On this Constitution Day 2017

September 17, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on On this Constitution Day 2017 

After 230 years, our founding document is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. No, I’m not talking about the actual document housed in its sealed case, but instead the wear and tear its principles are undergoing as people are taught less and less about its true meaning and purpose and those who would prefer the absolute power to be corrupted absolutely take advantage of the situation they lent a hand in creating.

In the last few days before I wrote this we have had people who aired their grievances by protesting in the streets and creating a violent disturbance about a trail verdict they disagreed with, others who object to the placement of statues, monuments, and other historical markers they deem to be racist or inappropriate to the point of tearing them down, and a gathering of “juggalos” that emulates two men who call themselves the Insane Clown Posse demonstrating in the nation’s capital because the government believes they are a gang. (I’m not a rap fan so don’t ask me what they sing.) Believe it or not, of the three, the juggalos and juggalettes seem to be petitioning for a redress of their grievances in the most proper way. Whooda thunk it? [And, before you ask, I have drank some share of Faygo – to me (and a few others) rock n’ rye was the best flavor, although I think many are partial to the redpop.]

Now it’s not just the Bill of Rights that people are taking advantage of. Consider what the government of today, particularly Congress, does to “promote the general welfare,” and compare it to a paraphrase attributed by the Annals of Congress to then-Rep. James Madison: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” As economist and pundit Walter E. Williams correctly surmises, “Any politician who bore true faith and allegiance to the Constitution would commit political suicide.” And never mind the so-called “deep state” of bureaucrats that Congress has, over the years, ceded more and more of its oversight power to.

Thus, we have created a federal judiciary system with judges who often value the emotion of the so-called “victims” of a law more than what the Constitution says (or doesn’t say) about it, with the backing of the easily interpreted intent of those who wrote it to help guide them. We have created an educational system where Washington has an outsized role – even though the vast majority of the funding is raised locally – and it too often teaches children about their “rights” (whether real or created out of whole cloth) but not their responsibilities. And we have created an enforcement arm that can taint broad swaths of people with the accusation of being engaged in criminal activity based simply on music they listen to and symbols associated with it. (And before you say that’s well-deserved, ask yourself if you reacted like that when it was the TEA Party being scrutinized for criminal activity because they disagreed with policy decisions.)

I certainly wish the Constitution well on its birthday, but truly believe that too few understand its role in shaping our national history. Anymore it seems that if the Constitution conflicts with what they want then they call it outdated or irrelevant, but if it happens to be on their side suddenly they’re the stoutest defenders.

Many years ago I suggested some amendments to the document, and perhaps this is a good time to revisit these ideas with a little updating as needed. We have gone 25 years without a change to the Constitution, which is the longest drought in over a century. Aside from the 13th to 15th amendments in the few years after the War Between the States, the Constitution was largely untouched in the 19th century. But after the 16th Amendment was adopted in 1913, there was a flurry of activity in the following two decades that brought us up to the 21st Amendment, which repealed the earlier 18th Amendment that brought Prohibition. Another peak of activity in the 1960s and early 1970s was primarily to address civil rights, although the 26th Amendment established a national voting age of 18. But since 1992, when it was codified that Congress couldn’t vote itself a raise in its present term (an old idea originally intended as part of the Bill of Rights) we have left the body at 27 amendments.

So this is my updated version.

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If I were to ask for a Constitutional convention (allowed under Article V of the Constitution) I would ask for these amendments.

28th Amendment:

The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments are hereby repealed, and the original Constitutional language in Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 and Article I, Section 3, Clauses 1 and 2 affected by these amendments restored.

29th Amendment:

Congress shall make no law that codifies discrimination for or against any person based on their race, religion, gender or gender identity, or sexual orientation. This Amendment shall also be construed to include a prohibition on Congress enacting additional criminal code or punishment solely based on these factors.

30th Amendment:

Section 1. With the exception of the powers reserved for Congress in Article 1, Section 8 of this document, funds received by the federal government shall be disbursed as prescribed in the federal budget to the States in accordance with their proportion of population in the latest Census figures. No restriction shall be placed on how the several States use these funds.

Section 2. Congress shall not withhold funds from states based on existing state laws.

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The desired end result of these three amendments would be to restore state’s rights, make the government live within its means, and provide truly equal justice under the law. Naturally, I don’t foresee any of these passing in my lifetime (because, as I said, absolute power corrupts absolutely) but the idea still needs to be placed out there.

The Democrats’ summer of resistance (to common sense)

You know, there’s no shortage of irony that exactly 50 years ago many of the granola-crunching veterans of the leftist political movement were putting flowers in their hair and heading out to San Francisco to celebrate the “Summer of Love.” (Yes, that was 1967. I was two years old at the time.) Now their progeny are gathering around their computers later today to hear Rep. Keith Ellison of the Democratic National Committee and other “special guests” blather on about how they will have the “summer of resistance” this year. More than likely it will be just as successful as one of the several “recovery summers” the last administration tried to drum up support for, but no matter – we know how this will go. Instead of the summer of love, it’s the summer of hate for what’s made America great (and I’m not talking about Donald Trump.)

Just look at what the Left has been getting themselves all worked up over since President Trump came to office. They dressed up as large-scale versions of certain lady parts to promote funding Planned Parenthood, a code spoken with the true meaning of their “right” to murder babies in the womb under the guise of “choice” or “reproductive rights,” completely forgetting that, at the moment of conception, the tiny human inside them earned the most pre-eminent of all rights, the right to life. (For without life, how can you enjoy liberty or the pursuit of happiness?) Corollary to that was Trump’s vow to repeal and replace Obamacare, which was a replacement more than I would have preferred.

We have spent countless hours of news coverage and barrels of ink talking about a possible Russian influence on our elections, but the question that should really be asked is why their propaganda was so believable? If we thought the worst about Hillary Clinton, there had to be a reason why and I don’t think we have been working for the last 16 years, through two other presidents, just so the Russians could set up an election between Clinton and Trump because they utterly feared the former and had plenty of dirt on the latter. I would believe the reverse far more readily, but the Left keeps playing with the “Trump is a Russian puppet” narrative.

The latest hissy fit from the Left comes as Donald Trump has decided the Paris Climate Agreement as negotiated by the Obama administration isn’t for him, so he wants a do-over. Of course, the Left is having a collective cow on this one as well, but it’s also worth noting that some of the more foolish states and localities among us are vowing to continue working on their own toward the parameters of the Paris Climate Agreement.

