by Pauly Fongemie
January 14, 2014

In a previous article I saluted attorney, author and radio host, Mark Levin, listing to date his four books on liberty and the Republic. Mr. Levin first came to my attention about 8 years ago. I was not much of a radio person, preferring to read when I had the time, although radio provides an advantage as one can do housework or drive while tuning in. While browsing my favorite book store I came across his first work, MEN IN BLACK, subtitled, How the Supreme Court is Destroying America, published by Regnery, 2005.

I was hungry for works that were clear, concise and coherent, readable by which to learn more about the founding principles of our nation and conservatism. It had been a long journey for me, having been raised in a Democratic family with devoted parents who worked for the party, raising funds and helping candidates to get elected. My father was a polemicist by avocation and an ardent Democrat in every way, so much so that he revered President Roosevelt, often citing his policies from before the Second World War. Not only was conservatism verboten, but Republicans were a despised group. While my father was doctrinaire, he was not unreasonable in that he always considered it his bounden duty to raise his children with the ability to think - the how to - not necessarily what to think, although he hoped naturally enough his daughters would grow up to be active in the party. A dutiful daughter I was one of the founding members of Maine's 400 Club, initiated to support Muskie for Governor, a successful endeavor. I was the only non-adult in the group and often attended smoked-filled rooms [real in those days], listening attentively to all the give and take and I was a very enthusiastic student at first. Everything to me was idealistic, theoretical as most of the policies advocated did not seem to bear on reality, how most people conduct their lives; even then most of the slogans appeared divorced from the natural law and common sense; the heart of the matter had not taken full shape within my grasp, but I had a vague disquiet that covered me almost like a funereal pall; still, it never occurred to me to take a look at the opposition. I had a long way to go and I was but 22 years of age, a neophyte in every way as such things can be measured when I began to change. Only a few years earlier I had been a Kennedy supporter. I passed a kiosk off of Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, where I briefly made my home; I saw National Review, and picked it up. And read it cover to cover and thought and thought.

After moving back to Maine, I was in attendance at the annual Jefferson dinner as I did every year. My husband, a former Goldwater Republican and now a Democrat had left my side to speak with a colleague so I joined a small group of political honchos that I recognized - that was engaged in laughter, wondering what all the jokes were about. I was not amused for the wisecracks were the remarks of bigots, whether these people realized it or not. The object of the jests were American Indians and those of Canadian French background. It was truly scurrilous. An unsavory hypocrisy overwhelmed me and I never went back there. Now, bigots can be found anywhere, this was not all of the problem. It was that these same people were the first to single out Republicans as racists, bigots, and unfeeling about those who were not like them; in fact they made it their business to do so and so passionately and pointedly that it was their raison de 'etre. Or at least this was how it seemed. It became apparent that there was something lacking in the "principles" of Democratism, [particularly the left], so much so that these wrong-headed, hard-hearted people saw no conflict in their espoused "values" and their actual conduct. It was time to reconsider everything I had imbibed of liberalism in all trusting innocence.

