This is a rush transcript from "Life, Liberty & Levin," August 19, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARK LEVIN, HOST: Hello America, I'm Mark Levin. This is "Life, Liberty & Levin." I have two great guests. Mr. Mark Meckler. How are you?
MARK MECKLER, CONVENTION OF STATES PRESIDENT: Good to see you.
LEVIN: Dr. Tom Coburn, how are you?
FORMER SEN. THOMAS COBURN, R-OKLA.: Great to see you. Great to be with you.
LEVIN: You're two patriots. You come from different backgrounds. You're California, you're Oklahoma. You're a doctor, you served in the House of Representatives, you served in the United States Senate, before that, you were a businessman and you decided to become a physician.
You've been a lawyer for some time, a businessman also and a political activist. You helped start the Tea Party Patriots and now, you've decided, "You know what? We've got to do something about the growth of government and the nation seems so unmoored from our constitutional system."
Dr. Coburn, you're elected to the Senate and then you said, "That's enough." Tell us about that.
COBURN: Well, Mark, I spent ten years in the United States Senate, following the enumerated powers, what our Constitution laid out for us, and I actually sent letters every year to every senator saying I'm going to block whatever you do if you don't do that.
In that ten years, I was able to do some positive things, but not near what is necessary, and I came to the conclusion after 10 years that what's wrong with the country isn't going to get fixed by the career politicians and the Senate or the House because we have abandoned the core principles of the enumerated powers and we have this ever expansive government that is limiting our freedom, that are also sacrificing the future of our kids because we've mortgaged their future.
And so I left looking for another method with which we can cheat history and not be a republic that falls because we didn't continue with the principles - the foundational principles that we had.
LEVIN: What are the issues that you think will cause this republic to fall?
COBURN: Oh, several. One, the lack of virtue that's been promoted in the public education system. Number two, the debt. Number three, the unfunded liabilities, and number four, the abandonment of the rule of law.
And if you go read the history on other republics, we're doing exactly what they did that caused their own collapse, and we're repeating it. And you just had noticed this week that the Treasury is going to borrow another three-quarter trillion dollars more this year than they did last year. At some point in time, somebody is not going to loan us the money and then the game is up, and the consequences are terrible for our kids.
LEVIN: Republicans control Congress.
LEVIN: You used to campaign as fiscal conservatives, at least, you would say, "Well, don't focus on the social issues. Let's at least focus on the financial and fiscal issues." What's happened?
COBURN: Well, I think that's a natural consequences of career politicians. I mean, if you look at the people who vote against all this stuff, they're not the career politicians. They're the individual citizen legislator who says, "That isn't what we're supposed to be here for."
One of the things I found really interesting is the oath when you go into the Senate, it doesn't mention your state. It mentions the US Constitution, it mentions our country, do what's in the best interest of the country, and I found that that was in conflict with re-election with many members of the Senate, and that's the other reason I left is I didn't see a body that was capable of fixing the big problems of our country, because the government has become so ever big that it micromanages - on average, the average state government only gets to decide 40 percent of the issues of their own money, an unelected bureaucrat in Washington decides it the rest of the time.
And that isn't what we bought in for, that isn't what I believe our Constitution or our framers thought. What our framers thought is that we had experiments going on in different states and that there was a limited role for the Federal government, and actually in the clear documents said everything else is left to the people and to the states. Well, we've abandoned that completely from Washington.
We believe Washington - the country believes Washington, the politicians believe Washington. the judges believe Washington should control it all. And that isn't where I came from, that isn't what I was taught. I don't believe that's what our founders believed, and so we have a solution that will actually solve this great problem.
LEVIN: Mark Meckler, you're an activist. One of the great leaders of the great tea party movement, 2010. Democrats are swept out of House of Representatives. Soon thereafter, Democrats are swept out of the Senate. You figure, "Okay, now is the time to really get control over spending the size of government and so forth," and you see that's not happening. And you decide to move into another area. Tell us about convention of states. What is Article V of the Constitution all about and why is it so important that our viewers know about this?
