Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

The Texas Plan: Power to the People

Jerry Stratton, May 18, 2016

James Madison: John Vanderlyn’s portrait of James Madison, fourth President of the United States.; presidents; James Madison

James Madison, the first destroyer of the Constitution, introduced twelve destructive amendments, including ten that passed immediately and one that lay submerged for two centuries before surfacing to destroy the constitution, setting records for constitutional destruction unmatched by any successor.

Governor Abbott’s Texas Plan marks him as arguably the most effective libertarian to be elected to high office. His nine proposed amendments in the Texas Plan echo solutions that libertarians have long proposed: let states experiment within their territories, reduce the power of unelected officials to make laws, and provide another bulwark against tyrannical laws.

In general, I’m all for it. In specific, well, if there actually is a convention of the states, it will be necessary to see the text of the amendment proposals that result from it.

Abbott’s proposed amendments all stand alone, so I would assume (and hope) that they would be voted on in each state separately. That is, the more obvious ones (such as prohibiting Congress from making marijuana illegal even if it is grown in a state and never sold outside of it) would be voted on separately and could pass without passing the less obvious ones (such as requiring a seven-justice super-majority for overturning democratically enacted laws).

At least eight of the proposed amendments are clearly good ideas; the only one I have any issue with is the seven-justice supermajority. I have no particular opposition to it, but don’t know that it’s really as necessary as the others.

The most ridiculous argument against the Texas Plan is that because Abbott wants to add amendments to the Constitution, he opposes the Constitution. If that’s the case, the other 27 amendments we’ve passed have already done the job.

In fact, the amendments banning slavery, the amendment repealing prohibition, the amendment clarifying the presidential succession, and the entire Bill of Rights have unquestionably made the Constitution better.

At least one of Abbott’s amendments is a pure restatement of an existing amendment from the Bill of Rights that often gets ignored by the Washington establishment. Ignoring the ninth and tenth amendments is opposing the Constitution; if they supported the Constitution, they’d amend those amendments away using the designated process. Instead, they’re treating the Constitution as something to be opposed instead of made better.

They’re accusing Abbott of trying to “rewrite” the Constitution, where Abbott’s plan merely amends and clarifies it, through the normal constitutional process. It’s pretending that the Constitution means things it doesn’t say, and doesn’t mean things it says, that is rewriting the Constitution. Refusing to follow the constitution is what’s destroying the Constitution, not using the constitutional amendment process to amend it.

The important change in Abbott’s “Texas Plan” is that every one of these changes moves power closer to individual voters. It’s easier to affect policy when it’s your governor rather than your president, and when it’s your state legislator rather than your national legislator. Your voice matters more in local governments. The history of progressivism has been about diluting the voice of individual voters by moving decisions up the chain. This helps them, because it means voters who don’t care about an issue can be influenced to counter voters who do care about an issue. The more voters, the higher the percentage of voters who don’t care about any particular issue.

Our federal system was meant to concentrate power locally. The Texas Plan is an attempt at restoring a small measure of local control to politics in the United States. It would increase participation locally, and, by moving decisions into localities that care about them and know the issues, reduce the unreasoning partisanship that keeps growing and growing every election cycle.

In response to Republican principles: When John Deere starts losing the tractor business, they don’t say “let’s make ice cream”. They make better tractors.

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