I contacted the only person I knew who was a Republican, a local businessman that I liked personally regardless of his politics, explaining my quandary. As it happened there was a city Republican meeting that very evening and he kindly invited me to join them as a guest, which I did. Throughout the evening I heard common sense discussion, centered on the problems of local business, the main employers apart from government; the gathering was laced with plenty of humor, none of it bigoted, not even close. I soon joined the Republican Party, becoming active on city and town committees, depending on the locales our family moved to over the course of our marriage. By that time my husband went the opposite direction, becoming a more active Democrat, who now found himself married to a Reagan Republican. The year of that Maine GOP convention was a pivotal year since I was an alternate delegate in support of Reagan. By that time I realized that most Maine Republicans - the very core of the party activists - were "centrists", milquetoast Democrats in disguise and I was considering whether to bolt or not - I wanted to be active in the Primary elections - Maine is not an open state. The event that tipped the balance - enabling me to leave, never to look back in regret - was the ridicule directed at me as the only Reaganite in our delegation. Pressure was applied to persuade me to back Bush. As early as then it was already evident that America had begun its slide to the precipice where it has been hovering ever since Reagan left office, and this does not take into consideration that Reagan did little to reduce the bloated bureaucracy, such as the Department of "Re-Education." Although I had been on the winning side, I took no solace for it was the country that was a continual concern. I had enlisted as a soldier in the conservative cause, on the side of the natural law and Tradition and it would be an all or nothing enterprise for the rest of my life.  I was hungry and the books from Bill Buckley, Joseph Sobran and Pat Buchanan, which were a mainstay were no longer enough. I had read Bastiat et al; I was an ordinary housewife, reasonably intelligent, with no illusions but needed more. By that time I had detected a number of cracks in the armor of Bill Buckley and was beginning to be dismayed once more. Would it ever stop, I wondered? Enter Mark Levin.

Mark Levin is one of those few brilliant and original thinkers who can write so that his readers can enjoy reading while learning. Levin's books are not only a pleasure to read, but a privilege: he cuts right to the chase. Every word counts and counts immensely. In a phrase, he has an intellect like a steel trap, open to things as they are, were meant to be by our very nature as created beings, and closed to nonsense and its pathetic shibboleths, from wherever they spew forth to pollute the body politic and the minds of men.

While never talking down to his readers, as he presumes they are fluent in English, his explanations are not complicated, the average person who wants to learn can. One does not have to sort through various chapters to pick and choose those that actually appeal to you. Every sentence captures the imagination. His books have pride of place in my considerable library of history, law and Conservatism - not neo-Conservatism, but Constitutional Conservatism, Traditional, Social Conservatism. Like all good non-fiction authors worthy of the name, his indices and notes are invaluable for reference points; and while some political authors' works follow one another in theme, it is Mark Levin who shines because each book is the building block for the subsequent work.

I will provide an example before delving into the topic of this essay, THE LIBERTY AMENDMENTS. I trust I am not violating copyright law because this is a book review and I intend to keep the citations short. All emphasis in bold, mine.

In MEN IN BLACK, we find in reference to judges, notes not included for brevity's sake:

Originalists believe that the powers enumerated specifically in the Constitution are the only powers of the federal government, unless the Constitution is formally amended. Originalists generally interpret provisions of the Constitution (and, when applicable, statutes) narrowly. In other words, these judges attempt to look at the plain meaning of the law. They believe in a clearly delineated separation of powers.

My friend Robert Bork summed it up well when he said that originalism "appeal [s] to a common sense of what judges' roles ought to be in a properly functioning constitutional democracy. Judges are not to overturn the will of legislative majorities absent a violation of a constitutional right, as those rights were understood by the framers." Moreover, "judges may look to the text, structure, and history of the Constitution, but are prohibited from inventing extra-constitutional rights." "Originalism seeks to promote the rule of law by imparting to the Constitution a fixed, continuous, and predictable meaning."

Originalists object to the judiciary grabbing power in the name of advancing a social good or remedying some actual or perceived injustice. To the extent that this framework is compromised, both liberty and the rule of law are jeopardized. The judiciary, operating outside its scope, is the greatest threat to representative government we face today. [p. 13]

His next book, LIBERTY AND TYRANNY, informs us:

The Constitution is the bedrock on which a living, evolving nation was built. It is - and must be - a timeless yet durable foundation that individuals can count on in a changing world. It is not perfect but the Framers made it more perfectible through the amendment process.

The Conservative seeks to divine the Constitution's meaning from its words and their historical context, including a variety of original sources - records of public debates, diaries, correspondence, notes, etc. While reasonable people may, in good faith, draw different conclusions from the application of this interpretative standard, it is the only standard that gives fidelity to the Constitution.  ...

