Tea Party groups in Palm Beach County are getting hyped on the national movement's latest hobby horse, a convention of states to rewrite the U.S. Constitution.
The scheme is deeply, consciously antidemocratic, giving Wyoming, for example, with fewer than 700,000 residents, as much say in the process as California, with its 38 million. A mere one-third of America's citizens could dictate to the rest of us.
The Wellington Tea Party chapter hosted a presentation on the plan October 14; the Jupiter/Palm Beach Gardens chapter will discuss it January 6.
National Tea Party operative Mark Meckler is a key player in the scam, in alliance with radio gasbag Mark Levin, though the titular head of the project's organizational core is a Virginia-based Christian right attorney, Michael P. Farris. Inevitably, the Koch brothers are involved.
News of this latest wacko pipe dream first emerged earlier this month in reporting by the Washington Post and Slate. It seems that on December 10, at a meeting called by five GOP state reps, nearly 100 legislators from 32 states gathered on the grounds of Mount Vernon, George Washington's old estate. (Most of them were in town for the annual convention of the Koch brothers' American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where many attended a panel called "The Solution -- A Convention of States to Restrain the Power, Scope and Jurisdiction of the Federal Government," led by Meckler, Farris, and others.) The Mount Vernon meeting was closed to the public and press, but if the ALEC panel is any indication, the convention is designed to realize goals the right can't reach through elections and legislation. As the Post reported:
The convention of states group hopes to exploit the public's ever-eroding trust in the federal government for its cause and discussed how best to sell the effort. "It's not about states rights, it's about local control," Fariss said. The former, especially in the South, connotes slavery. When you use the latter, "you just steer the language in the proper direction," he said.
That the wackos know their program is antimajoritarian was made plain by Levin in a speech earlier this year, at the "Values Voters Summit," when he announced:
America is blue state right now. The only way to address this is to find 34 state legislatures and to take the time to do it.
As provided in Article V of the Constitution (the current one -- there's no telling what it would look like after going through the right-wing shredder), the convention of states works like so:
A minimum of 34 state legislatures must pass an "application" calling for a convention. Congress must then call a convention, naming the time and place. Delegates are chosen by individual state legislatures, by whatever method they devise. (Just imagine what the Tallahassee pinheads will dream up.) Each state has one vote at the convention. Repeat: Each state has one vote at the convention. If 38 state delegations favor an amendment, it becomes the law of the land.
What kind of laws? As Slate described the contents of Mark Levin's book The Liberty Amendments, the measures might include:
10 amendments, starting with 12-year term limits for members of Congress and Supreme Court judges. Unpopular Supreme Court decisions could be overridden by a three-fifths congressional vote, "not subject to a presidential veto." The 17th Amendment would be abolished, letting state legislatures once again elect the Senate. (If that happened today, the Senate would be snapped up immediately by Republicans.) If 34 states chose to, they could override any federal statutes or regulations "exceeding an economic burden of $100 million."
Goodbye, EPA. Goodbye, Medicare. Privatize social security. Labor unions (remember them?) -- history. Civil rights will be up to each state to define. You want prayer in school, you got it. The Koch brothers' dream of corporatocracy will be at hand.
Florida, being what it is, already has two legislators onboard, State Sens. Alan Hays and Greg Evers. In a way, we'd just as soon see them chase this particular dragon rather than work on some mischief that could actually come to pass. Same with the Tea Party. Though really, the regular folks who make up the latter should wake up, smell the coffee, and come to realize the true sources of our problems.
[UPDATE: It appears there are Tea Party groups highly critical of the "con con" idea and the people behind it.
In an email to New Times, a functionary of the New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition wrote:
Can't comment on your article about the Convention of the States, however, we feel this is a scam and Mark Meckler and his crowd do not know what they are doing. Mark Levin is a crackpot who just wants to sell books. Most tea parties in the northeast do not support this at all, including us. PS - Koch Bros was listed as a 'related' article but you should know they were not around when we formed in 2007 and had nothing to do with the movement's beginnings in 2007.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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