MECKLER: Well, you know, from all that activism, from the big switch in 2010 especially and realizing that nothing changed, I realized that we were attacking the wrong problem. The problem we were attacking was a personnel issue. Wong people in Congress. If we could just put the right people, then the right stuff would happen.
Time has shown us that's not the case. We know that things haven't changed, we just had this $1.3 trillion supplemental budget, whatever you want to call it, it's just not fiscally responsible, so there had to be another problem, and if you dig in, what you find historically is we have created a structural problem. It's not a personnel issue, we've actually broken the structure of our government.
So if you put good people like Tom Coburn in Congress, like Jim DeMint and others, now Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, there are some good people in Congress, they're working in a broken system. They cannot fix what ails the country. The founders gave us a remedy for this. They knew it was coming. In Article V of the Constitution, they inserted the second clause, which gives you and me, acting through our state legislatures the power to call a convention of states for the very purpose of proposing amendments to restrain government tyranny.
And sometimes when I say that, people say, "How do you know what the purpose was?" And we can look back at Madison's notes. What happens is two days before the end of convention, September 15, 1787, you have Colonel George Mason from Virginia stands, addresses the assembly and says something like this. We have a problem with the document we've created. We've given the power to Congress to propose amendments, but not to people, and he asked a question, "Are we so naive that we believe that a government that becomes a tyranny will ever propose the right kind of amendments to restrain their own tyranny?"
Madison's note - it's really interesting. They debated everything, right? Not that. His notes say "nin com" - in Latin means, no comment, no debate and unanimously, they vote to put the second clause of Article V that gives us the power. And important that we remember, specifically what they intended is the power to restrain a Federal government run amok. So that is the purpose of our efforts around Article V - it is to call a convention, get the states together and have them propose amendments specifically that will serve to restrain Federal tyranny.
LEVIN: Isn't it true, Dr. Coburn, that this is what the states used to do? They used to meet, they used to have conventions, not constitutional conventions, conventions of the states, to resolve problems, to address issues, and so this was common practice, so to insert it in the Constitution as Mark Meckler says was to counter this notion that only amendments can come from the Federal Congress, two-thirds of both Houses and wasn't it Mason who said, "What if Congress is oppressive? Then what will the people do?" Other than violence, there needs to be a way to address this.
So why do you think so many Republicans in State Houses and State Senates claim to be standing up for the Constitution by opposing the Constitution? That is, by opposing convention of states in Article V, which is the second way provided by the framers and the ratifiers to amend the Constitution.
COBURN: Well, I think there are two reasons to that. You know, you either have fear or courage, and what we see today is a lot of fear in our country, and leadership requires courage to do the right thing, and so you also have a lot of interest groups that are making money off of opposing this, and actually siding with the far left progressive that we shouldn't fix our country and limit it.
I think there's four main things that are allow a republic to survive. Touch stone, a little bit, but rule of law is really important, that's under stressed. Virtue, under stressed. There is no question about it. Number three is a limited government. We have anything, but a limited government, and number four is economic freedom. This country led the world for 200 years in economic freedom. We're 17th in the world now. Why is that? That's the tyranny of a large government that interferes with the ability to start, build and expand a business.
And so one of the things you are seeing presently through the elimination of lots of regulation is good economic growth. It's not all based on taxes. It's based on the monkeys getting off business so it actually can create wealth and create jobs.
So I think the number one reason is fear and lack of knowledge and so hopefully, through you and other people and what we're doing around the country is that we can educate people. Here's what our founders thought. This isn't a Johnny come lately idea. It's been there. They'd put it in intentionally so we could have a solution to where we are today, and they knew this would happen because history tells us this is what happens to republics.
LEVIN: Mark Meckler, isn't it true, there's two ways to amend the Constitution under Article V, through Congress, state ratification, through the states, state ratification, that's really the only difference. But isn't it true today the Supreme Court amends the Constitution? Congress passes statutes, amends the Constitution, the massive bureaucracy. In other words, the process isn't being followed and so when you raise one of the processes that actually exists in the Constitution, that's actually a legitimate way to address efforts to act outside the constitutional boundaries.
