Conservatives Are Getting Closer to the first Constitutional Convention since 1787

Max Parthas and Eddie Conway discuss the danger of corporate forces controlling a process of rewriting the constitution and the importance of education and mobilization of the grassroots to counter it

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EDDIE CONWAY: I’m Eddie Conway, coming to you from Baltimore. Welcome to the Real News. Recently, after the election of Trump and his administration, there’s been a renewed effort to open up the constitution for changes. Article 5 in the constitution allows for X amount of states to decide, or either a certain number of people in the Congress to decide, that they want to amend the constitution. What’s important about this time is that it seems like it’s the most serious effort to open the constitution and change some of the laws that protects us and affects us.

I have with me today Max Parthas from New Abolitionist Radio, who has been looking at this. He’s going to try to explain some of it to us so we can get an understanding of just how serious this might be. Max?

MAX PARTHAS: Yes, sir. Hello, again, brother Eddie. It’s good to be here with you.

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay. Could you talk to us about this movement afoot with this new constitution convention effort?

MAX PARTHAS: Yes. Like you said, this is a very serious circumstance. This is the first in the history of our nation since 1787, I believe was the last constitutional convention. It’s a back door into the constitution in order to go into it and be able to change amendments, add amendments, and so on and so forth. There is of course a process involved, and that process is ongoing right now as we speak. It has really gained a lot of momentum.

Of the 34 states required in order to get a Constitutional convention, we have already seen 10 sign on. Two within the last 60 days or so have signed on. I have a full list of all the 10 states. The movement itself is sponsored by some very high-profile industries, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, as well as there’s involvement with the Koch brothers and George Soros, who are both vying to gain control of this.

This constitutional convention is a separate thing altogether. Several organizations and groups are vying to take control of it and to manipulate it and put in what they want to put in. From what I understand, at least one group has about 11 amendments that are already listed that they wish to propose to the constitution. That’s from the Mark Levin group. Then there’s another group which has four amendments that they’re looking to propose. It seems to me that ALEC, that group right there, doesn’t care which group wins as long as there is a constitutional convention. It seems to me like that is their main goal, so that they can take whatever weight and money they have to be able to come in and then take control at that time.

Let me tell you what a constitutional convention is. It’s a gathering for the purpose of writing a new constitution or revising an existing constitution. Members of a constitutional convention, sometimes referred to as delegates to a constitutional convention, are elected by popular vote. As I said, the last time we saw this was in 1787. If you have any questions I can answer, if not, more than I could tell you about it, and why I’m so concerned, and why everybody else should be concerned, too.

EDDIE CONWAY: Yeah, I’m curious, because I was looking at it. It came across the radar with me a month or two ago, and then I thought back about it, and I realized that the Black Panther Party had actually proposed a constitutional convention back in 1976. That was an effort to go in and rewrite some of the constitution so that it would be in favor of people down on the ground, poor people, black people, other minorities, and people that has been suffering oppression in America. I say, “Okay, that was an effort that we had put forward,” but then I look at this effort, and it seems to be coming from the Tea Party, the extreme right, and it seems to be in the interests of dismantling the government.

You said there’s 10 states already signed on to it.

MAX PARTHAS: Yes.

EDDIE CONWAY: What are their issues? What do they want?

MAX PARTHAS: As I said, the two groups who are primarily leading this have a list of things that they’re looking for. The Mark Levin group has 11 amendments. I’ll give you one or two of them. For example, top of their list is term limits. He proposes limiting service in both the House and the Senate to 12 years. They said they’ve heard all the arguments about elections being the best limit, but the last 100 years has proven that to be false. As someone who works day and night to throw the bums out, I can tell you that is nearly impossible to throw them out with the amount of money they raise precisely for their abuses of power. Levin also proves that limiting time in office is a highly regarded proposal to run their constitution and Congress. This is their own writing on the website.

One other one I’ll just read out. I won’t read the description too much of it, but let’s say number six, defining the commerce clause. Levin writes, “An amendment that while technically unnecessary, is practically an imperative to restoring the original intent of the commerce clause.” They’re going into some things like we’re not even very much aware of, commerce clauses, repealing the 17th Amendment, restoring the judiciary to its proper role, limiting taxation and spending, but in none of these documents or none of these proposals does an amendment to the 13th Amendment exist. That’s our main goal, is to remove the exception clause from the 13th Amendment. This is a possibility for us to work with people who we normally wouldn’t work with to get something like that done, if we can get a seat at the table.

