In Part 1, I explained the problems that could arise with an Article V Convention of States. It is a method never before used in the United States Constitution to amend a document, and it is fraught with challenges and the possibility of a “runaway convention” resulting in an entirely new constitution, written by Republicans. .
In this second part, I want to discuss three possible strategies for protecting cleantech in the event of such a convention. To carry out these strategies, a coalition of representatives from blue states, purple states, and perhaps bright red states would have to work together, as described in Part 1.
Blunt Strategy (Damage Control)
One obvious strategy would be for the opposition coalition to simply engage in damage control. That would require the least number of states, but it’s still a good chance that the worst doesn’t happen.
To do so, the coalition would have to agree on certain red lines before the convention. These red lines would have to be drawn mostly based on what the light blue, purple and light red states could agree on. Redlining would certainly allow things to happen that dark blue progressives would absolutely hate to happen, but it would help prevent total defeat and give deep blue states a voice in the process.
Possible things that would cross that red line would be a complete loss of all environmental regulatory powers, a complete reversal of Wickard v. Filburn (a 1942 case that greatly expanded federal power), or any amendment that tilts the board in favor of fossil fuels.
Obviously, this would entail other red lines beyond environmental issues, but a huge series of articles would be needed to go through all those possible issues. There is a possibility that within the opposition there is trade on these issues for the sake of environmental protection. How all this would work would largely depend on which states could be brought into opposition and who would side with the red states.
Horse trading strategy
Another possible method that a coalition of purple and blue states could use to protect their interests at the convention would be to decide what is most important and trade things that are not so important to them for things that are.
This strategy is likely to make dark blue progressives the craziest, but it could result in more protection for some of the things dark blue people really care about. For example, allowing red states to pollute more in exchange for strong protections for blue states’ environmental policies might be a trade Republicans would accept. This is obviously not ideal, but part of that states’ rights debate would win over more Republicans.
Horse-trading could also occur on issues, which could become thorny within the opposition coalition. For example, setting a clear gun trade-off for the Second Amendment (NYSRPA v. Bruen has already done that, whether some of us want to see it or not) in exchange for allowing federal regulation of climate change would force Republicans to fight each other over the two issues and divide the majority.
As with the damage control strategy, which horses could be traded would depend on who is in the opposition coalition and how large that coalition actually is. A larger coalition would require diluting the opposition and risk losing the bluest states, while a strong opposition would risk losing purple states.
It would also depend on the delegates from the red states. If there were more delegates favoring one conservative issue over another, the opposition could gain control of that aspect of the convention by throwing the real Republican factions the right bones. This would require a lot of research, and fast.
National Divorce or Separation Strategy
If things look too bleak going into the convention, blue states may have no choice but to use the convention to pursue greater autonomy or outright secession from the bunch of red states. This would be a truly horrible situation to face, but this strategy is not an all or nothing proposition. Just like in a real divorce, the details of things like parenting are where much of the hassle and disagreement lies.
In a way, that’s already what the Republicans are doing with the convention, so it makes sense to think about making it a divorce that everyone can live with instead of one where it becomes murder-suicide for the states that make up the United States.
In a way, this is a variant of the horse-trading strategy, as an opposition coalition would give the red states much of what they want, but only on the condition that the blue states are not forced to go along with it. It would also work within a coalition, allowing purple states to stick up for their blue neighbors without being so affected by the outcome.
As I said earlier, this is not an all or nothing proposition. National separation could come in the form of allowing states that disagree to become semi-autonomous states, to become independent countries in free association with the United States (several Pacific islands already do this), or to have an orderly process of secession for states that do not want to at all. remain in the union (and the process for exit agreements).
How well either of these arrangements could work would obviously depend on the details, especially the fate of people who would not want to live in an independent California or Texas. There are also questions about travel if any of the states still in the union or any of the emerging states become landlocked (would neutral zone corridors on interstate highways solve that?). What about tax revenues?
The broader, international issue would hinge on how the North American continent might be reorganized in the event of a peaceful breakup or loosening of the United States’ affiliation. Would rural Canada want to join the conservatives in the United States? Would the more progressive parts of the US today want to join Canada? How would parts of Texas and the Southwest interact with Mexico (especially increasingly blue New Mexico)?
Back to CleanTech
With this broad discussion of strategy, we must return to clean technologies. All of these things would affect them, and we have to think every step of the way about how any compromise, agreement or national divorce would affect clean technologies.
When we see a proposal, we have to ask hard questions: How would it affect the availability of hydroelectricity, solar-rich environments, and transmission lines? What about the production of electric vehicles? Would the proposed amendment or constitutional deal affect the availability of rare earth minerals? Will we put the entire United States and/or North America at a disadvantage for the future on any of these issues?
Good news? Any move that would harm American competitiveness can be used against conservatives and other “America First” nationalists. What’s good for CleanTech can often be portrayed in a very patriotic light (mostly because it’s true!).
The idea of an Article V convention, secession, and the like may seem strange right now, but there was a time not so long ago when we didn’t think the Supreme Court would overturn Roe, destroy the authority of the EPA, or end gun control as we know it. But these things happened after a long-term conservative strategy that worked for them.
To protect the future of clean technologies in the future, we need to think ahead about how we will respond to a convention of states, and perhaps more importantly, how we will respond to a bad outcome if it cannot be avoided.
Featured image: A view of North America from space. Image by NASA (public domain).
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