MECKLER: You nailed it, and the founders actually warned us about this, about amending the Constitution bit by bit, through the courts, through legislative action. This, Mark, by the way is why the left opposes this so much because they've been doing this for over a century.
They amend through the courts, and most people don't realize this, they think of the Constitution as that thing they carry in their pocket or the one in the National Archives, a beautiful document. Today, if you order the Constitution from the government printing office, the government publishing office, you can order it, $130.00 roughly, it is now 2,738 pages; with the supplements, it's over 3,000 pages. It weighs over 10 pound, it contains every Supreme Court case that has ever told us what that beautiful succinct document means.
It's outrageous. So we're living out of this big, fat document. It's not the Constitution that most people think we're living under. That is for the most part, the left's Constitution, they love the big fat book because it gives government almost unlimited power.
LEVIN: So what do you say to those who say "I love the Constitution," we'll never do better than the men who gathered in Philadelphia. My answer is, I agree, but we can do better than the men and women who serve on the Supreme Court or who serve in Congress because it is they who have changed the United States Constitution, and it is we who need to bring it back. Does that make sense?
MECKLER: It does. This is actually a movement to restore the Constitution, and what I usually say to people who ask that question is, as I say, well, which Constitution are you referring to? I mean, we have two in America. We have the one that you and I and all your readers and listeners and viewers love and that's that pocket Constitution, the one in the National Archives and then, we have the one that's been changed over the last mostly 115 years by the Federal courts and the Supreme Court by actions of the Federal government.
I love the original, and my goal is to strip away a bunch of those decisions that changed the Constitution, that gave the Federal government so much power, that made the citizens smaller and restore the citizen and the states to their proper place in the balance.
LEVIN: Is it realistic to believe that the entities, the institutions and the individuals who have created this post-constitutional design will give us back our constitutional design?
COBURN: Well, you know, I don't care what they believe. What I believe is, is the American spirit is about liberty and freedom, and if you go talk to individuals, I was in 32 states last year. If you go talk to individuals, they want their freedom. They want to be able to decide, and you know, as Mark says often, this movement is about making recommendations to the state. There's nothing foundational in this other than making a recommendation, but it's really about who gets to decide our own government, and what's happened is no longer do people get to decide.
Unelected judges, unelected bureaucrats have decided for us. And so, it's about restoring the process. So I think we can, but I think what we have to do is be very clear about what our intent is. Our intent is about restoring liberty, about restoring decision-making at the states, about honoring the vision of our founders that we will decide as people. We give the power to the government. We give it to them. They don't give it to us, we give it to them, and we have the right to maintain and focus on our own freedom and our own movements within our individual states.
And that's limited, of course, within the Bill of Rights, now, but the Bill of Rights is ignored, as are the enumerated powers. So I think it's ever positive that people can see that if we actually restore the commerce clause to what it was intended, then states will have a return of their rights to make decisions for their own individuals and the individuals in that states can actually control what happens in their state.
LEVIN: When we come back, I want to ask you, is there anything to fear from this process? And what is this process exactly?
Ladies and gentlemen, don't forget, almost every week night, you can watch Levin TV, Levin TV, by joining us, go to crtv.com/mark. crtv.com/mark or give us a call at 844-LEVIN TV. 844-LEVIN TV. We'd love to have you.
Mark Meckler, Dr. Coburn, so what is this process? Is it set forth in the Constitution? What is the process?
MECKLER: It is. It's found in the Second Clause of Article V, actually, the first and second clause, which lay out how we can amend our Constitution, the great founding document of our nation.
Basically what it lays out is there's two ways. One is Congress can propose amendments, two-thirds of each house, and if they do so, then those go out to the states for ratification by three-quarters of the states which is 38 states today. The second method is the states get together and call for a convention for proposing amendments. That takes two-thirds of the states.
