'What's been done when the tide turns?'
Even hundred-year tides peak and turn, as all political tides must. The red tide that we are now riding is strong enough, if properly channeled, to permanently alter the political landscape. In our system of government, and in our situation, that means amendment of the Constitution, something not achieved by the previous Republican hundred-year tide of 1920.
The Ryan-McConnell Congress, with its omnibus spending capitulation, has conclusively demonstrated that it lacks the stomach for the types of constitutional reform that will be possible after the 2016 election. It's not the leadership so much as the members. The Chamber of Commerce didn't elevate these two to leadership; Republican congressmen did. The House Freedom caucus is a small minority, and there are only a handful of senators willing to back them.
Fortunately, the Framers foresaw this and provided for it. Article V allows the states, and the people, to amend the Constitution without congressional involvement, aside from a ministerial function. If this tide is to leave a permanent mark, it will be through Article V.
Mark Levin, in The Liberty Amendments, sets out the kind of changes that might be achieved. One of them, a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA), is now just seven states short of the 34-state threshold for calling an Article V Amendment Convention. The BBA Task Force is actively campaigning in Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Idaho, Wisconsin, and Arizona, all states with solid Republican legislative majorities.
If these efforts come up short, it will be up to the Republican nominee to provide the impetus for a victory. Cruz, Rubio or Trump, if any of them so chooses, could go to the legislative leadership of the states still needed and apply enough pressure to put us over the top. It would very much be in their interest to do so.
All of the Republican candidates want to balance the budget, and most of them want a BBA. To actually balance the federal budget will require the selfsame congressmen who just gave Barack Obama that big brightly wrapped Christmas present to step up and make some really tough votes. If Congress refuses, the president may have to veto the budget and shut down the government. If he's got a recently enacted BBA to back him, he'll be able to win any such fight with Congress. He'll be fighting not just for a budget, but for the Constitution.
A BBA is not designed to bring the Supreme Court into congressional spending decisions. It's a subject for which the Court is eminently unqualified. By upholding Obamacare, Chief Justice Roberts demonstrated the futility of relying on the Court to save our bacon.
What Roberts understands, and his critics don't, is that no court can save an electorate bent on self-destruction. That's because the law is, at bottom, nothing more than an expression and instrument of politics. It cannot withstand sustained political assault, so conclusively shown by the "switch in time that saved nine" – when the Court bowed to FDR's political popularity. After that sorry episode, no court, no matter how nominally conservative, is going to try to stand athwart a political tide.
The Constitution itself is a political compromise, forged in political debate, and is still relevant not because of lawyers and courts, but because it is revered by the people. If it loses this political support, no judge born can save it. Law and politics are really one and the same.
You don't sue the bastards. You impeach them.
Or, in the case of constitutional amendment, you go around them, using Article V. For what the Republican nominee needs to understand is that Article V isn't just an alternative method of amending the Constitution. It's an expression and instrument of federalism, which is one of the principal means by which the Framers diffused political power. They knew that the concentration of power, in a man or an institution, poses the greatest threat to freedom. As this constitutional protection has withered, along with the separation of powers, we are approaching a moment of real peril.
As the country hurdles toward a fiscal cliff and national bankruptcy, it also edges closer to tyranny. Article V, and a Balanced Budget Amendment, addresses both.
Our next president will face daunting challenges. A powerful tool, Article V, is available. He'd be a fool not to use it.
Fritz Pettyjohn was the chairman of Reagan for President, Alaska, in 1979-1980 and is a co-founder of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task force. He blogs daily at ReaganProject.com.