The Un-American Amendment: when 32 is greater than 68

Abraham Lincoln with Pinkerton and McClernand - 1862

President Abraham Lincoln led a nation to fight a war for Federal unity – only to have his own party try to dismantle it 150 years later.

[if 6 was 9]
Remember when the Republicans wanted to save the Union?

I don’t.  Because the last time they focused on it was about 150 years ago.  These days, the Republicans seem to be against any sort of Federalism.  Which is odd because the Republican Party was begotten by the Whigs and the Whigs were begotten by the Federalist Party which was formed by Alexander Hamilton who wrote the Federalist papers.

Need proof that the GOP has strayed from its Federalist roots?

Today, bills will be introduced to both the House and the Senate for a constitutional amendment to allow states to veto any federal laws they don’t like.  Who are the sponsors of these bills?   In the Senate:  Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Barrasso (R-WY), and  Orrin Hatch (R-UT).  In the House: Representatives Rob Bishop (R-UT) , H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Paul Broun (R-GA).

Note the R’s after the names.  And not a D in the bunch.

Rep. Bishop even published an Op-Ed piece yesterday to explain the reasoning behind the bills.  Of course his piece is laden with bold – and meaningless – statements about “founders’ intent”.  And that intent is apparently “more state power” despite the GOP being the grandson of the party founded by Federalist supreme Hamilton.

The basic idea of the amendment is that if 2/3 of the states don’t like a federal law, they can toss it.  This totally undermines the basis of our representational government, runs crosswise of the Connecticut Compromise and is, in fact, undemocratic and very much against the idea of American fair play.

Why?  Simple math. The 2010 Census shows that the top 16 most populous states contain 68% of the population, while the remaining 34 states – enough to overturn any federal law by this amendment – contain a mere 32%.

Pie Chart showing how the US Population is distributed by state

Population size of each US state in 2008. Count off the most populous 16 states and see how much real estate it covers.

In other words, a tiny minority of 32% of the population can overrule the clear majority of 68%.  Now 32% may not seem like a tiny minority, but in politics it is.  Even the founders knew this as they required a massive 2/3 majority of Congress to override a Presidential veto.

The founders didn’t want to make it easy to override a veto!

General elections also show us how small 32% is.  Let’s look at modern Presidential elections considered to be landslides and see what the popular vote was:

  • 1932:  Franklin Roosevelt (57.4%) overwhelms Herbert Hoover (39.7%) as a result of the Great Depression.
  • 1964:  Lyndon Johnson (61.1%) trounces Barry Goldwater (38.5%) in the wake of the Kennedy assassination and Goldwater’s threatening nuclear war in Vietnam.
  • 1972: Richard Nixon (60.7%) blows George McGovern (37.5%) out of the water riding a strong economy and the opening of China.
  • 1984: Ronald Reagan (58.8%) makes mincemeat of  Walter Mondale (40.6%) by creating “Reagan Democrats”.

Did  you notice something?  In every one of these landslides, the losing candidate still got more than 32% of the vote!  That is how small a minority 32% is in political terms.

Yet we have these Republicans wanting to repeal Federal law by these margins.  And over what?  Over the way the Federal government spends money. It almost makes you think that somehow these officials are trying to protect those hard-working people in the 2/3 of the country from the lavish spending done by the “elites” in Washington DC.

Only we have a problem there as well.

Because the facts show that many of the states considered red (e.g. those tending to the right) are actually getting more dollars from the federal government than they are putting in!  Here is a list of the top states, their dollars received from the Federal government vs dollars paid to the Federal government, and their classification as red or blue based on the last 4 Presidential elections (states among the 16 most populated are boldfaced):

  1. New Mexico $2.03 – blue
  2. Mississipp­i $2.02 – red
  3. Alaska $1.84 – red
  4. Louisiana $1.78 – red
  5. West Virginia $1.76 – red
  6. North Dakota $1.68 – red
  7. Alabama $1.66 – red
  8. South Dakota $1.53 – red
  9. Kentucky $1.51 – red
  10. Virginia $1.51 – red
  11. Montana $1.47 – red
  12. Hawaii $1.44 – blue
  13. Maine $1.41  – blue
  14. Arkansas $1.41 – red
  15. Oklahoma $1.36 – red
  16. South Carolina $1.35 – red
  17. Missouri $1.32 – red
  18. Maryland $1.30 – blue
  19. Tennessee $1.27  – red
  20. Idaho $1.21 – red
  21. Arizona $1.19 – red
  22. Kansas $1.12 – red
  23. Wyoming $1.11 – red
  24. Iowa $1.10 – blue
  25. Nebraska $1.10 – red

Look at all the conservative, red states on this list.  Collecting more money from the “evil” federal government than they are paying.  (While this list represents the most recent data available, those from 2005, the general trend goes back for years.) What happened to fundamental conservative principles like not taking handouts?  Like taking personal responsibility?

Seems like we have a lot of so-called conservative states sucking on a Federal nipple.

And where are these red states – who constantly complain about the Federal government – getting this extra money from?  Mostly the “socialist” blue states, of course.  (Texas and Colorado are the only red states paying out more than taking in, Florida and Nevada are purple states by our definition.) So what we see is a trend to transfer wealth from populous, left-leaning states to smaller, right-leaning states.

And who is doing the most bitching about this?

The smaller, right-leaning states!

And now, these smaller, right-leaning states want to go even further and subvert the general principles of democracy by making it possible for a small political minority 32% of the country to tell the majority 68% of the country what to do.  Basically it’s not enough for these smaller, red states to rake in the money from the larger, blue states, they want more governing power over the larger states as well.

Here’s a fun fact:  in 1861, the population of the states that formed the Confederacy was 29% of the US (9.1 million out of 31.4 million people).  That’s assuming you count each slave as a whole person.

So we have the same bitching and moaning against Federalism now as we did 150 years ago from a similarly sized vocal minority.   And, like the Confederacy of old, this minority already has it pretty good.  William T. Sherman would have something interesting to say about this proposed amendment.  It might have even been printable.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said of my view.

Update:  Wyoming pulls a hat-trick, with Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) also co-sponsoring the bill in the House.   I guess it makes sense for Wyoming to push this:  it has a population even less than the District of Columbia –  it’s the least populous state – while pulling in 11% more from the Federal government than it gives.

Update:  Sen. Enzi and Rep. Bishop issued this Op-Ed piece on the amendment today.

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One thought on “The Un-American Amendment: when 32 is greater than 68

  1. This is why I would support an entirely different amendment: abolish the Senate. Transfer all of its powers to the House and operate with a much more efficient and democratic unicameral legislature.

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