LEVIN: So there's a meeting of the states.
LEVIN: Representatives from the states.
LEVIN: As opposed to a meeting of both Houses of Congress?
MECKLER: So it's a parallel, and the states have full discretion of how to choose their own commissioners to the convention in true federalist fashion, I like that as a federalist. They could send as many people as they want to convention. Experts, they can send legislators. When they get there, each state has a single vote because it is actually a convention of states, not a convention of commissioners or delegates.
They will get there, they will elect their officers, they will debate the subject matter set forth in their resolutions that sent them to convention, and then if 26 states, a majority of states can agree on any given amendment, those amendments then will be sent out to the states for ratification. The same as they would be if Congress does so.
LEVIN: So the amendment ratification process, just to keep it - is exactly the same as it will be as if Congress proposed it.
LEVIN: And you need 38 state legislatures or conventions of states to ratify?
LEVIN: So, there can't be a runaway convention of states because they don't have the final say, correct?
MECKLER: Correct. When people talk about a runaway convention and they express fear, one of the things that I say, "I don't understand, you are actually afraid of people getting in a room and having a conversation and making recommendations?" Because that's all a convention can do. It's what I describe as a suggesting convention.
LEVIN: How many state resolutions must there be? They are almost identical. They cover the same subject matter. How many states need agree to do that before there can be a convention of states?
MECKLER: The Constitution says two-thirds of states, and so that's 34 states required to pass what are called aggregable resolutions, that means they are substantially the same. They cover the same subject matter, and so far 12 states have passed these resolutions that we're working on.
LEVIN: And these 12 states have passed these resolutions, so by my math, and I'm not good at it, you need 20 ..
MECKLER: Twenty two more.
LEVIN: Twenty two more?
LEVIN: And I suspect if you got 10 more, you get the attention of Washington, DC. This process, Dr. Coburn, has been attacked. It's been attacked mostly by the left. There's hundreds of organization that are starting to organize against it, they are funded by multiple billionaires and some fringe elements on the right. The John Birch Society as well as others on the right, who apparently think the Constitution and the text of the Constitution should be embraced, except for Article V, which is the fire alarm for the republic, am I right about that?
COBURN: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And fear guides it. The first thing to think about is the Congress right now can pass any amendment they want and send it to the states. Any crazy amendment. And why don't they? Because they know the American people wouldn't take it. So that's the first thing.
The second thing is to remember that it requires 38 states to agree that anything that would come out of this. The converse of that is, all it requires is 13 judiciary chairmen to say, "We're not taking this up." So 13 states control whether something is approved or not.
So if they're worried about something being erroneous or out of whack with what the intent of our founders is, all you have to have is 13 people say, "No, we're not going to even talk about it." So the safety this is tremendously engaged in terms of what our founders believed was important. A very high bar to get to a convention. You have to build consensus and then once you have a convention, then you have to have a super majority that says, "Yes, we think we need to do."
So people who are running around like chickens with their head cut off have one or two motives. One, they're trying to raise money because they don't agree with this because if they actually understand the process, they wouldn't be against it. Or number two, they're socialist Marxists which is the hard left which is saying, "Don't do this because you're going to undermine all the socialism we've put into our country." Well, it's not about undermining socialism, it's not about not taking care of people, it's about restoring freedom, it's about restoring liberty, it's about restoring growth.
I mean, think about what happened in terms of our country's growth after World War II. There was limited government and magnificent growth. 6 percent, 7 percent, 8 percent per year. What would that do if we saw that again in our country? So restoring that - so the position of most people who don't want to see this on the far right is it's a position that doesn't have foundation in the intellectual arguments, and they know it.
John Birch, Larry McDonald entered into the congressional record, he was then head of the John Birch Society, the liberty amendments. Their founder embraced the liberty amendments. This is a modern day opposition and I suspect it's about raising money, not about being against what we're trying to do.