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As I see it, what the Democrats are proposing isn’t the summer of resistance but the summer of submission: willfully being tied to an inept, impersonal, and immoral nation-state that dictates our actions to us rather than allowing us the freedom to chart our own course. A true Summer of Resistance would perhaps have a convention of states that proposes only a handful of new amendments to our founding documents to provide for the following:

  • The repeal of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments, with concurrent adoption of a consumption-based tax system and return to state legislatures electing Senators as terms expire
  • An amendment prohibiting discrimination against or for certain groups in various legal functions, including crime and punishment
  • A balanced budget, except in instances of Congressionally-declared war or state of emergency
  • Additional language to clarify and rein in abuse of the general welfare and commerce clauses

This convention would also come up with a list of names from around the nation that would constitute a new court system to replace the present appellate system that has gone too far out of balance. Along with sending the new Constitutional amendments to the states for ratification, this new court system would be on the Congressional Summer of Resistance docket as well as a budget that completely rightsizes the federal government by returning it to the duties they are supposed to do.

By summer’s end, Americans would be free of their federal burdens. Yes, for some it would be a struggle at first but it would be incumbent upon a nation that is the most charitable in the world to give the helping hand to those in need voluntarily, and not via the force of government edict.

Instead of a good Summer of Resistance like the one I described, though, we’ll just get more anger and angst from people who still haven’t accepted the fact that Donald Trump won more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton did. Try as they might, they can’t resist that simple fact. But they can (and will) continue to piss and moan a lot.

Earning my presidential vote: role of government

In the final of my issues segments, I get to the most important one to me: how the President understands and addresses the role of government. I’m just going to dispense with the bullet point this time: government must be limited and conducted in accordance with the Constitution. To do otherwise is an abomination and diminishes our standing as a nation – unfortunately, we have endured this status for (depending on the perspective of the observer) anywhere from the last eight years to the last hundred. (Some even trace it back to the War Between the States or even the Marbury v. Madison decision.)

To re-introduce the candidates, we begin with Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, then it’s Jim Hedges of the Prohibition Party, Tom Hoefling of America’s Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, and independent Evan McMullin. Johnson is on the Maryland ballot; the rest are write-ins but their votes will count. And if you want to start this series from the beginning (this is the tenth part) you can go here and I link to each succeeding part in turn. At stake is fourteen points, which is the highest individual total.

So let’s see what the people have to say, shall we? I’m going to warn you: this is the longest part because a lot of elements fell into this category.

Castle: No one wants to limit government because it doesn’t fit the goals of the establishment, which is why there’s little coverage of his campaign.

“Who wants to have limits set on what you can do if you can be emperor of the world? Power corrupts. The Founders knew that. It’s human nature to want more and more power, which the Founders understood very well. The people of the United States have permitted their government to exercise almost absolute power, and that’s a mistake. The system the Founders gave us is not self-policing; the people have to do that, through their representatives. And we seem to have pretty much forgotten that.”

Would end the Federal Reserve and return nation to the gold standard.

“Today I want to speak to you in defense of liberty and against tyranny. I speak for the republic and against the fascism that seems to be enveloping us. The general government was created by the sovereign states for a specific purpose; that purpose was to protect our God-given rights. Anything that runs afoul of that purpose is therefore illegal and unconstitutional. And since virtually everything this government does runs afoul of that purpose, virtually everything it does is illegal and unconstitutional.”

“Private property rights are under assault in communities and rural areas across the nation as state and federal authorities move to enforce new planning development programs, particularly under the labels of Sustainable Development or Local Visioning.

Local elected representatives are being overshadowed by the establishment of non-elected boards, councils, planning commissions and regional governments. These non-elected organizations are taking government further away from the people as they are unseen and unapproachable. While totally unaccountable to the people, they enforce policy that affects property rights, tax rates, etc.

Across the nation communities are being pressured by federal agencies to accept grants for local sustainable projects that affect property rights and destroy local control. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

I would withdraw the federal government from such international, sovereignty destroying legislation. I would stop the federal government from manipulating local communities with handouts, and begin the process of handing control of their lives and property back to the local people.”

“I would end the Federal Reserve’s control of the United States’ monetary system by repealing the Federal Reserve Act. Interest rates would no longer be tampered with, as lenders and borrowers would set their own rates.

I would remind the banks that there would no longer be a Federal Reserve to lend to them in an emergency so if a bank gets in trouble, it’s on its own.

Then I would let the American people know that they are now free to use whatever currency they want. The dollar would again be exchangeable for a fixed quantity of gold and the U.S. Treasury would now accept any major currency, including bitcoin, in payment of taxes. As a result, the country would return to a traditional and sensible money system so people could decide for themselves what kind of money they wanted to use. They could save it, spend it, or put any price they wanted on it if they wanted to lend it out.”

Respects people who favor term limits, but disagrees.

War on Drugs has been a “terrible disaster.” (Facebook) “Tell me something today that has created more crime than the War on Drugs.” It’s time to declare peace. (“Iron Sharpens Iron” internet radio show)

Hedges: Term limits for Supreme Court justices.

“The role the federal government should be to ensure that all citizens are treated equally before the law, that we don’t retreat back to the times when only white, male, land owners were allowed to participate in government.

The states should be allowed to make their own regulations about a lot of things. Now, if there is a spillover two adjacent states, such as air pollution from coal-burning power plants, or alcohol sales adjacent to Indian reservations, then the interstate compacts or national courts need to resolve these conflicts. But, the states can experiment with 50 different solutions to various problems and maybe a few of those experiments will work and be a guide for everyone, while a mandatory national policy has just one chance of getting it right.”

Voodoo economics from Democrats and Republicans – deficit spending. Alarmed by “sustainable level of deficits.”

Key issue: who is in charge, states or D.C.? “Today we have 50 sovereign, independent states that are united under the Constitution. States need to step up, since states created federal government.” (Bayes)

Supreme Court and President cannot make law, Court members who do so should be impeached. (Bayes)

“The Constitution mandates that Congress shall have the sole power to coin money and to regulate its value. We will abolish the Federal Reserve System, establishing in its place a government-owned National Bank. Predatory lending activities and punitive rates of interest will be banned. We will encourage the formation of state banks where qualified entrepreneurs can borrow money for investment in job-creating enterprises at minimal interest.” (party platform)

Party favors balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Hoefling: We seek to restore the intended balance between the three separate branches of our government, and to strictly limit government to the Enumerated Powers granted and expressed by the will of the people of the United States in our Constitution.

All existing functions of the Executive branch that are outside of those Enumerated Powers must be eliminated.

All spending and regulation by the Legislative branch that lies outside the Enumerated Powers must cease.

Judges who attempt to legislate from the bench, or who abandon the clear principles of our Constitution, must be checked if liberty and justice are to prevail in our society once again.

We demand a return to adherence to the provisions of the Tenth Amendment: “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.”

