This essay first appeared in the January 11, 2021 Epoch Times. It is the first in a five-part series on a new agenda for free-market advocates.
The public furor over the illegal Capitol break-in is a diversion. Don’t let it stop us from planning and implementing our agenda for the immediate future.
I’ve been in and around politics for over 50 years. I know a diversion when I see one. Those trying to turn the Capitol incident into an impeachment know there’s no time, or grounds, for impeachment. They also know that President Donald Trump didn’t incite illegal behavior. Anyone can see that by reading his allegedly objectionable words. (I have reproduced them at the end, courtesy of Snopes, a left-leaning website.)
The goals of this diversion apparently are to (1) move public attention away from election irregularities and the legitimacy of the Biden presidency, (2) forestall honest investigation into those irregularities, and (3) prevent corrective action.
But we mustn’t be diverted. This is the first essay in a five-part series laying out a two-year agenda for concerned Americans. If adopted, these changes will reduce greatly many of the problems that bedeviled the 2020 election. They also will begin to ameliorate dysfunctions and divisions in our political system.
This agenda focuses on state legislatures. There’s no hope of making much progress at the federal level, where the system—and perhaps the elections themselves—has been corrupted. In Washington, the power and incentives are stacked against the responsible and productive Americans who make up our country’s backbone. In the federal political game, we always have to start on our own two-yard line and run the football uphill. The other side starts on our 20 and runs downhill. The referee (i.e., the mainstream media) calls every real or imaged penalty against our side and rarely calls one on the opposition.
That’s why fiscally conservative Americans have not been very successful at the federal level. It’s why, other than Ronald Reagan, there hasn’t been a consistently conservative president for nearly a century. (Trump was conservative on some issues, but liberal fiscally.)
In most states (sorry, California!), the playing field is very different than at the federal level. Moreover, in the 2020 election, while Trump was purportedly losing, at the state level conservatives were gaining. Republicans (admittedly, not all of whom are conservative) now control both legislative chambers and the governorship in 23 states. In at least seven more, they control both houses of the legislature without the governorship.
And while it’s not widely known, state legislatures are near the heart of our constitutional system. They have power to force changes in federal operations—in some cases, even without the consent of their governors.
What follows are the four agenda items. The succeeding essays in this series will elaborate on each.
Item 1: Constituents must educate state lawmakers about their constitutional role and motivate them to fulfill that role. As mentioned above, state lawmakers have important constitutional responsibilities. They govern the presidential election process, they have much to say about the congressional election process, and they can control the constitutional amendment procedure. State legislatures have been neglecting these duties. That must change.
Item 2: Reform state election laws. After the 2020 election, the need for this is evident. The details to be addressed vary from state to state. However, it’s clear that the promiscuous use of mail-in ballots is dysfunctional, as well as unconstitutional. That being said, it’s clear that election law change can’t cure all corruption. That’s the reason for Item 3.
Item 3: This applies in states with histories of big-city or university town-vote corruption. These include six swing states with Republican legislatures: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Their legislatures should adopt resolutions whereby those states’ presidential electors are chosen by congressional district rather than at large. Two states—Maine and Nebraska—do this already, and the Supreme Court has upheld that approach. The consent of the governor isn’t necessary. This reform would effectively cage local corruption to a few congressional districts rather than allow it to infect the presidential election in the entire state.
Item 4: Persuade as many state legislatures as possible to endorse the “Convention of States” application for constitutional amendments. These amendments would impose federal term limits and restrain federal power. Over the long term, this is the most important of the four agenda items. (Disclosure: I’m a Senior Adviser to the Convention of States movement and administrator of II’s Article V Information Center.)
Certain problems in our current system of governance are acknowledged across the political spectrum: severe division among citizens; enormous special interest influence; poorly functioning, and sometimes abusive, government; excessive centralization; and an oligarchy (whether you call it the “deep state” or the “military industrial complex”) not subject to popular control. Only a convention of states—or, in the Constitution’s phrase, a “convention for proposing amendments”—would have both the will and power to propose constitutional reforms to address those problems. Only the state legislatures can ensure a convention is called.
Each of those four goals is achievable on a playing field where productive Americans, rather than so-called “progressive” interests, have the advantage. And each is a relatively small change with big potential effects.
More in later essays.
Postscript: As promised, here are the actual words in President Donald Trump’s speech. Where’s the incitement to violence?
“After this, we’re going to walk down—and I’ll be there with you—we’re going to walk down, we’re going to walk down—anyone you want, but I think right here—we’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing, and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated—lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your votes heard today. …
“The best is yet to come. We’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue—I love Pennsylvania Avenue—and we’re going to the Capitol. And we’re going to try and give—the Democrats are hopeless, they never vote for anything, not even one vote—but we’re going to try to give our Republicans, the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help; we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.”