LEVIN: Isn't the problem that the Constitution in so many respect has been eviscerated and it's interesting to hear the left, the progressive left whose intellectual forefathers, John Dewey, Woodrow Wilson, Ray - all these guys, attacked the Constitution, they despised the balance of power. They despised separation of powers. They despised Federalism. They were the same people today who have achieved the centralization of government where who you have five justices who determine what it is or not a fundamental right.
Bedamn the republic. You have a massive bureaucracy that passes thousands of laws a year where Congress may pass hundreds and you have all of these decisions coming down from on high and here is this movement that says, "Let us get our liberty back, let us get our Constitution back. Let us participate in our government," and then we have people saying, "No, no. Don't touch the Constitution." Is that about right?
MECKLER: It's accurate and it's interesting because that movement that prevent people from using Article V starts in about the 1970s after Roe versus Wade roughly. It comes from Chief Justice Warren Burger who was asked by a seminal figure on the right, Phyllis Schlafly, writes a letter to Burger and asked him what he thinks of the idea of a convention. Of course, she's talking about a convention at that time to overturn Roe versus Wade. That's his court's decision.
So, naturally, he doesn't like this idea and he says, "We might lose our beloved Constitution." They then begin this campaign that has now lasted 50 years roughly, saying it would be dangerous to hold a convention because they realized that for folks on the right, this is the only way to right the ship, this is the way to fix the structural deficit that's been created.
LEVIN: And folks on the right, we're constitutionalists, we're not even really on the right. We're right here. You've got these guys over here, you've got these guys over here. We are constitutionalists and yet they stick us in these different corners and so forth. We'll be right back.
ROBERT GRAY, CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: Live from "America's News Headquarters," I'm Robert Gray. The Indonesian island of Mambo hit by a third massive earthquake in less than a month. Today's magnitude 6.9 quake knocking out power across the resort island. The first earthquake hit on July 29th, killing at least 16 people. One week later, the second one killed more than 460. At least one person was killed today, but authorities are unable to survey the full extent of the damage due to the power outages.
And rescue efforts are ramping up in the Indian coastal state of Kerala where the worst flooding in a century has left thousands trapped without food or water. Weeks of torrential monsoon rains triggering landslides that have wiped out entire villages. The rising waters have killed more than 350 people, displacing hundreds of thousands more. I'm Robert Gray. Now back to "Life, Liberty & Levin."
LEVIN: Welcome back. Dr. Coburn, Mark Meckler. Dr. Coburn, what reforms are you proposing that we institute?
COBURN: Well, actually, three areas, scope and jurisdiction of the Federal government, and I'll get specific on that. Financial responsibility, how about being accountable with our money?
LEVIN: You've spent an entire career on this.
COBURN: I have, and then finally limiting the terms of both appointed and elected officials. But let me go to the core one. The fact that your state can't control how it educates its children comes about through a court decision that expanded the definition of the commerce clause that to something totally different than what our founders believe and that applies to the State Department of Transportation, your own EPA, an environmental organization in your state. You just think all the different organizations in your state, they are controlled by a bureaucrat in the Federal government.
So if you restrict back to the commerce clause to what our founders intended, all of a sudden the authority of the Federal government to reach in and tell your state agencies and your state legislators what they'll do because we know better in Washington versus when they really don't know better, then we have fixed and restored the Constitution to what it intends. What that does is a couple of things, number one, it gives flexibility to the states to do the right thing for them and their citizens at the right time versus a one size fits all everywhere.
It also eliminates a ton of bureaucracy. So you can do that with the commerce clause, you can do that with the general welfare clause and you can do that with the necessary proper clause. All three of those have been prostituted by the courts to mean something totally different than what our founders meant. That will restore a ton of freedom.
Forcing the government to live within its means, and making a hard choice - why isn't anybody working on this $12 trillion deficit we're having this year?
LEVIN: They are.
COBURN: They are working to raise it. Why aren't they worried about the $144 trillion of unfunded liabilities that the millennials are going to have, that we created by creating programs but never raising the tax base to pay for those. So having general accepted accounting principles, so they can't cheat. OMB cheats all the time. See, the congressional budget office cheats all the time with the numbers. I've been there. I've seen it.
