At their annual meeting last weekend, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that brings together Republican lawmakers and corporate lobbyists for common causes, discussed plans to hold a constitutional convention, which would be the first since 1787.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides for such a gathering once two-thirds of the states agree; proposed amendments must be ratified by three-fourths of the states.
Today, that means that 34 states must agree to hold the convention. The Guardian’s James Lartey reported that 28 already do so. Tom Coburn, a former U.S.
senator from Oklahoma who retired from the Senate in 2015 and is now a senior adviser to a group called Convention of States, predicted that it is “three or four years away” and 2.5 million volunteers are on stand-by.
Lartey reported that some liberal groups, led by one called Wolf Pack, are also pushing for a convention but only five states support it. And while their intention is to pass an amendment to roll back the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that allows for unlimited, anonymous donations to political parties, the Coburn-led initiative would focus on issues such as curtailing the power of the federal government, requiring a balanced federal budget, imposing term limits for Congress and abolishing the federal income tax. It would also expand states’
rights to include giving them the power “to veto any federal law, Supreme Court decision or executive order with a three-fifth vote from the states,” Lartey reported.
Coburn told the ALEC gathering in an address Friday, “We are in a battle for the future of our country. We’re either going to become a socialist, Marxist country, like Western Europe, or we are going to be free.”
And Lartey quoted an attendee, Jim Mayer, as saying even more ominously, “The only chance we have to restore this country, that is peaceful, is this convention.”
Evidently, the Coburn people realize they cannot depend on presidential Executive Orders alone to advance their vision of America and see the majorities that they have built up in state Legislatures – mainly through the efforts of ALEC and voter-suppression – as the way to proceed.
But until such a convention takes place, it is obvious that Trump and his allies are sparing no effort to soften public opinion in favor of changing the constitution. The wedge issue is immigration.
The stunning abuse of executive power over immigration so far will worsen, under a policy soon to be announced that will focus on even documented immigrants – green card holders — and naturalized citizens. Such people will be in danger of being deported if they or anyone in their households have ever obtained public assistance, such as food stamps or taken out health insurance under the Affordable Care Act or their children have attended public schools. The rationale is that they have been a drain on public resources, whereas the condition for their being allowed into the country included being self-sufficient.
Estimates of undocumented immigrants are about 11 million; for green card holders and naturalized citizens who will fall into the wider net, the total could be 20 million, according to some reports. With little news about white undocumented immigrants being arrested and deported, it is unlikely that the wider crackdown will go after them.
That makes the motive for a constitutional convention highly suspicious. It is almost certain that proposed amendments will not stop at ideological issues but will be much broader and, in these times of a renewed Civil War of sorts, may even include redefining citizenship based on ethnicity, a cherished dream of white supremacists.