Montana Decides: Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
February 1, 2023
"Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!" is a famous line turned into a cliché from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz used to express fear. In the 2020s, the fear of "Lions and Tigers and Bears" has been replaced with the fear of "climate change and anti-vaxxers and Article V of the US Constitution," which are strange bedfellows indeed. Oh my!
There has been the same banter going on back and forth around a resolution that has been trying to get passed through our legislature since 2015 to add Montana to the list of 34 required states to call a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the US Constitution which is authorized in Article V of the US Constitution. Attend a hearing regarding the resolution and you'll quickly observe that it's a "he said, she said" and "I know you are but what am I" kind of argument that revolves around the same two claims from the competing sides: fear and ignorance.
The two sides need to understand that it is not an "either/or" but that both are right (and wrong) and until we come together, we are more likely doomed. Patrick Henry used a relevant phrase in his last public speech, given in March 1799, in which he addresses "nullification," a doctrine that advocates states have the right to declare null and void any federal law that they deem unconstitutional. Henry pleaded, "United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs." Nullification is a resurrected term used by the side that opposes part of the Constitution, Article V.
I am a huge fan of the "spirit" of nullification. There is a way to legally challenge unconstitutional laws. Just recently, a group of 25 state attorney generals, including Montana's, filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Labor to stop the implementation of a new rule regarding retiree investment management. What if there were a way to nullify bad federal actions without having to go through the strung-out and costly lawsuit process? That opportunity only exists with Article V of the US Constitution. The resolution application, drawing on the authority of Article V, that is being considered in the legislature includes the opportunity to restrict the power and jurisdiction of the federal government as a result of the amendment process. What if an amendment was proposed and passed out of this convention to be ratified amongst the states that would provide the states with an independent check and balance option (that doesn't currently exist) against any federal law, ruling, or regulation that is unconstitutional? It would give them the power to abolish something imposed by the federal government by a 3/5th majority vote of the states without having to rely on the judicial system which is part of the problem. If 30 out of the 50 states could come together and shoot down a federal law, court ruling, or executive branch regulation, wouldn't that be the most powerful example of unity and legal nullification that we could ask for to place the sovereignty of our nation back into the hands of its majority via our state representatives who make up our legislatures? I think Patrick Henry would have liked that.
I should bring the article full circle and conclude with a line from the song the Lion sang in The Wizard of OZ, "What makes a King out of a slave? Courage!" Instead, I'm going to end with part of a speech from the Lord of The Rings - The Return of the King in which Aragorn gives a speech just before the armies of Rohan and Gondor commence an attack on the armies of Mordor, in front of the Black Gate: "Sons of Gondor! Of Rohan! My brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!"
Let's come together, find our courage, and follow the Constitution as the Founders intended. Your responsibility is to educate yourself about the Constitution including Article V. One day, the ratification process of an amendment may depend on you.