And then, the third thing is, shouldn't we limit the power of people who are appointed or are elected to actually be engaged for short time and come home and live under the laws that they make? And shouldn't we - and also, give an unlimited term to somebody because they at one time were approved by Congress as a judge?
You know, look at all the judges that are in semi retirement that don't hardly carry any cases, and we're still paying them because they have a lifetime appointment.
LEVIN: Now, you and I have written books about the history of this process and proposed reform amendments and so forth. Your book is, "Smashing the DC Monopoly." My book is the "Liberty Amendment."
LEVIN: I started out opposing this idea. You may remember, we had a discussion about this. You probably didn't originally like the idea either.
COBURN: I didn't consider it. I thought here's the way we should do it.
LEVIN: Right and I started studying it. I said, "This is exactly what the founders of this country would want, no?" You didn't come to this easily either until you actually informed yourself about this. Is there any other way to restore our constitutional system? I don't know of any, do you?
MECKLER: Not that I'm aware of, Mark, and I travel all over the country. Forty-four states in the last two years, I've spoken to thousands upon thousands of people. A small percentage of people object to this. And what I do, I always ask them that question. I say, "Well, what's the alternative? You agree our system is broken, you agree the country is going to crash. What's your solution?" I've never heard an alternative solution proposed. Literally, never.
COBURN: We can cheat history, that's the key thing, our founders gave us a tool to cheat history.
LEVIN: Meaning we don't have to decline.
COBURN: We don't have to decline. And we have a tool in the Constitution if we use it and do it prudently and we will, then we can restore our country to the vibrancy that we once had.
LEVIN: You know, I hear people talk about states' rights, the 10th Amendment, Federalism, but it's Article V that gives it teeth. So how can you support the 10th Amendment, state authority, talk about you're a federalist, you believe in federalism and reject the only method that exists in the Federal Constitution, for ensuring both of those things? And yet I find that in many respects this is the case.
However, I also find that there are more and more people coming around. You have multimillions of people who support your organizations, 3.5 million in your grassroots operation. You've got even more and more Washington politicians and others who have supported this.
We have Mike Huckabee. We have Marco Rubio. There are others, too, right? I can't remember them all.
MECKLER: Yes, I mean, literally and they kind of span the spectrum across what I would call people who love the Constitution from maybe Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush is an endorser and you've got guys like Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Senator Ben Sass, Senator Rand Paul. So these are guys that have been inside the machine. They come to politics from very different perspectives. Someone called them middle of the road guys, or very conservative guys, but the bottom line is, all of them realized there's no other way to fix the country right now.
LEVIN: And if we don't take this route, this is what I like to ask, what are the options? We continue to do what we're doing? We continue to drive up the debt? Other reform amendments, some that I proposed, which is term limiting Supreme Court justices, members of the Senate, members of the House. Allowing a supermajority in House and the Senate, three-fifths to overturn a Supreme Court decision as long as they act within two years. To my view, there is no reason one justice should determine for the entire republic for all time that that's the position, or three-fifths of the state legislatures also acting within two years.
Spending limits, taxing limits, borrowing limits. I only mention this so the audience understands it is we who want to reinstall, reinstitute constitutional limited government, because the Constitution is honored if at all in the breach, isn't that right?
LEVIN: And so the progressive agenda including on the courts, they wrap themselves in constitutional language and then say, "We must follow the precedent." But the precedent isn't always constitutional, is it?
COBURN: We have very many examples of where the Supreme Court has not followed precedent.
MECKLER: Mark, as a lawyer, one of the most interesting things to - when I think back to my law school days and Justice Kennedy was actually a professor at my law school when I was there and one of the most interesting things is somebody asked me once, "So, Mark, when you were in law school, did you read the Constitution?" And I was actually a little offended by the question.
LEVIN: And we're going to get your answer in one second. Mark, did you read the Constitution in law school? I know my answer.
