In Part 1, I explained the problems that could come with an Article V Convention of States. It’s a never-before-used method in the United States Constitution for amending the document, and it’s fraught with challenges and the possibility of a “runaway convention” the results in an entirely new constitution, written by Republicans.
In this second part, I want to discuss three possible strategies to protecting clean technology in the event of such a convention. To execute these strategies, a coalition of representatives from blue states, purple states, and maybe light-red states would have to work together, as described in Part 1.
A Blunting Strategy (Damage Control)
One obvious strategy would be for an opposition coalition to simply engage in damage control. This would require the smallest number of states, but still stands a good shot at keeping the worst from happening.
To do this, the coalition would have to agree on certain red lines prior to the convention. These red lines would have to be drawn largely on what the light blue, purple, and light-red states would be able to agree on. The red lines would certainly allow things to happen that deep-blue progressives wouldn’t like at all, but it would help prevent a complete rout and give deep-blue states a voice in the process.
Possible things that would cross that red line would be the complete loss of all environmental regulatory power, a complete nullification 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 outside of environmental issues, but a giant series of articles would be needed to go through all of those possible issues. There’s a possibility of trading happening within the opposition on these issues to protect the environment. How this would all work would greatly depend on what states could be brought into the opposition and who would side with the red states.
A Horse Trading Strategy
Another possible method a coalition of purple and blue states could use to protect their interests at a convention would be to decide what’s most important and trade what isn’t as important to them for those things that are.
This strategy is likely to make deep-blue progressives the maddest, but it could result in greater protections for some of the things that deep-blue people really care about. For example, letting red states pollute more in exchange for solid protections for the environmental policies of blue states could be a trade that Republicans would accept. This obviously isn’t ideal, but the states’ rights part of that debate would win over more Republicans.
Horse trading could also happen across issues, which could get thorny within the opposition coalition. For example, putting a clear pro-gun replacement for the Second Amendment in place (NYSRPA v Bruen already did this, whether some of us want to see that or not) in exchange for allowing climate change regulation at the federal level would force Republicans to fight each other over those two issues and split the majority.
As with the damage control strategy, what horses could be traded would depend on who’s in the opposition coalition and how large that coalition actually is. A larger coalition would require watering down opposition and risk losing the bluest states, while a staunch opposition would risk losing the purple states.
It would also depend on the red states’ delegates. 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 right Republican factions the right bones. This would require a lot of research to happen, and fast.
A National Divorce or Separation Strategy
If things look too bleak going into a convention, blue states might have no option but to use the convention to pursue greater autonomy or outright secession from the mob of red states. This would be a really awful situation to face, but this strategy isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. Just like a real divorce, details over things like parenting are where much of the hassle and disagreement lies.
In some ways, this is already what Republicans are doing with the convention, so it makes sense to consider making it a divorce everybody can live with instead of one where it becomes a murder-suicide for the states that make up the United States.
In some ways, this is a variant of the horse trading strategy, because the opposition coalition would be giving the red states much of what they want but only on the condition that the blue states aren’t forced to go along with it. It would also work within the coalition, allowing for purple states to stand up for their blue neighbors while not being affected themselves as much by the outcome.
As I said earlier, this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. The national divorce could come in the form of allowing dissenting states to become semi-autonomous states, become independent countries in free association with the United States (several islands in the Pacific are like this already), or have an orderly secession process for states that don’t want to stay in the union at all (and a process for treaties that become effective upon exit).
How well any of these arrangements could work would obviously depend on the details, especially the fate of people who wouldn’t want to live in an independent California or Texas. There are also questions about travel should any state still in the union or any exiting state become landlocked (would neutral zone corridors on Interstate highways solve that?). What about tax revenues?
A wider, international question would depend on how the North American continent might realign in the event of a peaceful breakup or loosening of association of the United States. Would the rural areas of Canada want to join the conservatives in the United States? Would the more progressive parts of today’s US want to join with Canada? How would parts of Texas and the Southwest interact with Mexico (especially the increasingly blue New Mexico)?
Getting Back To CleanTech
With this big picture strategy discussion, we need to zoom back in on clean technologies. All of these things would affect them, and we need to think at every step about how any compromise, deal, or national divorce would affect clean technologies.
When we see a proposal, we need to ask hard questions: How would this affect the availability of hydroelectric power, solar-rich environments, and transmission lines? What about EV manufacturing? Would the proposed amendment or constitutional deal affect the availability of rare earth minerals? Would we put the whole United States and/or North America in a bad position for the future on any of these issues?
The good news? Any move that would hurt American competitiveness can be used against “America First” conservatives and other nationalists. What’s good for CleanTech is often possible to cast in a very patriotic light (largely because it’s true!).
The idea of an Article V Convention, secession, and such things may seem outlandish right now, but there was a time not so long ago that we didn’t think the Supreme Court would overturn Roe, gut the EPA’s authority, or end gun control as we know it. But, those things happened after a long-term strategy by conservatives that worked out for them.
To protect the future of clean technologies going forward, we need to be thinking ahead of time about how we’d respond to a convention of states, and perhaps more importantly, how we’d respond to a bad outcome if it couldn’t be avoided.
Featured image: a view of North America from space. Image by NASA (Public Domain).
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