The Statist is not interested in what the Framers said or in, tended. He is interested only in what he says and he intends. Consider the judiciary, which has seized for itself the most dominant role in interpreting the Constitution. When asked by a law clerk to explain his judicial philosophy, the late Associate Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall responded, "You do what you think is right and let the law catch up." The late Associate justice Arthur Goldberg's answer was no better. A law clerk recounts Goldberg telling him that his approach was to determine "what is the just result." Still others are persuaded by the Statist's semantic distortions, arguing that the judge's job is to spread democracy or liberty.
The Conservative may ask the following questions: If words and their meaning can be manipulated or ignored to advance the Statist's political and policy preferences, what then binds allegiance to the Statist's words? Why should today's law bind future generations if yesterday's law does not bind this generation? Why should judicial precedent bind the nation if the Constitution it, self does not? Why should any judicial determination based on a judge's notion of what is "right" or "just" bind the individual if the individual believes the notion is wrong and unjust? Does not lawlessness beget lawlessness? [pp. 52 and 53]

In AMERITOPIA [The Unmaking of America],  Chapter 11, Post-Constitutional America, the title itself stating the case to precision, Levin laments:

 Much has changed in America, and for the worse. I am not speaking of the natural change, evolution, and progress that flows from spontaneous interactions among free people, which is mostly desirable, essential, and regular. In fact, it is the disposition of the civil society. It is the reason for advancements and developments in new products, services, technologies, science, medicine, etc., and the source of the nation's economic vibrancy and prosperity.
Contrarily, the underlying factors and values that make possible the civil society, which center on the liberty and rights of the individual, have been and are being devitalized and stifled by utopian masterminds who substitute their preferences, objectives, and decisions - including rewarding their political allies and supporters - for a free people. The means by which these utopians amass their power is through the federal government. The federal government has become unmoored from its origins. As a result, America today 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, federal power. [p. 187]

THE LIBERTY AMENDMENTS, Restoring the American Republic:

The name of this exceptional, magnificent opus states the matter succinctly and definitively. The danger to our once vibrant Republic is clear, compelling: The book is a three-fold flowing continuum: the why [Chapter 1], the whats [each chapter on a single amendment] and the how [the Epilogue] - a manifest call-to-arms and he provides the ammunition after analyzing the condition of the Republic.

Mr. Levin recognizes how urgent the task is, yet does not present an insurmountable, although a laborious undertaking. The procedure for the restoration is ingenious, as is the natural eloquence of Levin: the solution lies within Article V of the US Constitution, the very law itself:

"The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress ...

"Importantly, in neither case does the Article V amendment process provide for a constitutional convention. It provides for two methods of amending the Constitution. The first method, where two-thirds of Congress passes a proposed amendment and then forwards it to the state legislatures for possible ratification by three-fourths of the states, has occurred on twenty-seven occasions. The second method, involving the direct application of two-thirds of the state legislatures for a Convention for proposing Amendments, which would thereafter also require a three-fourths ratification vote by the states, has been tried in the past but without success. Today it sits dormant." p. 12]

The wisdom in this approach is evidenced by the fact that he readily acknowledges human frailty, anticipating the reader's natural objections in line with such a recognition of the imperfection of men, answering them directly without evasion, relying on the Framers and their own awareness of the difficulties that could arise. Levin meets every objection head-on and then responds in unison with James Madison in Federalist Paper #43, citing:

 "That useful alterations will be suggested by experience, could not but be foreseen. It was requisite, therefore, that a mode for introducing them should be provided. The mode preferred by the convention seems to be stamped with every mark of propriety. It guards equally against that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its discovered faults. It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other. ..."