We also call for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. Its enactment greatly reduced the power of our state legislatures and state governments – which are much closer to the people – and damaged our system of federalism. (party platform)

“Just as ‘good fences make for good neighbors,’ good government is mainly about knowing where the legitimate boundaries are, and having the courage to defend those borders forcefully. This is true in terms of the defense of our territory, our security, and our national sovereignty, but it also applies to the sworn duty of all of those in government to equally protect the God-given, unalienable rights of each individual person, from their creation onward, their sacred obligation to stay well within the enumerated powers of our constitutions, and of the role legitimate government must play in balancing the competing rights and interests of the people, in order to establish justice.” (personal website)

Johnson: No excuses. No games. A REAL balanced budget.

By 2017, the national debt will be $20 TRILLION. That is not just obscene, it is unsustainable — and arguably the single greatest threat to our national security.

Responsibility for the years of deficit spending that has created our debt crisis rests squarely with BOTH the Republicans and the Democrats. The debt doubled under President George W. Bush — and doubled again under President Obama. During that time, both parties enjoyed control of Congress, and the deficit spending just kept piling up.

It doesn’t have to be that way, despite what the politicians say. But the idea that we can somehow balance the federal budget without cutting military spending and reforming entitlements is fantasy. What is required is leadership and political courage. As Governor of a state with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, Gary Johnson stood up to excess spending, vetoed 750 bills and literally thousands of budget line items … and balanced the state’s budget.

Governor Johnson has pledged that his first major act as President will be to submit to Congress a truly balanced budget. No gimmicks, no imaginary cuts in the distant future. Real reductions to bring spending in line with revenues, without tax increases. No line in the budget will be immune from scrutiny and reduction. And he pledges to veto any legislation that will result in deficit spending, forcing Congress to override his veto in order to spend money we don’t have.

Limit terms. Increase accountability. Bring back representation.

Under a republican form of government, representatives should be accountable to all people, not institutional forces like lobbyists, special interests, and partisan gamesmanship. Yet today, politicians are often unable to do their job because they are incentivized to do what it takes to get re-elected, not to do what is right for the American people. This doesn’t make them bad people. But it does make for bad representation.

This is why we adopted the 22nd Amendment in 1947, to limit the number of terms a President can hold office to two terms. We did this because we recognized that a President should focus on representing the people instead of playing politics.

Yet today, we have a perpetual election cycle that incentivizes politicians to speak along carefully crafted campaign talking points, constantly ask special interests for campaign donations, and rely on their political party campaign machines for election support. And we wonder why we have such extreme partisanship in Washington?

Can a Republican support gay marriage? Not if his or her first priority is to get re-elected.

Can a Democrat vote for a tax cut? Not if his or her first priority is to get re-elected.

And that is where we are at today. Whether it’s foreign policy, taxes, civil rights, or any other issue — Democrats and Republicans alike cannot take positions on behalf of their constituency because partisan campaign rhetoric trumps the pursuit of practical policy.

As the spending continues unchecked. As the wars continue. And as Government keeps taking away more freedoms, the dangerous dedication that politicians have to getting re-elected keeps representatives from doing the job they were elected to do in the first place.

That’s why Gary Johnson is a strong advocate of term limits. And that’s why Governor Bill Weld served as national co-chairman of U.S. Term Limits.

Run for office, spend a few years doing the job at hand, and then return to private life. That’s what Gary Johnson and Bill Weld did as governors, and that’s what all our representatives should do too.

Our founding fathers established the 4th Amendment, for example, to prevent the government from snooping into our private lives without a warrant.

Yet today, we have a national government that spies on private communications, monitors your financial transactions, photographs your license plates, and even will track everything you do at a public library — all without warrants or due process of law.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld want to get the government out of your life. Out of your cell phone. Out of your bedroom. And back into the business of protecting your freedoms, not restricting them.

End the War on Drugs. Reduce Recidivism. Support Law Enforcement.

The failed War on Drugs is, of course, the greatest example. Well over 100 million Americans have, at one time or another, used marijuana. Yet, today, simple possession and use of marijuana remains a crime — despite the fact that a majority of Americans now favor its legalization.

And who is most harmed by the War on Drugs? Minorities, the poor, and anyone else without access to high-priced attorneys.

More generally, mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of offenses and other efforts by politicians to be “tough” have removed far too much common-sense discretion from judges and prosecutors.

These factors, combined with the simple fact that we have too many unnecessary laws, have produced a society with too many people in our prisons and jails, too many undeserving individuals saddled with criminal records, and a seriously frayed relationship between law enforcement and those they serve.

Fortunately, a growing number of state and local governments are taking steps toward meaningful criminal justice reform. The federal government must do the same, and Gary Johnson is committed to bringing real leadership to this long-overdue effort.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are committed to meaningful criminal justice reform. (campaign website)

McMullin: Evan McMullin is a constitutional conservative who will reverse the unaccountable expansion of federal power at the expense of state and local government. He will restore the constitutional system of checks and balances, which designates Congress—not the president, the courts, or the bureaucracy—as the only body capable of making laws. Evan will appoint judges committed to upholding the Constitution as originally written and understood, instead of imposing their social agendas or legislating from the bench. These reforms will help to ensure that our country continues to have government by the people, of the people, and for the people.

In defiance of the Constitution, President Obama has relied on executive action to force through controversial proposals that failed to win support in Congress. When Congress refused to pass the immigration reforms that Obama wanted, he issued a de facto amnesty that would cover as many as 5 million illegal immigrants. When Obama failed to persuade Congress to restrict carbon dioxide emissions, Obama had the EPA issue a Clean Power Plan that would achieve his goals. Federal courts eventually blocked both Obama’s amnesty and the Clean Power Plan.

Even when Congress does what Obama wants, he has taken new powers for himself that go far beyond legal limits. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”), the president repeatedly made substantial changes to the program without congressional authorization. He suspended requirements, issued waivers, and even appropriated federal dollars without permission from Congress.

Under Obama, independent agencies have also begun to exceed the bounds of their authority. In 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sought to block Boeing from operating an aircraft plant in South Carolina, not because Boeing broke any laws, but because South Carolina laws are less favorable to unions.

The volume of regulation has also increased substantially under Obama. As of mid-2016, the Obama administration has issued 600 major regulations, defined as those with a cost of at least $100 million each. The total cost of these regulations is $743 billion and they will require 194 million hours of paperwork to implement. In his remaining months in office, Obama may issue another 50 major regulations with a cost of $70 billion.

For constitutional conservatives, neither of the leading candidates in this election provides much hope for a return to limited government and an effective system of checks and balances.

Evan McMullin believes in the wisdom of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves for state governments and for individuals all the powers that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly give to the federal government. The framers of the Constitution understood that what works best for Massachusetts might not work as well for Virginia. In addition, a government that is closer to the people is more accountable to the people.

By embracing a one-size-fits-all approach, numerous federal programs have become far more burdensome and less efficient than they ought to be. Even though Medicaid is in desperate need of reform, a thicket of federal regulations stands in the way of state-led innovation. While the federal government should encourage high standards for public education, Washington’s heavy-handed promotion of Common Core has set back the cause of reforming education.

