A hundred and fifty years ago, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Ten other states soon followed, preferring to give up the Constitution instead of their slaves. America was torn apart as a cabal of states tried to override the will of the majority of Americans.
Last week, Rep. Rob Bishop proposed a "Repeal Amendment" to the Constitution where two-thirds of the state legislatures could override an act of Congress. Bishop argues that his amendment would restore "the vision of the Founders" and "balance" to government.
Actually, it would destroy the delicate balance of our Constitution, defeat the intent of the Founders and reverse the verdict of the Civil War. It is a transparent political maneuver to institutionalize the power of minority "red states" to strike down the will of the majority of Americans.
The Founders sought to balance the interests of small and large states. In the Constitutional Convention of 1787, tiny New Jersey proposed that each state have an equal vote in Congress, which would have worked to the advantage of small states. Large states like Virginia wanted representation based on population, which would have swamped the small states. The Connecticut Compromise solved the problem, with the House of Representatives apportioned by population and the Senate composed of two senators from each state. All acts of Congress must pass both houses.
The Repeal Amendment would upset this balance in favor of states with small populations. Any combination of 33 state legislatures could veto a federal law. As more than half of all Americans live in only nine states, this means the minority could easily overwhelm the majority. The 33 least-populated states comprise only 29 percent of Americans, so under Bishop's proposal less than one third of the population could dictate to the rest of us.
A glance at the electoral map shows that the smaller states are overwhelmingly Republican. Nineteen of the 33 smallest states are "red." Thus, the Repeal Amendment looks an awful lot like a Republican scheme to cancel out Democratic political influence, which is strongest in large states like New York, California, and Illinois.
Is it possible that Rob Bishop is willing to disenfranchise the majority of Americans to ensure the permanent dominance of his own party? It's not only possible, it's probable. Bishop is only the front man for the Repeal Amendment, which is actually the brainchild of the so-called "nonpartisan" American Legislative Exchange Council, an "advocacy group" funded by Philip Morris, Coors, the American Petroleum Institute, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of America, Koch Industries and other pillars of the right-wing establishment.
ALEC's agenda is to gut the laws against environmental degradation, health insurance abuses, corporate corruption and other obsessions of the big-money interests. Americans should refuse to ratify this attempt by Big Oil, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma companies to destroy majority rule in this country.
We fought a Civil War, as Lincoln said, to preserve "government of the people." In his attempt to resurrect state supremacy, Rob Bishop needs a reminder that our Constitution was established by "We the People," not "We the States."
Breck England is a business consultant and writer. He lives in Bountiful.