Levin adds, emphasis in bold added by me:

"There are other reasons for assuaging concerns. Robert G. Natelson, a former professor of law at the University of Montana and an expert on the state convention process, explains that 'a convention for proposing amendments is a federal convention; it is a creature of the states or, more specifically, of the state legislatures. And it is a limited-purpose convention. It is not designed to set up an entirely new constitution or a new form of government. How do we know that it's a federal convention? [It] was the only kind of interstate convention the Founders ever knew, or likely ever considered. Indeed, when they talked during the ratification process about conventions for proposing amendments, they always talked about them as representing the states.' Moreover, the state legislatures determine if they want to make application for a convention; the method for selecting their delegates; and the subject matter of the convention." [Excerpts from pp. 12-16]

Mark Levin is nobody's fool and as he readily admits, there will be difficulty in gaining sustained support for amending the Constitution, while at the same time he is hopeful as he knows that there are "untold number of citizens who comprehend the perilousness of the times and circumstances and the urgency ..." [p. 17] Hope and determination are the attributes that urge the reader on.

The remaining chapters are the proposed Amendments with the concluding epilogue, A Time for Action.

His proposed amendments are: (1) Term limits for Congress, (2) Restoration of the original States role in selecting Senators, (3) Term limits for the Supreme Court and super-majority legislative override - my particular favorite; The Supreme Court can be limited by Congress which was given the power to do so. This is key because liberalism's causes continue to be primarily promoted and invested with longevity through packed courts, achieving what can not be gained through the usual legislative and election procedures, ceding the courts dominance all too often, uprooting the necessary balance of power. In other words, rule by oligarchy, an enduring tyranny. (4) Two amendments limiting spending and taxation; (5) Limits on the federal bureaucracy; (6) Promotion of free enterprise, limits on Congress' control over interstate commerce; (7) Protection of private property - original eminent domain intent restored, essentially; this is significant because today eminent domain practices by local and state governments are preceded and accompanied by policies by said entities to lower the value of the private property beforehand in order to reduce the amounts paid to compensate the landowner, a particular heinous practice since the typical small landowner is powerless against the force and power of government, placing him at a distinct disadvantage.

(8) An Amendment to grant the states direct authority to amend the Constitution:

"The level of complexity in the amendment processes was intentional. The Framers envisioned a clear and specific purpose the system of government they established. The Constitution was not meant to be a detailed list of laws and edicts to micromanage people's behavior. It was not meant to change with factional or majoritarian impulses. And it was not meant to serve the political expedients of a class of governing masterminds and their fanatical followers. The Constitution's authors intended it to serve as a steady, reliable, and not easily altered apparatus of governance built upon "unalienable" rights by which a huge, diverse, and vigorous society could successfully govern itself. The amendment processes were intended to elevate any matter addressed in a proposed amendment beyond the realm of day-to-day political issues. ...

"However, as discussed at length in preceding chapters, we live in a post,constitutional period due to the Progressive movement's successful political counterrevolution. The Statists have constructed an all-powerful centralized federal government, unleashing endless social experiments in pursuit of utopian desires. The federal branches have used judicial review, congressional del, egation, 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." [pp. 148-149]

This is a complex chapter involving a lot of history, but Levin makes it easy to digest because he refers back and back again to Liberty and Tyranny and Ameritopia. He concludes this section thus:

"The original constitutional construct - a social compact with limits, enumerations, divisions, etc. - was instituted to preserve the civil society and the individual's unalienable rights. But there is no denying that the federal government today is in many ways inimical to that purpose. The steady jog toward unbridled, centralized decision-making has become a sprint. The federal government has evolved into a colossus and the circle of liberty that surrounds each individual is shrinking.

"The proposed amendment provides the body politic - that is, we, the people, through our state representatives, who live among us in our communities and with whom we can personally consult - with recourse against the federal government's usurpation of individual and state sovereignty. It assumes the citizenry rejects its growing subjugation by a class of governing masterminds who oversee an army of federal bureaucrats ..." [p. 165]

(9) Grant to the states authority to check Congress. In this proposal Levin is perspicacious and as always direct, citing the mysterious hidden underbelly and oppression of Obamacare as the prime example; he goes on to  make sure the reader recognizes the objective of the amendment is to "restore the founding prerogatives and discourage arbitrary and perplexing legislation and regulations, instituted by a growing, centralized decision-making regime hostile to constitutional restraints." [p. 179] And so forth.