As president, Evan would support House Joint Resolution 100, a proposed constitutional amendment for the re-empowerment of the states. This amendment would enable a two-thirds majority of the states to repeal any Executive Order, regulation, or administrative ruling issued by the executive branch.

Evan would also oppose new regulations unless there is a clear definition of the problem to be solved and compelling evidence that the cost of regulations would be less than their benefits. Evan also supports the REINS Act, which would require up or down votes by Congress on the most significant regulations that the executive branch introduces each year.

In addition, Evan would sharply reduce the number of unfunded mandates, which compel state governments to shoulder the cost of implementing federal regulations. He would also oppose legislation such as the Dodd-Frank Act that delegates unlimited lawmaking powers to federal agencies.

Finally, Evan will appoint exceptionally qualified judges with a proven record of interpreting the Constitution as it was originally written. While the world today is much different than it was 1789, the Constitution embodies timeless principles that remain the foundation of limited government.

Today, after decades of federal expansion and executive overreach, there is a need to return to these foundational principles. Only Evan is committed to restoring our Founders’ vision and rebalancing our government to put power back in the hands of the people.

Our national debt stands at an astonishing $19.5 trillion, an increase of $9 trillion since President Obama took office. This reckless growth represents not just a threat to our prosperity, but also to our national security. Out-of-control spending on entitlements is the most important reason for the national debt’s staggering growth. The annual cost of entitlements is now $2.3 trillion per year, which amounts to 60 cents out of every dollar spent by the federal government.

Evan McMullin believes that the only way to preserve Social Security and Medicare is to enact reforms that make these essential programs more efficient while fighting pervasive fraud and abuse.

While preserving Medicare and Social Security is an important objective in its own right, entitlement reform is also necessary to ensure that the federal government can afford other priorities, including scientific research, infrastructure repair, and national defense. An important side effect of uncontrollable spending on entitlements is the lack of funding for every other government program. Fifty years ago, entitlements consumed 26 percent of federal spending; today, they consume 60 percent. Over that same period, defense spending has fallen from 43 to 15 percent of the federal budget.

The strength of our nation depends at least as much on a robust economy as it does on our armed forces, however. Without funding for scientific research and infrastructure repairs, the economy suffers. Furthermore, a sharp increase in our debt raises the likelihood of an economic meltdown as bad or worse than the one we endured in 2008. Under President Obama, our debt has risen from 39 to 77 percent of our country’s annual income, which economists call Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. This percentage will keep on growing until we elect a president who understands the simple truth that you can’t keep spending money you never had.

There is an urgent need to restore the bonds of trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they are sworn to protect, especially African-American communities. Over the past 20 years, police departments have played an indispensable role in bringing down crime rates across the nation. To preserve these gains, we must ensure respect for every citizen’s right to fair and equitable treatment under the law. The time has also come to reform our courts and prisons, so that we rely less on incarceration, which can break apart both families and communities.

Improved training and community outreach can help to prevent the kind of encounters that have escalated into violence. When police officers patrol the same community year after year, they have the opportunity to build relationships with local residents. Trust is built as police engage with members of the community in positive settings—such as schools, parks, and public forums—not just when confronting potential lawbreakers.

Additional training in communication skills and de-escalation strategies can help police officers to prevent conflict even when confronting potential lawbreakers. The office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) at the Department of Justice is an important resource for local police departments that can provide advice, best practices, and resources for new initiatives.

Evan believes that ‘stop and frisk’ policies are a form of unreasonable search and seizure, and therefore inconsistent with our Fourth Amendment rights. He also believes strongly that body cameras help to bring transparency to encounters with the police. Camera footage can help to ensure accountability for officers who behave recklessly, while verifying that responsible officers followed all appropriate procedures. Police departments must ensure that these cameras are in good working order and have a clear and enforceable policy for when the cameras must be on.

Violent felons should remain in prison for as long as necessary to prevent them from causing additional harm. However, the American justice system has resorted to incarceration for a wide range of low-risk, non-violent offenders, leading us to have the highest incarceration rate in the world—four to five times higher than England, which is second. We could save tens of billions of dollars per year by making greater use of alternatives to prison as well as emphasizing rehabilitation in order to reduce the rate of recidivism.

Evan believes that responsible sentencing reform is the first step toward lower incarceration rates. First, far too many crimes have become federal offenses, particularly routine drug crimes. Even the late Justice Antonin Scalia lamented this trend. Second, judges should have greater discretion rather than having their hands tied by mandatory minimum sentences, which worsen racial and income-based sentencing disparities. Third, judges should be empowered to enroll offenders in diversion programs that emphasize community service, treatment for addiction, and other approaches to rehabilitation. Already, Texas and other states have implemented similar reforms without compromising public safety.

The size and cost of the federal prison system have grown by leaps and bounds, a trend that will only continue without reform. Since 1980, the number of federal prison inmates has grown from 20,000 to more than 200,000. The cost per prisoner rose 50 percent, from $20,000 to $30,000 per year, between 2000-2010. Prison costs now take up one quarter of the Department of Justice’s budget, and the proportion is rising. If this approach prevented crime, it might be worth it. However, experience shows that the relationship between building prisons and reducing crime is unclear. For example, the state of New York lowered incarceration rates by 24% from 1994-2012 while leading the nation in progress against crime.

To maximize effectiveness, sentencing reform should be paired with new programs to reduce recidivism and set non-violent offenders on a path to reintegration. A study by the Pew Center found that more than 40 percent of state prisoners return to jail within three years. To prevent crime as well as further incarceration, prisons should expand job training and educational programs that can help released prisoners find work. Outside of prison, there are too many barriers to employment for those who have served their sentences. Low-risk offenders should not face a blanket denial for all professional licenses or certifications. People who have paid their debt to society must have a pathway back.

The biggest beneficiaries of all these changes will be families and communities. Today, about 1 in 30 children has a parent behind bars, a four-fold increase since 1985. For African-American children, the figure is closer to 1 in 10. The children of inmates often struggle in school, have higher teen pregnancy rates, earn less as adults, and are more likely to commit crimes and wind up in prison themselves. Evan McMullin believes in responsible reforms that will break the cycle of poverty and give these children the opportunities in life they deserve while preventing crime and saving taxpayer dollars. (campaign website)

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I liked a lot of what Darrell Castle had to say. I must say that this campaign has really opened my eyes to the effect of the duopoly we languish under, as neither major-party candidate is liked by a lot of the people, but those in charge of the media and the establishment seem to prefer them – so they won. Imagine a true debate with all the candidates who have campaigns sufficient to win 270 electoral votes – the two dominant parties would have a conniption when they saw the polls afterward.

