34 States, Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Chains.

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 11 2013 8:42 AM

34 States, Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Chains.

Conservative radio host Mark Levin salutes freedom fighters everywhere.

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Emma Roller and I have a new story up (rather sensationalized by the title, but thems the breaks) about the slowly building movement to start a convention of states and amend the Constitution. Nothing all too strange about it; the power's existed in the Constitution for 226 years. But it's gaining traction now because a group of (mostly conservative) state lawmakers have become frustrated with Washington, and because Mark Levin, who remains sort of obscure in the non-Fox media despite racking up bestsellers, has called for a convention to pass 10 "liberty amendments" that would roll back the Progressive Era.

In the piece we quote University of Texas law professor Sandy Levinson, who's by no means a Levinite but thinks the convention could achieve the right goals.

A majority of Americans in every Gallup poll since 1944 has supported the abolition of the electoral college (which now works, effectively, to confine most presidential campaigning to around a dozen states). It wouldn’t shock me if you could get up to 38 on an amendment to abolish it, though I would also not be surprised if a coalition of the smallest states plus the “battleground” states that inordinately benefit from it would stop it. 
Another proposal: Require that every state with five or more representatives elect them in multi-member districts with proportional representation. This would come close to eliminating partisan gerrymandering and even some of the baleful effects of “clustered populations.” It’s impossible to imagine that the House of Representatives would adopt such a proposal, but one can imagine that it could get to 38. There would be no reason for the 19 states with four or fewer representatives particularly to care, and one could imagine that another 19 states would see this as a way to diminish the reapportionment wars (especially in relatively evenly distributed states). 
There are actually many other examples that might be given, including the “Continuity in Government” Amendment created by a joint commission of folks from Brookings and the AEI that would make sure that Congress could continue to function even after a catastrophic attack. I testified about it back in 2004, and Congress has simply not chosen to engage the issue.

Yet it's the conservatives who, struggling recently to win the presidency—and struggling for years to pass a balanced-budget amendment—have started organizing.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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