(10) Protection of the vote, another favorite of mine, for the author is cognizant of the danger to a free, non-fraudulent election that is posed by electronic procedures, and other modern day problems not foreseen by the Framers, simply because it was not humanly possible.

The epilogue, The Time for Action is the how:

He opens with the salvo that exposes the difficulty at the onset, rather than discourage the traditional patriot, Levin inspires him:

"No DOUBT, IN A twist of logic, the state convention process and The Liberty Amendments will be assaulted by the governing masterminds and their disciples as an extreme departure from the status quo and, therefore, heretical, as they resist ferociously all efforts to diminish their power and position. Paradoxically, it is they who distort the Constitution's text and trespass its purpose by actively pursuing its nullification and abandonment. History t demonstrates that republics collapse when demagogues present themselves as their guardians to entice the people and cloak their true intentions. I have no illusions about the Statists' capacity to induce confusion and spread disinformation in defense of their own ambition and aggrandizement. Indeed, the closer the approach to constitutional restoration, should that day arrive, a torrent of fuming and malevolent rage will, predictably, let loose, alleging perfidy by the true reformers." [p. 203]

He notes persuasively that it is the "defeatist notion of moderation that accepts ... inevitable societal self-destruction without recourse to an available escape." - naming this state of mind irrational because the Framers have given us an escape route, it is only our lack of diligence in reacquainting ourselves with the remedy through a thorough knowledge of the Constitution, its grants and intent. He also points out to those who think that the election process is the proper cure for the ills that beset us, that in reality from experience that this occurs infrequently - that it is rare to find officials who remain faithful to Constitutional principles; one of the examples he cites is Franklin Roosevelt, who seized power by going around Congress and offers Reagan as the exemplar in contrast who repeatedly approved of and referred to state conventions in battles with Congress.

His call to arms in union with Ronald Reagan:

"I recognize the daunting task before us. But if there are better alternatives for effectively restoring the American Republic consistent with constitutional republicanism, not abstractions or novelties, they have hitherto not been presented. Perhaps, at a minimum, this project will kindle them. Let us hope so. There is no reason to be passive witnesses to societal dissolution, at the command of governing masterminds in the federal government and their disciples.

"In the end, the people, upon reflection, will decide their own fate once their attention is drawn. As President Reagan stated, 'You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us that we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.'
"Let us do all that can be done. Let us be inspired by the example of our forefathers and their courage, strength, and wisdom. Let us be inspirited by the genius of the Constitution and its preservation of the individual and the civil society. Let us unleash an American renaissance in which liberty is celebrated and self-government is cherished. Let us, together - we, the people - restore the splendor of the American Republic.

"Time is of the essence. Let us get started today!"

Let us pray that we become worthy of this challenge, if we may be lacking in courage, having been enervated by the crushing despondency of the tyranny over the American mind, if not always the matter, that has defined the last quarter century, the apotheosis of which is Obama.

Mark Levin has done a great service for our country, one that is bold at first blush, but is perfectly in keeping with the noble cause of ordered liberty and human dignity. Let us rise to the occasion. Please obtain a copy of this book and pass it on to others. This can be the beginning of beginning to vanquish tyranny from these shores ...

In gratitude and profound admiration for such a patriot, such a singular man of self-sacrifice, not self-aggrandizement whom God has lifted up within our midst, and praying for him and all of you with fervent thanksgiving to Almighty God for this gift to America,

Pauly Fongemie
for Catholic Tradition

The picture above is the painting, Washington Addressing the Constitutional Convention, by Junius Stearns, 1856. It is not the cover of the book, which is copyrighted.


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