To be honest, I’m not really up on the economic effects of the gold standard but it makes some sense to have our legal tender pegged to something of value rather than our credit, which has to be shot with $20 trillion in debt and climbing. He also refers to an issue that I haven’t heard a lot about, which falls under the banner of the UN’s Agenda 21. In a battle between so-called “sustainable development” and private property rights, I will come down on the side of the latter and so will Castle. He’s also correct in his assessment on the War on Drugs. Perhaps the only thing I disagree with him on is term limits, but overall I think Castle gets it pretty well. 11.5 points.

The Prohibition Party and Jim Hedges has been a mixed bag all along, as I thought it would be. I’m not sure I agree with the idea of SCOTUS term limits since those judges are appointed; however, I could see an age restriction as several states already have. On the other hand, he is correct regarding the idea of the state governments being able to make their own way and being able to judge success.

But I observed in the few minutes I had to listen to Hedges’ VP candidate that Bill Bayes should have been the top of the ticket, as he appears to represent the more right-wing side of the Prohibition Party. He made the good points about states creating the federal government in the first place. Finally, I like the BBA but am cold to the idea of a National Bank. 6 points.

Tom Hoefling makes a solid case for himself regarding what government should and should not do, although it doesn’t go into the specifics I would prefer. And that could be a problem going forward since we went from a series of chief executives who completely understood how government was supposed to work to a next generation that thought they understood but also thought they needed to modernize a timeless concept. Ten generations later the concept is completely lost except when it is convenient for political reasons. News flash: you cannot pick and choose which provisions of the Constitution you want to enforce. If you don’t enforce all, you enforce nothing.

And a bonus point for calling for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, which was a mistake that blots our Constitution. Maryland should also have a Senate based on pre-Seventeenth Amendment concepts, with each county legislature appointing two Senators to represent them (meaning 48 instead of 47.) 12 points.

It’s interesting that Gary Johnson takes the most libertarian point he has and leads with it. In order to submit a balanced budget, Johnson would have to take out roughly $600 billion, or about 1/6 of it. I have no doubt he could do it, but the problems he has with this approach are a) Congress actually does the appropriation, and b) they are elected in the pay-for-play system Johnson rails against so his budget will be DOA (like Reagan’s were.) He would have to secure the bully pulpit to explain to America the advantages of smaller government.

Unlike Castle (or many Libertarians) Johnson is for term limits, which is the correct stance in this day and age. He also opposes the War on Drugs.

But I do question his admonition about the government being in the bedroom, which is derisive shorthand for having traditional, religious-based opposition to abortion and same-sex “marriage.” What two adults do in the privacy of that room is none of their business, but claiming rights that don’t exist as a byproduct of that relationship is a problem.

I would expect the Libertarians to do well in this category, but they could have done better. 10 points.

In practically every case, Evan McMullin has written the longest description of how he would reform government. But there is little in the way of suggesting how he would reduce it. Indeed, appointing judges steeped in original intent would help, as would a renewed emphasis on the Tenth Amendment and state’s rights – although he doesn’t advocate for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, nor is he willing to jettison the entitlement programs that would best serve to rightsize government.

It’s also worth noting much of his treatise regards criminal justice reform and police-community relations where it should be local authorities taking the mantle, not the federal government and their penchant for micromanagement. All in all, he is sort of the Beltway-type Republican that seeks a more efficient big government rather than limited government. 6 points.

We have just about reached the end. Tomorrow will bring intangibles that apply to the various candidates and my final decision.

So what is a flip-flop?

August 27, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on So what is a flip-flop? 

It predates my writing career, but back during the 2004 Presidential campaign much hay was made over Democrat John Kerry’s attempts to be on both sides of various issues, including voting for something before he was against it. If you ask me, though, Kerry was by no means alone in terms of trying to cover all the bases and be all things to all people – the truth is that the further you go in politics, the more likely it is you will run across situations where your current action may well contradict something you did 10 years ago.

People are allowed to change their minds on issues, and I can use myself as an example: for a time I held the orthodox libertarian view that term limits artificially restrict voter choice and should be eliminated. While that makes a lot of sense on a philosophical level, in practice voter choices are more limited by the amount of money that naturally accrues to incumbents and by rules about ballot access that tend to favor the two major parties, enabling them to get their message out more effectively (and in turn more likely to succeed.) In keeping with the idea espoused by our Founding Fathers that representatives were only supposed to stand for election and do that public service for a term or two before returning to private life, I now feel that making it more difficult for people to make a career out of elected politics through term limits would bring us closer to the original intention. (Nor should we forget that only the House was supposed to be elected by the people directly – Senators were appointed through the respective state legislatures until the 17th Amendment was adopted in 1913.*) There is a compelling argument to be made, though, which contends that if term limits were adopted then control of the government would be placed in the hands of the unelected bureaucrats that write the rules and regulations. But I also believe that if elected officials are relieved of the constant fundraising to stay in office they may come up with more bold ideas and real solutions to problems – not lip-service intended to keep government bureaucrats in place perpetually.

I could probably spend a couple thousand words pursuing that digression, but my real intention in putting pixels to screen today was to discuss the immigration “flip-flop” of Donald Trump in relation to other issues. I put the phrase in quotes because to me it was already baked into his campaign, and those who truly believed he would be a hardliner on immigration were being played for suckers. Early on I knew about the “big, beautiful door” and “touchback” amnesty so what was one of his strongest points when I analyzed all of the GOP Presidential hopefuls almost a year ago became more and more watered down as time went on.

The difference to me between a “flip-flop” and a legitimate change of heart, though, comes down to whether the words remain consistent and are followed by appropriate actions. Obviously as a challenger in a political campaign Donald Trump doesn’t have a record of votes to compare nor has he had to address the myriad issues that someone in political office is confronted with on a daily basis. As a case in point for the latter: a week or so ago I put up a Facebook post asking why utility trucks such as those operated by Delmarva Power have to go through truck scales (as I had observed that day) with my thought being: what if they were going to repair a major power outage? I can almost guarantee you that no other constituent had that thought in mind in the year or two my local Delegates have been in office, but to me the question was worth asking for the reason stated.

Let me use Trump as an example in two areas: immigration and abortion. As I see it, the recent statements from Trump on the prospect of amnesty represent a flip-flop of a rhetorical kind, although some may consider it the usual running to the center a Republican candidate is supposed to do after he or she runs right for the primary. It’s more magnified for Trump, however, because of the ferocity of his initial statements such as “(Mexico is) sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” In the weeks immediately after Trump’s announcement, the murder of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant who had been repeatedly deported yet kept returning into the United States buttressed Trump’s point. So the rhetoric remained hardline, thus, there is a certain element of Trump’s support base that probably feels completely sold out but will revert to reassuring themselves “he’s not Hillary” rather than admit buyer’s remorse from being sold a bill of goods.

