This review was first published at Big Jolly Politics:
Mark Levin’s newest book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic, is a different sort of attempt at a national dialogue than any we have seen in recent history.
As national dialogues go, in 2011 President Obama disgraced himself in his attempt at a “dialogue,” which escalated into demagoguery, after the horrific shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. As you will recall, the president spoke that month in Arizona at a mini-DNC rally disguised as a memorial service, where he quickly resorted to typical left-wing tactics, attacking the Second Amendment and calling for tighter gun laws, restrictions and bans. The Presidents attempt at a “national dialogue” was short lived, poorly planned and altogether un-serious.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich has attempted to initiate a few dialogues, including one in 2010 where he spoke to the Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan and suggested ways for Michiganders to save Detroit. Gingrich was attacked, as usual, and earlier this year, well, we all know what happened to Detroit.
Congressman Paul Ryan authored the Roadmap to Prosperity, a plan to reform some aspects of government and start to reverse negative trends while providing the chance for individuals to choose an alternative to the failing social security system. As usual, the Left went on the attack, lying their way into history as defenders of the failing status quo. You may recall the commercial where a faux Paul Ryan pushes a senior citizen in a wheelchair over a cliff. Yes, that was “Leftist Dialogue for Dummies” if there ever was such a title.
Fast forward to 2013 and Mark Levin has authored a very important book that since its release two weeks ago has taken me some time to read, comprehend, appreciate, embrace and now fully advocate. This attempt at a national dialogue is more serious and substantive than anything attempted by the permanent campaigner. Levin begins his premise from the United States Constitution, where he takes Article V (not to be confused with the Fifth Amendment) and shines a new light on it. (the underlined portion is the aspect that The Liberty Amendments focuses on).
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
This look at federalism is refreshing and modern, and Levin is a great writer with a pristine intellect, as he demonstrates here:
Clearly there is much political, social, and economic diversity among the states. Some states respect the individual more than others. Some are downright oppressive in their imposition of regulatory and tax schemes. But people can move from state to state, and often do, to escape one state’s burdens for another state’s opportunities. Federalism is not about any single state or small faction of states imposing their will on the nation. It is about states serving, in the aggregate, as an essential buffer between the central government and the people, safeguarding the citizen from authoritarianism’s consolidated rule, thereby preserving and promoting self-government. After all, self-government is a fundamental feature of a constitutional republic. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “It was by the sober sense of our citizens that we were safely and steadily conducted from monarchy to republicanism, and it is by the same agency alone we can be kept from falling back.
We can all agree to disagree on the specifics of Levin’s actual proposals (not that I personally disagree with any of these). Things like term limits for members of Congress and the Senate. Term limits for members of the Supreme Court. Having state legislatures, those officials most responsible to the people, go back to selecting the United States Senators. Significantly reducing out of control and unregulated bureaucracy. Calling for a 30 day period between the time a bill is completely written and the time it is voted on. Strengthening voter ID laws. Reforming the tax system.
The bigger issue is this idea, an idea as old as the Constitution itself, that the people can take back power from the federal government and return it to the states when they have had enough of the oppressive, heavy hand.
The founders did not intend that politicians would make a career out of “serving the people.” They reasonably figured someone would be elected from their community, would serve a short time, and would then return back home to their community, and their career. The idea of the career legislator, the professional politician, serving 20, 30 or 40 years, would have been a foreign concept to those great men. As Levin points out though:
“History demonstrates that republics collapse when demagogues present themselves as their guardians to entice the people and cloak their true intentions.”
What Levin is advocating for will not happen overnight. It will not happen in the next election cycle, or the election cycle after that. This will be a long, time-consuming effort. The effort will be frustrating. Is this endeavor worth the effort? Levin offers this thought in Chapter 1, for those not willing to undertake the challenge or even consider doing so:
“Still more may be resigned to a grim future, preferring lamentation to the hard work of purposeful action.”
Let that sink in.
The Liberty Amendments is chock full of notes and references, including much high praise for founders like James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and George Mason. The book is well researched, the writing is very good, it is not hard to understand or comprehend but on the contrary, it is very informative.
Pick up a copy of The Liberty Amendments. Give it a chance. If you agree with the underlying idea, that Article V provides a way out, get involved locally. Take “purposeful action.” Have meetings with small groups. Share ideas and get people thinking and talking. When you meet legislators or candidates, educate them and demand they consider these ideas. Those who refuse to listen, there is always another election cycle. Mark Levin is on to something here, and those ready to take part now have a guide.
As a note on modern politics, campaigns will have to go on as usual. Politics will still exist. We will still debate, argue and converse. This new concept that Levin is promoting will not take hold after 2014, or after 2016. But the slow work, the longer task, is to build up a grassroots army of individuals and legislators willing to take this next step. So, while you are preparing for 2014 and 2016, find a way to also advocate for Article V and a return to federalism. For in the end, it may be the last best hope at controlling Leviathan.
I will end this review with the words Levin used to close out his book, for he can say it much better than I ever will:
In the end, the people, upon reflection, will decide their own fate once their attention is drawn. As President Reagan stated, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope for man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us that we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”
Let us do all that can be done. Let us be inspired by the example of our forefathers and their courage, strength, and wisdom. Let us be inspired by the genius of the Constitution and its preservation of the individual and the civil society. Let us unleash an American renaissance in which liberty is celebrated and self-government is cherished. Let us, together – we, the people – restore the splendor of the American Republic.
Time is of the essence. Let us get started today!