Marco Rubio And The Koch/Talk Radio Scheme To Repeal The Last Hundred Years
Credit: DonkeyHotey
January 3, 2016

So this happened a few days ago:

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has come out in favor of the idea of a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution....

“One of the things I’m going to do on my first day in office: I will announce that I am a supporter, and as president I will put the weight of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states so we can pass term limits on members of Congress and the Supreme Court and so we can pass a balanced budget amendment,” Mr. Rubio said in Iowa.

The idea of a "convention of states" has been promoted in recent years by the Koch organization ALEC and by talk radio star Mark Levin in his book The Liberty Amendments. An Amazon reviewer of Levin's book lists some of his proposed amendments for such a convention:

1. Term limits, including for justices.
2. Repealing Amendment 17 and returning the election of senators to state legislatures
3. A congressional supermajority to override Supreme Court decisions....
4. Spending limit based on GDP
5. Taxation capped at 15%
6. Limiting the commerce clause, and strengthening private property rights
7. Power of states to override a federal statute by a three-fifths vote.

The site Convention of States Action adds a few more:

* A redefinition of the General Welfare Clause (the original view was the federal government could not spend money on any topic within the jurisdiction of the states)...

* A prohibition of using international treaties and law to govern the domestic law of the United States

* A limitation on using Executive Orders and federal regulations to enact laws (since Congress is supposed to be the exclusive agency to enact laws)...

* Requiring the sunset of all existing federal taxes and a super-majority vote to replace them with new, fairer taxes

If conservatives succeeded in calling a constitutional convention and passing these amendments, America would fundamentally transformed. A balanced budget amendment combined with sharply lower taxes would require a curtailment of the social safety net greater than Paul Ryan could imagine after a ten-day absinthe and Atlas Shrugged binge. Deficit spending to limit the pain of an economic downturn would simply be illegal -- no 2008-2009 stimulus, no New Deal. And states would have radically new abilities to nullify Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation -- just imagine the possibilities.

I'm not completely sure why right-wing radicals still back term limits -- that made sense in the era of Newt Gingrich's Contract with America because Democrats had controlled Congress for decades -- but I think it's because term limits mean that the only people in D.C. and state capitals who aren't term-limited are corporate lobbyists. Legislators limited to a couple of terms soon have no motivation to please constituents and every motivation to please the fat cats who'll be their future employers.

Returning the election of senators to state legislatures isn't about admiration for the original language of the Constitution -- it's about saving money for right-wing billionaires. It's a hell of a lot cheaper to win state legislative elections in, say, Florida than it is to pay for the high-cost TV ads needed to win a U.S. Senate election. Keep a friendly legislature seated and you can have two GOP senators from the Sunshine State indefinitely.

That nice, moderate Marco Rubio supports all this.

Here's the way it's supposed to work, under Article V of the U.S. Constitution:

... two-thirds of state legislatures -- 34 of them -- would have to meet and propose amendments on the same subject. Each amendment would then have to be approved by three-quarters of the states to be ratified.

It seems like a long shot to get 34 states to call for a convention, agree on amendments, pass them, and then get them ratified by 38 of the 50 state legislatures.

But after the 2010 and 2014 midterms, Republicans dominate state governments:

... Republicans ... hold total control of 30 of the country’s 50 state legislatures (60 percent) and have total or split control of 38 of the 50 (76 percent.)

Or, to put it another way:

The GOP now controls 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers -- the highest number in the history of the party. Republicans currently hold the governorship and both houses of the legislature in [24] states ..., while Democrats have that level of control in only seven.

Thanks for not voting in midterms, Democrats!

And the right is playing a long game. What do you think the challenge to one-person-one-vote that's currently before the Supreme Court is all about?

The court’s decision in the case, expected by June, has the potential to shift political power from urban areas to rural ones, a move that would provide a big boost to Republican voters in state legislative races in large parts of the nation.

The basic question in the case, Evenwel v. Abbott, No. 14-940, is who must be counted in creating voting districts: all residents or just eligible voters? Right now, all states and most localities count everyone.

The difference matters because people who are not eligible to vote -- children, immigrants here legally who are not citizens, unauthorized immigrants, people disenfranchised for committing felonies, prisoners -- are not spread evenly across the country. With the exception of prisoners, they tend to be concentrated in urban areas.

Their presence amplifies the voting power of eligible voters in those areas, usually helping Democrats. Rural areas that lean Republican, by contrast, usually have higher percentages of eligible voters.

If the Roberts Court finds for the conservative plaintiffs in this case, state legislatures will become even more Republican in the future. And if Democratic voters continue to ignore non-presidential elections, I'm not sure the Kochs and their allies are crazy to think they can make radical changes to the Constitution as the result of a convention of states.

And Rubio -- mainstream, moderate Marco Rubio -- backs this.

But, as National Review's Jim Geraghty has noted, Rubio is no moderate:

This is a man who has a lifetime ACU [American Conservative Union] rating of 98 out of 100. A man who has a perfect rating from the NRA in the U.S. Senate. A man who earned scores of 100 in 2014, 100 in 2013, 71 in 2012, and 100 in 2011 from the Family Research Council. A “Taxpayer Super Hero” with a lifetime rating of 95 from Citizens Against Government Waste. A man Club for Growth president David McIntosh called “a complete pro-growth, free-market, limited-government conservative.” ...

Rubio’s the guy who earned a 100 from National Right to Life in two straight cycles, and a zero rating from NARAL. He supports an abortion ban after 20 weeks, opposes exceptions for rape and incest (although he’s voted for legislation that includes those exceptions), and opposes embryonic stem-cell research....

Rubio opposes gay marriage and has said that “we are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech. Today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.” He recorded robo-calls for the National Organization for Marriage....

He wants to raise the retirement age for those under 55....

Rubio opposes raising the minimum wage....

I don't think Rubio has the mojo to win the nomination this year, but if he does manage to win it, he'll be sold in the fall -- probably successfully -- as a likable right-centrist. He's not. He's a dangerous radical who just sounds nice.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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