilson, among the most progressive, said it in so many words that we had to abandon the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for a centralized government, much like several European nations he preferred, for only then could there be human advancement. This is so wrong on so many levels. Since then, we have moved further and further from our founding principles because we’ve become increasingly unmoored from the Constitution.
It’s very difficult to get three-fourths of the states to amend the Constitution. It’s not difficult to get five Supreme Court justices to do so, or one president through an executive order, for which we, the people, have little recourse. Under these circumstances, it’s necessary to confer authority on the states to serve as the buffer between the federal government and the individual, as originally intended. So, the reform would not only lower the bar to two-thirds, but also allow the states to propose amendments themselves. It is by no means a simple accomplishment, but it is less difficult. We should remember that even with Obamacare, fewer than thirty states joined the brief against challenging its constitutionality, and there were Republican governors who wouldn’t join the brief, such as Chris Christie. We couldn’t get three-fifths of the states to even sign the brief. Clearly, two-thirds is still a challenging majority. No, I don’t think my amendment lowers the bar too much, but I do think it has already been lowered way too much when we have every federal branch and department contravening, evading, and amending the Constitution without the benefit of using the formal amendment processes.
I say on my program from time to time that the Supreme Court, for example, is an ongoing Constitutional Convention without the benefit of input from the states or the people. Abraham Lincoln, after the Court’s pro-slavery Dred Scott decision, lamented that two private parties could bring a case and thereby set policy, by means of a Court ruling, for the entire nation.
Breitbart News: Your tenth proposal allows states to override a federal statute by a three-fifths vote. But is that really necessary if you restore the power to elect Senators to the state legislatures?
Levin: Theoretically, you are correct. But I don’t know which amendments will or won’t pass or even which amendments will be proposed at a state convention. I can’t be 100% certain. While some overlap, there is not complete overlap. And the issue of the Senators may be the most controversial of all, even though it shouldn’t be. As early in our history, the people vote for state representatives and state senators who, in turn, select the federal Senator. They would not longer vote directly for senators. It returns Congress to the bicameral body the Framers intended and established–where the House is directly elected and the Senate is made up of members chosen by the state legislatures. We need both for the proper functioning of the constitutional order. I reiterate: it needs to be understood that the states were intended to be a buffer between the people and the federal government, and the selection of Senators by the state legislatures actually helps preserve liberty.
Today states have no power against the federal government. It’s a complete turn of events. And this enables the statists to more easily nullify provisions of the Constitution. Another example: promises by the Federalists to introduce in the First Congress what became the 9th and 10th Amendments of the Bill of Rights were imperative in persuading skeptics in the state ratification conventions to support the Constitution. Little attention is paid to them today. The statists have all but nullified the Commerce Clause and the Takings Clause, as briefly mentioned earlier. The list is very long. What I’m arguing for is a constitutional revitalization as the means to restoring the American Republic.
Breitbart News: Finally, your eleventh proposed amendment seeks to protect the vote, including through such measures as federal voter photo identification. But isn’t that what the left wants–to federalize voting?
Levin: And look how far they’ve succeeded. But apart from what they want, the problem here is that Congress and the Supreme Court, among others, have made a mess of voting. Let me remind you that if this proposal were to go to a state convention, and passed by a two-thirds of the states in attendance, then a three-fourths vote for ratification by the states, at that point obviously the states would want it since they did it. It’s not me imposing it on them, and not the federal government. The states need the Constitution to bring order to elections–particularly for federal elections involving members of Congress, the President and Vice President. It will have no effect on the states’ own elections unless states choose to adopt them for their own elections. But some of these states are setting earlier and earlier voting periods for federal elections, and using all kinds and varieties of voting technologies. There is real and legitimate concern about whether only those who have a right to vote are voting. In order to register and vote, the amendment provides for basic and minimal proof and procedures. Furthermore, such a process is preferable to having the courts sort these things out through lawsuits.
Breitbart News: Among the many amendments you propose, there are no amendments on social issues–none on abortion, marriage, or prayer, for example. Is there any particular reason you did not include those?
Levin: These amendments don’t proscribe social issues or any other issues. They provide, for the most part, a systemic approach to redress the dissolution of our constitutional process–that is, their primary focus is unraveling the concentration of power in the federal government, revitalizing federalism, and providing recourse for notorious federal acts. But obviously there are provisions for overriding federal decisions with supermajority votes by the states as well as a direct amendment reform empowering two-thirds of the states to directly amend the Constitution. Thus, the book does not provide a laundry list of specific issues but a more representative process for addressing them.
Breitbart News: In closing, some talk radio hosts focus on media criticism, others on current events. You’re offering a specific agenda. In the absence of Republican leadership, are you playing the role of a leader of the opposition?
Levin: I don’t view myself as leader of the opposition, or frankly as the leader of anything. Where I see gaps, or lack of motivation and enthusiasm, I try to fill them. My words are my words, whether through the microphone or in my books. I’m not really trying to be the leader of the opposition. I have spent my entire life studying, researching, thinking about, writing about, and talking about our founding, our heritage, our principles, and their application to current events and times. If I can help advance a resurgence and a revitalization in support of the Constitution and individual liberty, leader or not, that is what I am going to do. And of course, when you’re a radio host, it’s crucially important that you be entertaining, that you know you are in a business and need to be profitable, and that you be the absolute best you can. There is no conflict in doing all these things. And based on my vast and wonderful radio audience and readership, it seems to be working.
The Liberty Amendments is different from my other books. I use our history to propose actual reforms aimed at restoring the Republic. These are not easy steps, given where we are today, but I believe they are worth a great debate and effort for the shape of our nation is changing in ways that are unacceptable, and fast.
Breitbart News: You have a vision of liberty that may no longer be shared by many Americans. Are we so far gone, as the American people, that we have lost the virtue necessary to be self-governing?
Levin: We’re going to find out. But there’s no reason to accept the most negative portrayal of Americans. A good number of our fellow citizens have surrendered to, or been conquered by, the federal government–either through subsidies and entitlements, or by coercion through taxation and penalties. It is always easier to go along to get along. And there are also the utopian ideologues, who insist on destroying our society and redesigning it–and we, the people. This has been going on for some time, and has intensified in recent years. We must resist it or it will devour us.
The statists’ goal has always been to reshape man and his nature in pursuit of the ever elusive paradise. No matter how they try, as they have throughout history, they fail. But the misery is horrific. They demand that the individual surrender his free will–and some of us, I think millions of us, aren’t prepared to do it. One thing that I use on my radio show to give people hope is some historical perspective. During the Revolutionary War, about one-third of the colonists supported the Revolution, and about one-third supported the Crown. The other third was relatively indifferent. If you look all over the world, at the various revolutions and uprisings and so forth, typically it’s not 51% of the people rising up–it’s the activists that are crucial. And so much of the what is done by the federal government is without input from, or in defiance of, the people. Most of us have no idea what laws and regulations are being promulgated in our name. By the time their real effects are felt, it is too late.
I am not willing to say: it’s all over, we’re doomed, there is nothing we can do. I would rather say: let’s fight. Let us do everything we can do to preserve this society right now, before it really is too late. Whether by Abraham Lincoln, or Joseph Story, or Ronald Reagan, we’ve been warned time and again that if America is to be destroyed, it will be destroyed from within.
The purpose of The Liberty Amendments is not only to give people hope but guidance. Here’s hoping it helps breath life into a vigorous effort to reclaim our Constitution and restore the Republic.
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