It should be noted this Trump pivot, which may or may not bolster his standing among Hispanic voters, also comes at a time when he is also making a parallel push for black voters on a more legitimate question: what have the Democrats done for you lately – or for that matter since the Great Society era and civil rights struggles a half-century ago? Obviously he’s not going to the Obama/Clinton position of just letting any immigrant in, but this more recent concession is quite a different tone than the initial Trump “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” stance. Those who wanted a “pause” to immigration are surely disgusted with the turn of events over the last week or so, but there are enough Trump skeptics out there who can say nativists were warned regarding Trump and immigration.

Yet on abortion I think Donald Trump had a more legitimate change of heart toward being pro-life, a move he claims came from a personal experience. Of course, those who are farther along on the pro-life spectrum still question Trump’s bonafides based on his support for Planned Parenthood, but that is not the be-all and end-all of the movement – Planned Parenthood is more of a symptom of the disease than the disease itself. Certainly Donald Trump is not one who has led a monogamous lifestyle – and only God knows if any of his trysts have led to pregnancies eventually terminated – but small victories are still small victories nonetheless. Over the course of the campaign Trump has not shifted a great deal on the issue, with the horserace watchers more focused on the aspect of which evangelical leaders are backing Trump despite his faults and which ones are simply sitting this election out or voting for a more strictly values-based candidate, either on the ballot or as a write-in, as I may.

But there remains a trust issue with Trump that makes writing pieces like this necessary. (Not being able to trust Hillary Clinton any farther than they could throw her was already factored in for millions of voters, simply based on the litany of scandal and questionable decisions she’s made over a quarter-century.) I’ve argued before that 2016 is the election of the flawed individual, but perhaps character doesn’t count in America anymore. While the Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama have major character flaws, only Kerry lost the popular vote on Election Day – and conspiracy theorists still blame Diebold for that 2004 loss. So perhaps Republicans now believe that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and selected their own person of questionable character just to pick up that long-desired W on Election Day.

And if you discount character, you quickly understand why there are people who walk among us that would say or do whatever is necessary, flipping and flopping on their beliefs and values, to get what they want – anything from the modest “15 minutes of fame” to the most powerful political office in the country. Upon that realization, it’s just a short step to pondering about the fate of this very republic we live in. America will survive, but with the leadership we seem to be attracting who will want to live there?

Women and men of values, character, and principle, please make yourself known. Your nation needs you, now more than ever.

*Ironically, Delaware and Maryland did not ratify the 17th Amendment until 2010 and 2012, respectively. In Maryland, only eight members of the House of Delegates properly voted against ratification – and one of the eight switched his vote to be against it only after it passed.

An argument for change

A few weeks ago freshman Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska made what is called his “maiden speech” on the Senate floor, and it was a thoughtful critique of the Senate’s rules and the partisan arguments that the body has devolved to.

He cited a number of Senate icons: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who Sasse praised for his curious nature; Margaret Chase Smith, who was unafraid to question those in her own party – even when she agreed with them on principle; and Robert Byrd, who cared most about the Senate as an institution. I realize this is about a 30-minute speech, but you can break away from the Ravens or Redskins game today to take the time to listen – and avoid having the foibles of those two losing teams spike your blood pressure.

In all seriousness, though, two of the points Sasse makes regard the constant travel and fundraising as well as the reflexive talking points they need to recite to create soundbites for the voters back home. It’s really not supposed to be that way, and to me Sasse’s speech can be part of an argument I have made over the last several years.

When you consider what the legislative branch was originally supposed to be, it’s clear that the House was supposed to be of the people, who, if they found out the person they sent to represent them was a scoundrel, only had to wait two years to toss them out. To those who argued at our formation, it seemed like an appropriate enough time for representatives to establish themselves and still be accountable.

On the other hand, Sasse notes that an argument was made by some of the writers of the Constitution that Senators should have lifetime terms. As it was, they agreed Senators should have lengthier tenures of six years.

Yet the key differences between the House and Senate as originally applied was the latter’s equal representation from each state and their selection by the respective state legislatures rather than the voters. Each state, regardless of population, was entitled to two members of the Senate – it was the result of a compromise between larger states which thought they should have a larger share of the say in our affairs and smaller states which felt like they should get their voices heard as well. Thus, little Delaware and its fewer than 60,000 inhabitants at the time would have equal status in one house of the legislature with Virginia, which had a population over ten times greater. While we now have the concept of one person, one vote for our states to abide by in all their legislative bodies, including their equivalents to the national House and Senate, the Senate was excepted.

Prior to the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, the Senate was inhabited by whichever two people the state legislature deemed worthy for the job – thus, you had statesmen and scoundrels alike, with absenteeism an ongoing issue. As part of the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century, direct election of Senators by the people was proposed and ratified. Fast forward a century and what do you find? Statesmen and scoundrels, who now have to hustle for campaign cash to be re-elected every six years and don’t always show up, either. While the argument can be made that the Senate is far more accountable now, it doesn’t seem to give the people any more faith in Congress. So why not revert back to the old way?

For one thing, we’ve seen the interests of states recede in our political system. More and more, the states are becoming simple lines on a map that give out different colored license plates because the federal government runs roughshod over their interests. Indeed, there is a Constitutional supremacy of the federal government but this should stop at affairs each state should be equipped to handle on its own.

Sasse alluded to the short-term thinking of the Senate in this era, and that’s also reflected in the body’s makeup. Several successive “wave” elections have radically changed its makeup, reflecting voter preference of the day: the leftist tide that ejected the Republican majority and brought Barack Obama to office at the end of last decade yielded to the rightward TEA Party wave that retook the House for Republicans in 2010 and the Senate four years later. Had the Senate been insulated from the fickle nature of the voter, change would have been more gradual. Certainly, ascending Republican fortunes on a state level would be gradually shifting the Senate rightward, but at a slower pace.

Restoring the pre-Seventeenth Amendment method of selecting Senators would also make state legislative elections far more important, as chances would be great that at least one Senator would come up for reappointment during a term. States that value diversity, moreover, could make their own waves with their appointments and not leave it to the will of the voters. Also, without the worry about advocating a politically incorrect viewpoint – lest their opponents make a campaign commercial out of it – Senators would be more free to speak their minds and engage in the style of debate Sasse advocates.

It’s generally the Left which advocates for getting money out of politics, so what better way would there be than to take the direct election process for Senators out of the hands of the voters entirely? Just in Maryland alone, it’s a certainty that the candidates running for the open Senate seat on the ballot next year will spend $15 million or more to get through a contested primary and general election because they have to secure more votes (at least in the Democratic primary, where much of that $15 million will be spent) than Sen. John Barasso did to easily win his 2012 election in Wyoming. To keep his Senate seat from Wyoming, Barasso got 184,531 votes – that total would have placed him a distant second in the 2012 Democratic Senate primary here in Maryland, let alone being an also-ran in the general election. And Maryland, in turn, is small potatoes compared to states like California, Texas, or Florida.