Don't forget, Levin TV almost every week night. Please join us, you're going to enjoy our community there as well. Got to crtv.com/mark, crtv.com/mark or give us a call, 844-LEVIN TV. We'll be right back.
LEVIN: So Mark Meckler, we have this cliffhanger. You're in law school three years, did you ever study the Constitution?
MECKLER: Never, not once, we never read it, which was astounding for me to look back, in hindsight it seems unbelievable. I took Con Law, every lawyer takes Constitutional Law their first year of law school. It's the foundation.
LEVIN: And what do they teach you?
MECKLER: They teach you what justices have said over the centuries about their interpretation of the Constitution, but you never get the original document, you never get the founders' intent. So what we're learning is this twisted view of the Constitution that has nothing to do with the original document.
LEVIN: Were you ever taught did texturalism or regionalism - anything in this sort?
MECKLER: Not even a little bit. And so, again, what we learned is something the founders would have despised which is essentially a worship of men - of men and women in black robes who make decisions who are supposedly so much smarter than the rest of us.
LEVIN: Dr. Coburn, you brought up the commerce clause. The commerce clause was put in there because the states were fighting with each other. They wanted to promote commerce property, private property rights, trade - what we today call capitalism. What's happened to the commerce clause today?
COBURN: Well, the commerce clause has been prostituted so that the Federal government takes the power and decides what is or is not their bailiwick through their definition of the commerce clause. In actual ruling was that a guy didn't do interstate commerce and because he didn't, it affected interstate commerce, and they gave this great expansion, it's just a farce.
But the fact is, the commerce clause has been prostituted now far beyond anything our founders intended.
LEVIN: That was the famous wheat case. They were on a new deal, where the government was insisting that this farmer grow wheat and sell it, and he was growing wheat to subsist on it, and they said no, you're affecting commerce by not being in commerce.
COBURN: Right, which mean that that's interstate commerce.
LEVIN: And so that's where the regulatory state took off.
COBURN: Right, and that's why they control education in your state, that's why they control your state healthcare. Healthcare - you just name what the Federal government ...
MECKLER: Energy, environment, all of those operate under this expanded definition of the commerce clause which gives literally unlimited power to the Federal government.
COBURN: And unelected bureaucrats decide that, not your elected representatives. People who get appointed or work for the government decide your freedom. And that's what needs to be reversed. If we really want to fix our country and restore freedom and liberty, we need to make the decision-making start getting closer to the people instead of unelected bureaucrats.
LEVIN: But isn't this the big battle between constitutionalism and progressivism? Because the progressives reject, at least as I said, their intellectual forefathers, the Constitution, they do not like the way it's set up, they want centralized decision-making like they had in Europe - Hegel, Marx - whatever you want to call it - socialism, communism, soft communism - the separation of powers stuff or individuals make decisions, individuals are not allowed to make decisions.
Decisions have to be made for the general good, the community. Isn't that ultimately the battle that we're facing right now?
COBURN: Absolutely, that's the direction we're going. And with that comes the loss of liberty, the loss of decision-making, the loss of freedom in the long term and tremendous debt. I mean how do you think we got to $22 trillion in debt? You can you take some of it for the war in the Middle East, but the rest of it is members of Congress expanding social programs without raising the revenue to pay for them. I mean, that's why where we are, and that's nothing but pure socialism. We just didn't tax to pay for it.
MECKLER: And Mark, this is the battle of our generation literally, because the question is the progressive vision of the future or the founders and the constitutionalist's vision of the future, and the progressives are aligning against this. Hundreds of groups are speaking out against it. We see new pieces every day. They're attacking it in the culture, in "The Atlantic" and "Esquire."
LEVIN: Unions, environmental groups, left-wing think tanks, so-called consumer groups, a whole panoply of the left.
MECKLER: Over 250 of them signed a press release together attacking this saying it's the most dangerous thing that could happen in America. What they said, they don't usually tell the truth. They actually said something truthful. They said this is intended to reverse 115 years of progressivism and we say yes, it is.
