Shining a Light on the Right in the States
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 10:08:36 PM EST
Journalist Paul Rosenberg, writing at Salon.com has shined a light into a dark corner of American public life -- and found elements of the religious and secular far right operating in plain sight -- and making great strides in the states.  He identified reasons why few of us have heard much about these things.

First, there's the blind spot of routinely underreporting state-level political news, most notably, recent waves of right-wing legislation: antiabortion laws, voter-suppression laws, stand-your-ground laws, etc. Second is the blind spot of conservative radicalization, which the media staunchly refuses to report on, except through the limits of the he said/she said format, which automatically blurs and obscures the story.
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In tandem, the two blind spots have obscured the story of state-level conservative radicalization throughout the post-Vietnam era.

Rachel Tabachnick and Frank Cocozzelli and I took a look into those blind spots over the past year, resulting in a special issue of The Public Eye magazine.

Rosenberg summarized it this way:

Clarkson wrote "Exposed: How the Right's State-Based Think Tanks are Transforming U.S. Politics," while Tabachnick co-authored the article "Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right" with Frank L. Cocozzelli. The first story examines the extensive state-level networks of Heritage-style free market think tanks (the State Policy Network) and Family Research Council-style social conservative think tanks (the Family Policy Councils). These have been instrumental in nourishing a culture of state-level right-wing activism that goes largely unnoticed by the national media. ...

The second story examines the ideological infrastructure at play behind recent state-level political developments, which it traces back to the Old Right "paleoconservatives" whose ideas have often been presented as libertarian in the hands of Ron Paul and his associates. As it quickly points out, "Since 2010, state legislators have introduced nearly 200 bills -- on 11 issues alone -- challenging federal laws that they deem  unconstitutional," including anti-gun control bills in at least 38 states, and anti-Obamacare laws in at least 20 states. Such activism even "extends beyond the 50 state legislatures, spreading to county and local governments, including about 500 county sheriffs who have affirmed their commitment to `saying "no" to Obama gun control.'"

All this provides a context for the main focus of Rosenberg's story:  Two efforts to try to gain support for an unprecedented Constitutional Convention under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution. There is a lot of debate about this on the Right. Some, like the John Birch Society and Eagle Forum are opposed, fearing a "runaway convention."   One faction, seeks a convention, called by the state legislatures that would be bound to vote on just one amendment (thus no chance of conventioneers going wild). The amendment he has in mind would allow for 30 states to become in effect, a fourth branch of government, able to "countermand" any federal action -- regulation, legislation or court decision they don't like. (They have Roe vs. Wade in their sights, for example.)  The other effort, allows for delegates to organize themselves, but also claims it would not be a runaway convention, and seems to have the most political juice and the backing of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  In any case, the Indiana state legislature has already passed a model resolution calling for an Article V convention, and there is great seriousness of purpose in all this that should not be taken lightly.

Rosenberg's article provides a good introduction to all this, so I won't dwell on it here except to say that these efforts are farther along than one might think, and promise to factor into the politics of at least state legislative races and beyond over the next few cycles. Particularly 2014.

It would be tempting to dismiss all this out of hand, but one does not have to believe that it would be possible to get enough political support to mount a Constitutional Convention to see that the effort has the potential to play a role in our state and even national political conversations.




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there are many ways in which a constitutional convention would be good for the left.  For example I would like an amendment that makes corporate contributions illegal and an amendment that provide for public financing of elections.   I would also like one that creates some sort of instant runoff voting.  

The biggest advantage the right has is that they don't just play defense like the left does.   Defense is always a war of attrition.  Face it war are losing!

by strayroots on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 11:27:40 PM EST

Face it. We are losing this war just losing it slowly.

by strayroots on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 11:28:33 PM EST
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to amend the constitution.

In fact, there is a campaign by progressives groups currently underway to amend the constitution to end corporate personhood, and not by the Article V route.

 

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 12:56:47 AM EST
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done immediately and the number of reforms that must be made.  Given the grave impacts of climate change, we have reached that point.

Now the right has a much harder case to make since it clear they are wanting a convention for just one reform.

by strayroots on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 01:48:59 AM EST
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is required, getting a constitutional convention is not the way to go. A convention is not a shortcut to address urgent needs, no matter what the issue may be.

As for what the right is thinking, if you are interested you should also look into this further. One faction wants to limit a convention to one amendment. The other does not.  

In any case, our topic here is the Religious Right, part of which is involved in this effort.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 01:06:53 PM EST
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Given that the "personhood" state amendments have failed so far, probably due to public uncertainty about how such an amendment would play out, how likely is it that the constitutional convention proponents could get a toehold without backlash from the general public? Expose them to the general public#, and risk perpetuating a bad idea, or wait until they actually try to sell this C.C. to the general public to go after them?

#that means, people other than readers of this blog and political junkies

by NancyP on Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 12:59:38 PM EST
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and is widely discussed on the right including in their publications and blogs.  Everywhere else, not so much.  Everyone needs to come up to speed on this or find themselves behind.  

The story in Salon.com gave all this some pretty prominent play.  Those who would like to help sound the alarm could, for example, send it to journalists and state legislators. Or their own circle of interested friends.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 01:35:19 PM EST
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I haven't heard or read anything about the right contriving to hold a CC. I will certainly try to get up to speed. If it was presented here, I missed it. I do try to go back to posts here that I hadn't read before, but of course that surely allows some of them to escape my attention. Thanks for the heads up.

by trog69 on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 12:39:44 AM EST
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