This may seem like a counter-intuitive argument to make from one who has forcefully argued that our local school board should be elected for accountability’s sake. But I agree with Sasse that the bureaucracy in the federal government has become its fourth branch, one which is contributing to the imbalance between the legislature and executive branches. Currently we have an executive run amok, although he’s just the latest in a string to do so. It’s a philosophy expressed by the phrase attributed to Clinton advisor Paul Begala: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.”

Directly or indirectly, the people were made responsible for at least a portion of two of the three branches of government, electing a House of Representatives and a slate of presidential electors that rarely stray from the party line of how the state as a whole voted. Their interests were balanced out by the states, represented in the Senate, and the judiciary which wasn’t selected by the people but by the executive with the permission of the Senate. (This insulated them from undue influence.)

In the manner of “progress” we have moved to a system where Senators are just another class of politicians. Certainly I have my favorites among the group, but as a whole I think we may be better served by going back to the original system. We realized the mistake of the amendment following the direct election of Senators (Prohibition) and repealed it in short order, so there is precedent for removing this error as well. Let’s bring back the balance.

Odds and ends number 74

Believe it or not, this feature which used to be a staple of my site has gone dormant for over 18 months. But I decided to resurrect it because all these financial reports I’ve been doing as well as other regular features have taken up my time and allowed my e-mail box to become dangerously full of items which were rapidly running out of shelf life. So here you go: the return of odds and ends for what promises to be a cameo appearance.

As evidence of that shelf life, I wanted to bring up a thoughtful piece by my friend Rick Manning – not to be confused with the former Cleveland Indians outfielder – regarding the prospect of a continuing resolution for federal spending which would expire in December, necessitating a lame duck session.

Manning is right in believing that the strategy is fraught with peril, and if the pre-election polling is correct and Republicans take over the Senate come January this only invites Democrats to lay a few traps as they back out the door. Of course, if Congress (read: the Senate) would actually do its job and get the budget work done before the federal fiscal year begins on October 1, this wouldn’t be a problem.

One Senator, Rand Paul, received some criticism from Timothy H. Lee of the Center for Individual Freedom, who noted Paul’s flip-flop on foreign policy neatly coincided with a shift in public opinion regarding the Islamic State.

Returning to the fold of NetRightDaily – which has been on a content roll lately – I found someone who agrees with me on the Seventeenth Amendment. Tom Toth lays out the case, although I think we should do a couple other amendments first. Obviously this would probably change the composition of the Senate rather quickly to an almost perpetually Republican body, but someone needs to look out for the states and that element is missing in modern politics.

Something else Congress should get to (but probably won’t) are curbs on civil forfeiture, the subject of a recent push by the Institute for Justice. The bills themselves were introduced back in July by Sen. Paul and Rep. Tim Walberg, but while IJ has been doggedly against what they call “policing for profit” for several years, this latest offensive stems from a petition drive and video the group has done detailing abuses of the process in Philadelphia.

It’s clear the libertarian-leaning group doesn’t like the idea, and with good reason. Think of it as the step beyond speed cameras.

Philadelphia also figures prominently into my next piece. I’ll explain this more on Sunday, but there were a number of pieces I was perhaps intending to use for my American Certified site but instead will be mentioned in brief here.

One group which has made it to those pages a lot is the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Certainly they complain a lot about the trade deficit with China but AAM President Scott Paul (no relation to Rand Paul) also made a great point about the continuing lack of manufacturing jobs.

This jobs report is a big disappointment for factory workers. While we can never read too much into just a month’s worth of data, a goose egg for manufacturing doesn’t look like progress to me. And it will be hard to consistently move the manufacturing jobs number up unless our goods trade deficit with China comes down.

Two years ago President Obama campaigned on a pledge to create one million new manufacturing jobs in his second term. Our #AAMeter shows progress toward that goal is stalling. A national manufacturing strategy could help get us back on track.

Yes, they track the progress toward that elusive one million jobs, and Obama stands at a puny 193,000. It’s surprising because as Rick Manning stated in an earlier piece, we have the energy resources to bring American manufacturing back. We’re now number 1 in natural gas production, and our energy dominance serves to stabilize world prices, says Mark Green of API.

Looking at it from the perspective of state government, a recent video by Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan explained his thoughts on creating opportunity.

The key phrase in this video comes early on, when Hogan talks about his appointments. This is an opportunity which is rarely discussed, but when Democrats have run this state for all but four years of the last forty, the pool of those who get to be department heads becomes ossified. The Glendening appointee to one office may have been O’Malley’s point guy somewhere else and would be on the short list for Anthony Brown.

But if Larry Hogan can resist the temptation to overly rely on his buddies from the Ehrlich administration, we have the potential for real reform and new ideas at the department level.

Another reform is being pushed by the Maryland Liberty PAC, and Republicans will be pleased to know they are firing in the right direction by attacking the “toxic track record” of District 34A Democratic nominee Mary Ann Lisanti. They didn’t catch this gem, though.

Finally, I wanted to promote something a fellow blogger is trying. Peter Ingemi (aka DaTechGuy) has a radio spot for you:

It’s near the end of the year when everyone’s ad budgets are pretty empty so as I’ve got some ad space left on my radio show I’ve got an offer to make exclusively to the bloggers, advocates & folk on my e-mail blast.

Produce a 15 second plug for your blog, podcast or web site and for only $30 I’ll include it on my radio show DaTechGuy on DaRadio for a FULL MONTH.

That’s not only 70% off the normal price but it also means your plug will be included on broadcast replays, my own podcast replay, the live replay on FTR Radio and all four weekly replays on the 405media Tuesday through Friday. And if you want an even better deal I’ll give you 30 seconds for just $50 a month (or I’ll replay your 15 second spot twice).

This is a great chance to get your blog some national exposure on multiple platforms that you might not currently be reaching. (His emphasis, not mine.)

He’s the consummate salesman, is he not? But I have him beat, at least in terms of price. I’m not doing a radio show anytime soon, though.

And I may not be doing another odds and ends soon either. But it was fun to go back and put one together for old times’ sake.

The life of one (soon to be) former Delegate

August 9, 2014 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The life of one (soon to be) former Delegate 

While we have to wait and see what November brings, the chances are pretty good that there will be an additional few dozen Marylanders walking around with the unofficial title of “former member of the General Assembly.” Some, like outgoing Senator Nancy Jacobs or Delegate Donna Stifler, decided well in advance, while our local Delegate Rudy Cane cynically waited until after the filing deadline to insure no one would oppose his apparent choice for successor, Sheree Sample-Hughes.