If we don’t get a seat at the table, then I suspect that we’ll have a bunch of racists, right-wingers, Republican Party members backed by big money from ALEC and many other international corporations, who will take over our constitution and write it as they want it to be seen without us at the table at all.

EDDIE CONWAY: Two things, Max. One of the things that caught my eye is that there’s actually at present time a critical mass of states that’s asking for a budget amendment to curtail the debt ceiling for the federal government. They actually have over 34 states have actually signed on to that now. There’s a potential. That’s just a single issue. That’s a single issue that these states are supporting and backing, but it’s enough to actually have a challenge in the Supreme Court to force the Congress to actually convene the constitutional amendment.

What concerns me about that is that if the federal government works off of borrowed money, creating national debt, and they’re always in debt because they’re always overspending, especially for the military, but if it’s limited to only the money that they collect, then they can’t borrow any money. Then a lot of social programs are going to be destroyed, a lot of Medicaid, a lot of food stamps, a lot of support for indigenous people, etc., that’s going to disappear. That concerns me more than anything else.

In reference to what you’re saying about a seat at the table, I’m even more concerned about that because this particular group, and the group that’s behind the momentum of it, they are all extremists. They all are basically conservative neocon, and they say that. They make that clear, that that’s where they’re coming from. Even sitting at the table, and I go back to Malcolm X says, because you’re sitting at the table don’t make you a diner if everybody else is eating and you’re just sitting there. I’m concerned about why would we even want to be there when we know that everybody there doesn’t have our interests at heart.

MAX PARTHAS: I understand your concerns, but the way I look at it is like this. This is going down. There’s enough money to make it happen, so are we going to sit back and just watch it occur, or should we try to come in and take it over? It’s an opportunity. As you said, the Black Panthers wanted to do the same thing. We have been asking for a convention of states or a constitutional convention now for years to amend the 13th. Here’s the opportunity right in our faces. The only thing standing between us and that occurring is a bunch of racist demons, as normal, who are trying to control everything about this government.

This is our government. It’s not their government, it’s our government, and if more people were aware of this movement which is occurring, maybe we can get enough people together to be able to carry some weight regarding what’s about to occur, maybe even put our own money behind making these things happen, so not just a seat at the table, but a seat of power and authority with many representatives.

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, all right. I guess that’s a real possibility. When you say it’s going down, it sounds to me like you are convinced that this time it will actually be successful, and the constitution will be opened up again for changes?

MAX PARTHAS: Yes, because of the hostile environment that exists now with this complete control by the Republican Party. We know that many of them are right-wing, so they’re taking this opportunity to make things happen. Let me just read something briefly to you. It says, “The ALEC-affiliated ballots budget amendment task force, BBATF, which preferred the pledge signed by Senator Ted Cruz, is hoping to meet that 34-state threshold by July 4th.” BBATF is one player in an astroturf movement backed by the billionaire Koch brothers and embraced by the right-wing state legislators.

A balanced budget amendment has long been a holy grail for the right since the 30s. In the 80s, conservatives made a push for a balanced budget constitutional convention. 20 years later, the idea was resurrected as part of the Tea Party platform. That’s when BBATF was formed, to carry the movement forward. With 16 resolutions held over from the previous wave of conservative activism, BBATF has since passed resolutions in Alabama, New Hampshire, Ohio-

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay. All right, Max, we’re going to have to wrap it up. Obviously, we’re going to have to revisit this. We have watched the progress of it, see how close they come to getting that critical number of states between now and July, and I’m going to have you come back, and we’re going to talk about this some more, okay?

MAX PARTHAS: Yes, sir.

EDDIE CONWAY: The only thing, if you can give me a little brief summary of where the national march stands now for the human rights of prisoners, and then we will have to close up.

MAX PARTHAS: The Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March, which information can be found on iamweubuntu.com, is growing by leaps and bounds. Just yesterday, we had word that the Republic of New Africa is also joining us, as well as other organizations like M Cobra. This is something that is crossing all boundaries amongst people who have concerns about what’s happening today with human rights violations regarding prisoners in the United States of America. It’ll be on August 19th in Washington, D.C. We feel that it is imperative that everybody who can be there. This has got to be something we have never seen before in order to show that we the people care about our prisoners and those people who are being incarcerate unjustly now all across America. Let’s show our concern and show up.

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, Max. Thank you. We will revisit both of these things in the near future. Thanks for joining me.

MAX PARTHAS: Thank you, Eddie. I always appreciate what you have been doing. God bless.

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, and thank you for joining the Real News.

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