The four major Article V advocacy groups all started off the new decade last year with great goals and optimism only to be totally shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. So much water has gone under the bridge since then that it is difficult to offer an assessment as to the future of the movement. The 2020 elections fundamentally reshaped our country politically. The division and partisanship has never been more heated. The federal government flipped dramatically to the Democrat side, but the state legislatures, with only a few exceptions, remained largely conservative. More drastic changes are likely coming in 2022 with redistricting in the spotlight.
I would submit that there has never been a more opportune time for the Article V movement to make its case. On the conservative side, state legislators see realistic threats coming from the new Democratic majority to force fundamental constitutional change on America by adding new states, passing national election regulation laws, and packing the Supreme Court. For the first time ever, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact has an opportunity to get states with 270 electoral votes on board and to obtain approval by Congress of the compact. Should the Senate dump its cloture rule, then there is nothing to stop a left leaning Congress and President from passing these new laws and fundamentally altering our constitutional republic without proposing, much less ratifying, an amendment. Never in our history has the ultimate gift our Framers gave us in the Article V Convention process been more ripe for exercise. To the conservative legislator, if he or she cannot see how our republic is arguably teetering on its very existence, then they are truly constitutionally blind and deaf. The concern for a runaway convention “destroying the constitution” (a concern we all know is utterly ridiculous) has no merit when we are in real time about to lose our Constitution. If the conservative groups cannot make their case in 2021, then the Article V movement could be almost as dead as our republic.
The argument applies equally as compelling to our friends on the left seeking campaign finance reform. For four years, the left has claimed that foreign adversaries improperly influenced our elections, in part through Authored by David F. Guldenschuh February 10, 2021 Fellow Fivers: 2 illegal campaign expenditures. Money has flowed into our elections from outside groups and from the elite in geometrically more dominating numbers. The 2019 documentary, Unrepresented, which revealed the despicable influence money has on our nation’s Congressional members on both sides of the aisle, could not have been more proven true than in the 2020 election cycle. We truly are living in an oligarchy where the mega-corporations, tech companies and super millionaires own and operate our federal government. I have come to change my view over my years of work within the Article V movement. While I believe all of the four major group resolutions need to be passed, the two most desperately needed amendments are the campaign finance reform and term limit amendments.
Turning to our four major groups, the BBA movement was crushed by the events of last year. With the pandemic and Congress’ passing of trillion dollar spending packages, it became impossible to argue for a balanced budget/fiscal responsibility amendment. Even though such an amendment would necessarily have exceptions for national emergencies, the short-focused attention span of legislators and the public would not allow for such an explanation. Even though the BBA movement is closest to the 34 state threshold (some of us would say it’s there) with an AVC LPR count of 28, it has significant hurdles to climb to remain funded and moving toward 34.
The COS Project has traditionally touted its first prong – fiscal responsibility – as a leading reason for passage, but that too was dealt a major blow by last year’s happenings. It must now lead with its ever-somushy “reduce the power and scope of the federal government” prong. That unfortunately falls hazard to the runaway argument; hence, branding and marketing will be a major issue to address in 2021 moving forward. COS is only averaging passage in about two states per year even though it is perhaps the best funded group and is well known in state capitols for its grass roots. Has the time come for COS to try and expand its appeal from its traditional ultra-conservative (though not exclusive, see its work in New Jersey and previously Illinois, e.g.) base? I would respectfully submit it has.
US Term Limits has perhaps the most popular amendment among the everyday American citizens. Every demographic overwhelmingly supports term limits for Congress. People are sick and tired of the dysfunction in Washington. Yet, when USTL gets to the state capitols, they find legislative leadership (often institutional politicians) wary of supporting their efforts because “if we support term limits for Congress, then we have to support them at the state level.” Guess what? Those state legislators would rather protect their own selfish interests than respect the will of their constituents. In this last election cycle, USTL made some real inroads “taking out” state level leaders blocking their path to passage. I will let USTL offer those numbers publicly if they desire, but their successes should send a signal to state legislators that opposition to term limits is an issue that voters will hold against you.
Then there are my friends at Wolf PAC. I haven’t spoken lately with their leadership, but I fully endorse their efforts. I had the great pleasure of attending one of their national workshops where the documentary 3 Unrepresented was shown. Their grass roots is dedicated. Their issue is compelling, and like term limits, the American people desperately desire this reform.
As for my thoughts on the future of the movement, I once again call upon the four groups to find a way to work together. Having worked with all of you, I see where your respective assets could synergistically create some real successes for the movement within the stubborn states. Would COS’ efforts in New Jersey not be bolstered with the support of Wolf PAC? Would Wolf PAC and USTL’s efforts in Georgia not significantly improve if Speaker Ralston were confronted with a bi-partisan consensus of his members in support of both resolutions? (That’s what we did in 2014 when we passed 5 different Article V pieces of legislation here.)
Professor Lessig, would you consider calling another Article V symposium at Harvard where all groups (and naysayers) would be invited to once again address the status of the Article V movement and determine whether we could find constructive ways to jointly bolster each other’s efforts? This I know, if all four major groups presented a unified front at every state legislature, the legislators would be shaking and the naysayers would crumble.
Last year, I was quoted extensively for this statement in my opening report:
“No matter your politics, Washington’s dysfunction has never shown so brightly as it presently burns. I am convinced that our only hope to keep this Thelma and Louise convertible called our federal government from driving off the cliff is the work all of you are doing to promote the Article V movement. As the documentary Unrepresented points out, there are now many movements – right, left and center – to rein in the excesses of Washington, and many of them rest their hopes in the Article V movement.”
Those words ring true today. So here is the opening legislative sessions’ Article V Convention Legislative Progress Report. Let’s hope we make more progress this year. Let’s not waste this great gift the Framers left us. If I can ever be of assistance to any of you, please don’t hesitate to ask. My highest regards,
David F. Guldenschuh Editor and Publisher The Article V Convention Legislative Progress Report 512 East 1st Street, Rome, GA 30161 (706) 295-0333 – office (706) 346-3693 – cell