LEVIN: Exactly. We'll be right back.
Mark Meckler, we've got a large audience here. Patriots. People say, "Okay, what can we do? What can we do?" Isn't the question, "What can each of you do?" What can each person watching right now do?
MECKLER: I think that's the fundamental question. Actually it's always been the fundamental question in America because it's always relied on the individual. We're unique, the citizen is sovereign. What that means is you, as an individual are sovereign in this country, you are expected to be engaged and active.
And so most people don't realize that they actually have the power to do something about this. They don't need the permission of the President or Congress or even the courts. We don't need that. But what we do need is citizens, a citizen army of today, 3.5 million across the country supporting the effort. We need a lot more, Mark. I think that we need 30 million people engaged in the effort. They need to get signed up with the effort.
LEVIN: What is the effort?
MECKLER: It's go to conventionofstates.com, sign up, and there is literally a national movement. We have people in every state legislative district in the country, and what they're doing is they're lobbying their state legislators, they're talking to them, asking them to call for a convention of states. And it's going to take the people.
The legislatures alone, they don't have the guts to do this. They don't have the will to do this. They're politicians. They're going to be driven by regular people, by their constituents, by this movement. And Mark, it's a movement of a lot of people who haven't been engaged in politics before because they didn't believe there was a reason. They saw they would vote and people go to DC and do whatever they want.
Now, people understand if they are paying attention to this that it really is up to them. It's not up to the politicians. They talk to the politicians, they drive the politicians, they get them to call a convention. And frankly, once the convention takes place, their work isn't over. We're going to need the activists pressuring the convention to do the right thing, to pass the right amendments. When the amendments come out of convention, it's going to take the activists in a ratification fight as well.
LEVIN: Is this a constitutional convention?
COBURN: No, it's a convention of amendments only. If you have an application that says we want to reform the whole Constitution and you can get 34 states, you could do that. But this is only limited to the applicable areas we have requested. And we think if you did some in all three of the areas, you had markedly restored the principles of federalism, the balance of power between the three branches plus the new fourth branch that we've seen in the last 50 years and the judiciary, you'd restore the balance where you'd actually give power back to the states.
LEVIN: Specific subject areas have to be agreed to by a supermajority of the states even before you have a meeting.
LEVIN: As opposed to the United States Supreme Court that can pick and choose its own issues, through its own cases, vote 5 to 4, and that's that. And so here, this is the broad body politic, the American people, not a mobocracy, working through the representatives in the states to achieve something that is noble and legitimate under our constitutional system. We'll be right back.
Dr. Tom Coburn, what are the chances that this convention of states will occur in the next five or ten years?
COBURN: I think very good, and the reason is because I think the government is going to continue to expand and grow and interfere in your lives and the American people are going to understand that the debt load that is coming and the interest costs associated with that is going to limit the very critical problem. In less than five years, the Federal budget will be made up of interest and Medicare and Medicaid. That's it.
COBURN: Nope. No money. So we will see the pressure come to the American people because of the incompetency of the government that we have today outside of the rules that our founders intended and they will come on board to solve this problem.
LEVIN: Do you agree?
MECKLER: I agree and I agree from a grassroots perspective having been all across the country over the last couple of years, what I see is a rising tide of people who are very concerned about the fundamentals in this country and mostly what they want to do, Mark, is just decide for themselves. And this is a fight about who decides - Washington, DC versus the people. The founders answered that question very clearly at the beginning of the Constitution in big bold calligraphy, "We, the people decide," and I think that movement is rising in America.
LEVIN: The American people will decide their own fate. That's the bottom line, and you two gentleman are among the leaders of a movement that is showing them the way to do it. Is there a solution? Yes. Embrace the Constitution
LEVIN: That's where the answer is. I want to thank you, both.
MECKLER: Thank you, Mark.
COBURN: Thank you.
LEVIN: Really appreciate it.
MECKLER: You bet.
LEVIN: See you next time on "Life, Liberty & Levin."
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