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By John David Dyche WDRB Contributor
The Liberty Amendments by Mark R. Levin tops the New York Times bestseller list. Printing that news must give the liberal Gray Lady fits!
But the erstwhile newspaper of record should be used to literary triumphs by the pugnacious former Reagan administration attorney turned ranting radio talk show host. His books Liberty and Tyranny and Ameritopia also hit #1.
Reading Levin's latest is a fitting way to observe Constitution Day. September 17 marks the 226th anniversary of the Constitution's 1787 signing.
It is a sign of civic health that so many are buying a book about the Constitution. It is also positive that people agree with Levin about "the necessity and urgency of restoring constitutional republicanism and preserving the civil society from the growing authoritarianism of a federal Leviathan."
Levin's fundamental premise is correct. "The Statists have been successful in their century-long march to disfigure and mangle the constitutional order and undo the social compact."
But there is room for debate about his proposed remedy. He is considered a conservative, but his reform recipe is radical, albeit within the confines of the Constitution's text, structure, and history.
Citing Article V of the Constitution, Levin advocates a convention called by Congress upon application of two-thirds of the state legislatures for the purpose of proposing amendments that three-fourths of the states would then have to ratify. This would return political power to the states where Levin believes the Founders intended it.
He freely admits that this course would not be easy. His is an appeal to the "untold numbers of citizens who comprehend the perilousness of the times and circumstances, and the urgency of drawing the nation's attention to the restoration of constitutional republicanism."
It would take the Tea Party on steroids to pull it off. But nothing is impossible in these desperate days and the even worse ones likely to come.
Levin offers his titular "liberty amendments" for consideration at the state-called convention. A few are highly desirable, like a 12-year term limit in Congress. No less a conservative than George Will made the case for term limits two decades ago in his book Restoration, and the arguments are even stronger today.
Another admirable yet unrealistic amendment would repeal the Seventeenth Amendment and return the choice of U. S. Senators to the state legislatures. The change to popular election during the progressive era of a century ago indisputably diminished the power of the states.
Levin joins both President Roosevelts, neither conservative, in proposing fundamental changes to the Supreme Court. He advocates term limits and a super-majority override by either Congress or the states, but the Founders considered and wisely rejected such democratic measures as dangerous to liberty.
Next, Levin wants to put detailed budgeting procedures and tax and spending limitations in the nation's fundamental law. A balanced budget amendment is desirable, but even with today's dangerous debt levels it is imprudent to turn the Constitution into an accounting text.
The same goes for Levin's idea for an amendment requiring periodic reauthorization of all federal departments and agencies. Another amendment has the laudable purpose of reducing regulations, but as with other Levin brainstorms we need only elect the right representatives to bring that about.
Levin would restrict the scope of congressional power to regulate commerce and clarify that it does not extend to intrastate commerce that merely affects interstate activity. This might do more to rein in runaway federal power than any of the other amendments.
His effort to protect private property from takings by "actual seizure or through regulation" is poorly worded and unworkable. Another to allow states the authority to directly amend the Constitution is unnecessary, as his own Article V argument demonstrates, and could make amendment too easy.
Allowing the three-fifths of the states to override federal statutes and regulations is another bad idea that could easily backfire. Requiring voters to produce photographic identification and limiting early voting would be good laws, but do not belong in a Constitution.
The popularity of Levin and his proposals should be a warning to conservatives. Prudent change and a return to the Founders' principles are essential to America's preservation. Otherwise, expect demands for more dramatic and potentially dangerous change in the not too distant future.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.