And then we have the handful who lost in their primary – among them was Delegate Don Dwyer, whose well-documented personal struggles and legal issues, along with redistricting, made his an uphill battle. But as he wrote a few days back:

I simply couldn’t walk away without committing to continue my efforts in regaining liberty and true freedom. I believe as many do, that the one best solution to federal tyranny is the doctrine of NULLIFICATION under the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution. I would like to introduce the States Rights Foundation and new blog The Rightful Remedy.

Washington will not fix itself. Our intent is to partner with other groups and people who are dedicated to advancing the 10th Amendment movement. It is the solution to the out of control Federal Government. If enough States say NO, the Federal Government will be unable to enforce its unconstitutional laws, lacking the resources to do so without aid by the States.

Whether intentional or not, The Rightful Remedy was officially launched on Bastille Day, July 14.

As has been his modus operandi in the past Dwyer is holding a gun raffle to raise funds for his project, which he explains further:

As a Maryland State Delegate, I introduced several bills considered Nullification Legislation, by which the State of Maryland would refuse to comply with Federal “laws” for which the Federal Government has no Constitutional authority to impose. The legislation essentially prohibits the State to use any resources to assist the Federal Government in taking action against Maryland Citizens who are not complying with any Unconstitutional Federal Act. The result, should such legislation pass, profoundly affects the ability of the Federal Government, which rely (sic) heavily on resources from the state, such as police, to effectively enforce their “laws.” (Emphasis in original.)

Nullification is an intriguing practice, although it’s not often tried (here’s one example.) It brings arguments about whether it should be up to the states or left to the judiciary to decide what is in accordance with the Constitution.

But states are generally reined in under the federal judiciary’s interpretation of the Supremacy Clause (such as the case with Arizona’s SB1070 in 2010) as well as the prospect of losing needed federal funding if they don’t perform a particular action – examples I’ve often used are the .08 blood alcohol level standard and legal drinking age of 21, for which the lack of acceptable state law resulted in a deduction of federal highway funding. It would take a state willing to endure the penalties of perhaps defying the Supreme Court (as in a fictional example I recently reviewed) and losing a significant part of its federal funding to openly adopt nullification, and I can tell you Maryland politicians are way too gutless to try either. (Given his go-it-alone attitude, I daresay Rick Perry and Texas might come the closest to using the approach.)

Yet there is a logical argument to non-enforcement as well. We’ve often heard about the prospect of gun confiscation, but there’s an open question as to whether law enforcement – particularly in rural areas like the Eastern Shore – would be willing to go on what’s been described as a “suicide mission.” At the time, Dwyer was calling for the formation of a “voluntary militia” in each county. On the other hand, we have constant complaints about the federal government not enforcing certain other laws, such as the ones dealing with illegal immigration – a backhanded form of nullification unto itself.

I guess the problem is who decides which laws to not enforce, and if they’re not enforced, are we still a nation of laws? A stricter adherence to the Tenth Amendment and Constitution in general would help, but for that we need to clean out our judiciary swamp. I think an equally productive avenue for Dwyer to pursue with his States Rights Foundation would be to work for repealing the Seventeenth Amendment, which has been argued in some circles for several years and is something I’ve advocated for on both a federal and state level as well. That would help to assure the interests of the several states are represented in Congress, so nullification may not be as necessary.

The decline of rural America

I just got through reading an interesting piece by James Huffman, where the former law school dean theorized that rural Americans are now the victims of disenfranchisement. (Since I set my links to open in a new tab, you can read it and come back here. I’ll wait.)

Thoughtful piece, huh? (And a tip of the hat to Christy Waters, who posted the link on the Conservative Bloggers on Facebook page.) It seems to me Maryland once had a system similar to that described by Huffman, where the House of Delegates was set up to be the people’s house while the Maryland Senate was more for county interests, although also directly elected by county residents. Still, a Senator who represented the minuscule population of an entire Eastern Shore county had the same say over affairs as one coming from populous Baltimore City. Obviously, the urban centers didn’t like an arrangement where 3/8 of the body represented about 1/10 of the state’s population and the Senate was changed decades ago.

Yet I would wager that if the system were in place today, there would be no such thing as a “War on Rural Maryland.” Whether you take it by statewide election results or have Senators appointed by the local county commission or council (as pre-Seventeenth Amendment United States Senators were selected by state legislatures, not popular vote), it’s obvious that such a body would be far more conservative than the Maryland Senate we have now. Arguably it would create a situation where the lower House in Maryland would be as heavily Democratic as it is now, but the upper chamber could be slightly Republican, depending on how some rural counties voted. If each county had two Senators, the Eastern Shore would likely comprise 14 to 16 seats of a Republican voting bloc that, when combined with the counties in other parts of Maryland that also lean Republican, would likely indeed place the GOP in a narrow majority.

Of course, that’s not to say much of the same Annapolis-centric legislation wouldn’t pass, for the closeness of the upper chamber combined with the Democratic dominance of the lower House would probably lead to a number of Republicans crossing the aisle on certain issues, particularly environmental ones. (Moreover, the state’s chief executive would likely also be a Democrat.)

But there would likely be a lot more respect for the agricultural industry if such a system were still in place; alas, we lost our last grip on power when the “one man, one vote” edict was misinterpreted by Maryland lawmakers and jurists into a belief that both houses had to comply. Imagine a U.S. Senate elected on a proportional basis like the House of Representatives is – states like Delaware may as well not bother showing up.

Our founders put into place a beautifully-crafted system of compromises when considering the layout of the government, including the planning of our bicameral system. Larger, more populous colonies wanted more say in affairs, so they received a House which was elected by the people and proportioned according to population. The smaller colonies, though, wouldn’t press forward unless their needs were met so a Senate comprised of an equal number from all states was included as a balance – as originally created, these Senators were selected by the state legislatures. As we mourned a century of Constitutional acceptance of the income tax a week ago Sunday, come April 8th we will have endured a century of another Progressive mistake: direct election of Senators as enshrined in the Seventeenth Amendment.

In his closing, Huffman writes:

The point is that, because of their minority status in statewide population terms and their lack of representation as communities, rural Americans are denied full self-governance. They have become the objects of what might be called the soft tyranny of others desires and expectations.

Just as states seem to be falling in line to the desires of the bureaucrats inside the Beltway, by extension we who choose to live in the hinterlands of the so-called Free State are being corrupted more and more by do-gooders whose ideas of rural Maryland are formed as they drive at seventy miles per hour to the beachfront condo they’ve rented in Ocean City. To them, we are the two-hour obstacle between them and enjoyment – never mind that chicken dinner or produce may be grown right here.

Yet those of us who actually live here and like it – despite their best efforts at driving us away – still deserve our say. The founders intended this to be a republic, with all voices heard. Just because there’s fewer of us out here doesn’t mean we should be drowned out in the cacophony of voices screeching “gimme, gimme, gimme” from the big cities.

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