Would Levin’s Amendments Save America?

Mark Levin has written two brilliant books, Liberty and Tyranny and Ameritopia, in which he describes, in painfully clear detail, the century-long decay of America from a constitutional republic populated by free people into a quasi-statist, soft tyranny inhabited by an entitlement-entranced, morally dubious, security-obsessed population that is increasingly subjugated by a seemingly benevolent but, in truth, oppressive federal government. For example, in the first book, Levin wrote:

So distant is America today from its founding principles that it is difficult to precisely describe the nature of American government. It is not strictly a constitutional republic, because the Constitution has been and continues to be easily altered by a judicial oligarchy that mostly enforces, if not expands, the Statist’s agenda. It is not strictly a representative republic, because so many edicts are produced by a maze of administrative departments that are unknown to the public and detached from its sentiment. It’s not strictly a federal republic, because the states that gave the federal government life now live at its behest. What, then is it? It is a society steadily transforming to statism…

Levin has just published a third book, The Liberty Amendments, in which he outlines a scheme for turning the tide and returning America to its classic moorings in liberty, free enterprise and traditional values. His approach is purely political. He sees the unmaking of America as having been achieved by the willful and nefarious subversion of the basic playbook that has governed how our society is supposed to work – the US Constitution. By ignoring it when convenient, reinterpreting it where necessary, dreaming up imaginary intentions of its authors and actually amending it in a few crucial places, the Progressive movement has hijacked the document and converted America from a constitutional republic whose ideal is liberty into some form of statist, Euro-style, welfare society whose noblest purpose is forced equality. To quote Levin again, this time from the new book:

The Statists have constructed an all-powerful centralized federal government, unleashing endless social experiments in pursuit of utopian designs. The federal branches have used judicial review, congressional delegation, broad abuses of the Commerce and Takings clauses, and the power of the purse (taxing, spending, and borrowing), among other things, to commandeer the sovereignty of the states and the citizenry. Indeed, the states and the citizenry are now consumed by an elephantine array of federal laws, regulations, and rulings, which torment, coerce, obstruct, and sabotage the individual’s autonomy. The states that gave the federal government life now live mostly at its behest.

Levin proposes to recapture the nation by using a heretofore unused feature of the Constitution for amending the sacred document – namely, having the states call a constitutional convention to consider amendments that would restore the federal government to its originally assigned, limited role in the people’s affairs. Levin goes further and actually stipulates eleven concrete amendments that would, if enacted, instantly restore the federal government to its proper role and thereby return America to its former status as a constitutional republic of free people. Levin’s amendments are targeted, brilliantly crafted and comprehensive. They address: term limits for Congress and the Supreme Court, repeal of the 17th amendment, a States override of Congress and the Supreme Court, federal spending and taxation, reigning in the federal bureaucracy, the Commerce clause, eminent domain and voting rights.

Clearly, enormous thought and, I wager, serious constitutional legal expertise went into the preparation of Levin’s amendments. I encourage the reader to consult them and to think about the effect their enactment would have. Surely if you do, you will quickly arrive at two questions: Is there any chance of even a small subset of Levin’s constitutional amendments being enacted? And if they were, would they – as the title of this piece asks – save America? The answer to the second question is easy: absolutely, for two reasons. First, the constraints on the federal government thereby imposed would certainly return it to the proportions envisioned by our Founders and consequently spark a rebirth of freedom in our nation. But more importantly, the only way that Levin’s amendments could be enacted is if there was a great awakening among the American people as to the horrible transformation of US society that has been perpetrated over the decades, accompanied by a fervor to reverse course. That change of spirit alone would result, if not in Levin’s amendments, then certainly in some equivalent transformation of American society back – or maybe the correct word is forward – to the constitutional republic envisioned and established by our Founders.

But alas, the latter analysis brings us to the consideration of the first question: What chance do Levin’s amendments have of becoming law? More generally, what chance is there that the American people will awake from the century-long nightmare, which they have concocted for themselves, and in which they have transformed themselves from a liberty-loving, opportunity driven, independent, adventurous, morally upright, exceptional nation into the equality-obsessed, politically correct, dependent, fearful, morally obtuse, multicultural mess that we have become? I have no doubt that, were the transformation to occur, the United States of America would recapture its former national glory, individual freedom, economic riches and high standing as a moral leader of the world – for centuries to come. But I have grave doubt that said transformation is in the cards.

Where is the precedent in world history? What previous society lost its freedom and economic prosperity – not to a foreign conqueror, but to an internal disease – and later recaptured it via an internal revival? Perhaps some of the former Soviet satellites (like Poland or the Czech Republic) serve as examples? Sorry, their decay was imposed by a foreign occupier. It was only upon release from bondage that they recaptured past freedoms. What about Germany and Japan? They don’t qualify either. Neither had much of a history of liberty before they fell under the sway of totalitarian regimes. After their defeat, the US literally imposed a liberal, Western-oriented political style upon their societies. Besides, neither is doing much better than the US these days as they sink under the yoke of quasi-statist regimes. Perhaps we should gaze further back in history. Say, Britain at the time of the Glorious Revolution? No, the Brits were in the process of creating a free society, not restoring one. Neither Rome, nor Greece, or China or any other Renaissance society ever recaptured freedom via an internal revolution that deposed an order which had usurped a prior free society. There is just no example of a free, prosperous nation slipping into the bonds of egalitarian tyranny from which it emerged, via internal forces, as a copy of its former self. Do we have the wherewithal to be the first?

Maybe we should examine instead our own past for a template. US history reveals three critical periods when the Republic was threatened in an existential way: the Revolutionary period, the Civil War and the Great Depression. Is there a model in any of these three? Well, the first doesn’t count for two reasons. Yes, the colonies enjoyed great political freedom and prosperity in the 17th and 18th centuries. But the usurpation of their freedom was perpetrated by the colonial power, Great Britain. We threw off the yoke in a revolution against a foreign power, not an internal regime. The Civil War, on the other hand, was certainly internal. And slavery was undoubtedly an abrogation of freedom. But the outcome of the Civil War was less a resolution of that issue – after all, segregation lasted another century – than a preservation of the union and the establishment once and for all that secession was impossible. Those who were free before the Civil war remained so and those who weren’t achieved at best limited freedom. It’s just not a model for a 21st century transformation. Finally, the Great Depression. Unfortunately, the US dealt with that calamity by taking the first huge steps on the road to serfdom. There was no rebirth of liberty during the event and precious little afterward. The economy improved but our slide into political and cultural suicide began in earnest under FDR, and was not at all reversed in the successive Truman or Eisenhower administrations.

In conclusion, would Levin’s amendments save us? Probably! Is there a prayer of their coming to fruition? Hardly! I have argued elsewhere that the way to recapture America is to mimic what the Progressives did over the last century to subvert it – namely, capture the culture. Politics run downwind of culture. We have a better chance of reconquering the opinion-molding organs of American society that the Progressives currently control than we do of passing Levin’s amendments. The latter might be a decade long effort while the former likely would take (as it did for the Progressives) a century. Whichever strategy we employ, we better get on it fast. Time is running out.

This essay also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative