It takes more than good intentions to transform the South. It takes money.

What the hell is a Scalawag?

When a wacky Mississippi politician submits anti-Frankenstein legislation outlawing beast/human crossbreeding, it is rightfully ignored by the rest of the nation. That kind of thing is just par for the course in this place. However, just a few weeks ago, Mississippi unleashed a very real monster, that could soon be lumbering down the mountain toward your village.

Last month, state legislators passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 596, which tips Mississippi over into an expanding swamp of states supporting a broad re-write of the U.S. Constitution. This political misfire is the culmination of a well-financed national campaign led by special interest groups looking to call a constitutional convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. This constitutional convention, or "con-con," could actually deep-six everything in the U.S. Constitution that's designed to foster freedom and equality.

"Once you open up that Pandora's box anything can happen," said state Rep. Dave Baria, who voted against the measure when it passed the state House. "Once the convention is convened then the entire thing, including the Bill of Rights, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, the right to a jury trial, the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, all of these things could simply go away."

Article V requires that two thirds of the states (34) have to call for a constitutional convention to make it happen. Since the 1980s, about 28 states, including Mississippi, have applied to Congress to hold a constitutional convention focused on balancing the federal budget, though there's really no way to limit the scope of a constitutional convention once it's up and running. More recently, some states have called for a constitutional convention for the much broader purpose of trying to limit the power of the federal government. With SCR 596, Mississippi threw its hat into that ring too, bringing the total there to fifteen states.

After more than 200 years and an unsteady evolution toward a just society, it seems inconceivable that anybody would want to risk snatching away a citizen's right to a jury of their peers, or the right against unlawful search and seizure. Protections like these are not the chief concern of the organizations pushing this effort, however.

"The first question you have to ask yourself is who gets to go to the convention to shape our new constitution," said Mike Sayer, retired senior organizer for Mississippi pro-democracy group Southern Echo. "The likelihood is that people who really want this convention and are really determined to control the convention will be the ones with the money to support campaigns to dominate the nomination process."

Sayer says you can see who would create the new constitution by studying the groups promoting the multi-state effort to sway Republican legislatures and pass this thing. The author of the Mississippi resolution, state Sen. Angela Burkes Hill, is the same woman behind a controversial fetal heartbeat bill thatmade news not too long ago. Hill lacked the imagination to write her own bill; instead, she gleaned her con-con resolution directly from the bowels of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

ALEC is the organization infamous for championing the Florida gun laws that helped Trayvon Martin's murderer walk free (and later hock the murder weapon for $250,000.) For the last decade, ALEC has worked to curtail voter participation in communities of color and helped states to pass new discriminatory voting restrictions.

The corporate entities that comprise ALEC generally derail democracy by writing laws for states wherein they neither vote, exist, nor pay taxes. Need a bill to immunize corporate wrongdoers from lawsuits? ALEC has got you covered. Want to keep Black people home on Election Day using voting restrictions that target them? Baby, ALEC's got your number. The organization is clearly behind the con-con movement, judging by the similarity between ALEC's dummy bill and the shamelessknock-off Sen. Hill dumped into the Mississippi Rules Committee back in February.

ALEC's Guide Bill:

APPLICATION FOR A CONVENTION OF THE STATES UNDER ARTICLE V OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES

WHEREAS, the Founders of our Constitution empowered State Legislators to be guardians of liberty against future abuses of power by the federal government; and
WHEREAS, the federal government has created a crushing national debt through improper and imprudent spending; and
WHEREAS, the federal government has invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative process of federal mandates, most of which are unfunded to a great extent; and
WHEREAS, the federal government has ceased to live under a proper interpretation of the Constitution of the United States; and
WHEREAS, it is the solemn duty of the States to protect the liberty of our people— particularly for the generations to come—by proposing Amendments to the Constitution of the United States through a Convention of the States under Article V for the purpose of restraining these and related abuses of power;
Senate Concurrent Resolution 596:

A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION APPLYING TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES TO CALL AN AMENDMENT CONVENTION OF THE STATES PURSUANT TO ARTICLE V OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION.

WHEREAS, the Founders of the United States Constitution empowered state legislators to be guardians of liberty against excessive use of power by the federal government; and
WHEREAS, the federal government has created a crushing national debt through improper and imprudent spending; and
WHEREAS, the federal government has ceased to operate under a proper interpretation of the United States Constitution; and
WHEREAS, the federal government has invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative process of federal mandates, most of which are unfunded to a great extent; and
WHEREAS, it is the solemn duty of the states to protect the liberty of our people, particularly for the generations to come, by proposing amendments to the United States Constitution through a Convention of the States under Article V for the purpose of restraining these and related abuses of power;

"This is a corporate effort, and if they have their way, the new Constitution would completely hand the nation over to corporations," Sayer told Scalawag. "They could overturnMarbury v. Madison so there could be no more judicial review. They could eliminate federal judges or narrow their jurisdiction to almost anything, making it impossible for them to overcome [inhumane] state laws. You may as well just give them the keys [to the whole government]."

The rotten possibilities are endless. There's a strong likelihood that you could kiss the separation of church and state goodbye under the new Constitution, particularly since Citizens for Self-Governance is involved in the multi-state push. Citizens for Self-Governance senior fellow Michael Farris is the founder of "God's Harvard," an institution seeking to transform secular America "into a God-fearing one—from the top down." Farris is also a fierce home-school advocate. National Public Radio reporter Hanna Rosin covered how Farris sought to take American's home-schooled children and funnel them into Patrick Henry College, established in 2000 to provide students with "both Christian training and a secular, Ivy League-quality education" for thepurpose of helping them spread "their fundamentalist faith in creationism or their opposition to gay rights or abortion" into adulthood.

Baria is hotly suspicious of his Mississippi colleagues supporting the resolution and warns that the local personalities behind this effort reveal what kind of Constitution we'd be getting. Supporters include people like Sen. Chris McDaniel, who made himself famous for telling Black people during a CNN interview to "stop begging for government scraps," and for whining when Black people voted against him and cost him his U.S. Senate seat. McDaniel proudly delivered the keynote address for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a neo-Confederate group that tries toclaim that "the preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South's decision to fight the Second American Revolution," rather than, say, the desire to legally own and exploit other humans.

Then there's Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, another avid neo-confederate and member of the Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans, who recently won himself an award from the group for annually signing a state proclamation declaring April "Confederate Heritage Month." Mississippi's flag is the last remaining state flag containing the Confederate battle emblem, and Bryant—no fan of freedom of speech—has railed against colleges and towns that removed the symbol of hate from their property. Bryant is also a rabidopponent of gay marriage, and to any government protections against LGBT-based discrimination by government employers and businesses.

These are the kinds of personalities, Baria said, who will rewrite the Constitution in their image, if they get their way—and they're very close to getting it. McDaniel himself made clear who would hold the cards in that game in a Facebook videopost he created to calm supporters who were nervous about liberals setting the agenda during the constitutional re-write.

"Any amendment would have to be ratified by three fourths of the states," McDaniel assured in his feed. "… Now what if I told you, right now, that Republicans controlled both houses … of those states? And you're really going to make the argument that somehow this convention could go completely out of control and that they're going to start doing away with our basic civil liberties? … Based on the current number of states with 32 states legislatures controlled solely by the Republican Party, nobody's going to abolish the 2nd Amendment, or get rid of the Electoral College."

According to McDaniel, vote-restricting, pro-corporate, anti-abortion red states will be the ones calling all the shots. Baria warned that when it comes to that three-fourths vote, population does not matter––Nebraska and Wyoming would likely have just as much say as New York and California.

As hopeless as it sounds, however, the League of Women Voters says there is a way to stuff this garbage genie back into its greasy bottle, if voters wake up and take a very loud position. League of Women Voters President Chris Carson said concerned citizens can contact state decision makers and "make it known that you do not want to see this happen."

"In states that have already passed a resolution supporting an Article V convention, that decision can still be rectified," Carson told Scalawag. "Efforts to rescind calls for a convention were successful in New Mexico and Nevada in 2017. One of the most powerful tools we have as citizens is our vote—and state elected officials know that. They want to hear from constituents. Urge your elected officials in the state legislature to oppose a constitutional convention."

Adam Lynch

Adam Lynch is a freelance writer and glorified secretary. Fuss at him and his four followers on Twitter @A_damn-Lynch, or on Facebook--if that's still a thing.