Russ Feingold Jumps the Shark
by Vickie Deppe
Former United States Senator Russ Feingold is becoming increasingly desperate and incoherent in his efforts to scare Americans away from an Article V Convention. In Warning: A Convention of States is Practicing to Rewrite the Constitution, Feingold (again and without evidence) claims that if an Article V Convention occurs, “our country will be thrown into a constitutional crisis.” As he has done in the past, he characterizes the one-state, one-vote paradigm as a threat to democracy; but in this piece, he has jumped the shark with his assertion that it’s not just undemocratic but racist.
He has no choice but to go there because an examination of the data demonstrates that red states—presumably the majority at an imminent convention—are also home to the majority of Americans…so the apportionment isn’t as “undemocratic” as Feingold has claimed. According to the 2020 census, states with Republican-controlled legislatures comprise 50% of the US population as compared to 44% who live in states with Democrat-controlled legislatures. The other 6% live in Virginia and Pennsylvania, where each party controls one of the chambers.
Feingold tries to frighten non-white Americans and their allies by pointing out that large, diverse states like California and New York will have no more power at the Convention than sparsely populated, predominantly white states like Wyoming or North Dakota. He conveniently ignores the more accurate red-state analogs to California and New York: Texas and Florida. Both have a larger population and greater non-white demographics than New York. Texas is a “majority minority” state and Florida’s population is nearly evenly split. North Dakota and Wyoming, Feingold’s bogeyman states, are more correctly compared with Maine and Vermont (except North Dakota and Wyoming have nearly twice as many residents of color per capita).
Once again, the high bar of ratification comes into play. No matter what comes out of an Article V Convention, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states, currently 38. That means it only takes thirteen states to reject a bad amendment. The United States has seventeen states in which the non-white population is at least 40%, and in 8 of them, persons of color are the majority. Among the 38 least-populous states, 14 are blue states, nine have at least 40% non-white residents, and in 4, persons of color are the majority. Of the 38 “whitest” states, 12 are blue states. Feingold’s assertion that a white minority could unilaterally amend the Constitution is politically and demographically implausible.
Feingold also claims that the Convention of States Project (consistently the target of his vitriol) has “no organized opposition.” This assertion flies in the face of statements made in his 2022 book detailing the far-right John Birch Society’s successful opposition campaigns in Montana and Utah. He further states that the JBS is actively opposing Article V applications “in almost every state.” On the left, Common Cause describes itself as “a key leader in the fight to stop a Constitutional Convention” and has for years made it a legislative priority to rescind existing Article V applications and prevent new ones from being passed. Feingold points to the failure of an Oregon application as “encouraging,” and his book cites rescissions in Colorado and New Jersey. Russ Feingold is no political naïf. Does he really believe that these results were organic and not the product of organized political pressure? Is it plausible that Feingold was both a speaker at a Common Cause conference and wrote a 320-page book—thoroughly researched and annotated—criticizing the Convention of States Project, yet remains unaware of Common Cause’s opposition to an Article V Convention?
It’s impossible to determine whether Feingold is disingenuous, unaware, or forgetful, but the bottom line is that his claims don’t hold water. The only way people of any race or ethnic group will go unrepresented at the Convention is if their state chooses not to participate. It’s disappointing to see a statesman renowned for his efforts at bipartisanship during his career in the United States Senate devolve into making hysterical, inaccurate statements instead of bringing his long experience to bear on a constitutional solution—one that demands cross-partisan collaboration—to our nation’s most pressing problems…some of which have the most damaging impact on our neighbors of color.
Article V News
Path To Reform will launch its Constitution Boot Camp for new (and veteran) legislators at the NCSL National Legislative Summit in Indianapolis, August 14-16. Please stop by Booth 654 in the exhibition hall.
On August 2, Convention of States Foundation will reprise its Simulated Convention. Readers may view a list of proposed amendments submitted by grassroots supporters and sign up to view the live stream here.
In Maine, a Convention of States Project application failed.
In Oregon, the Wolf-PAC Free and Fair Elections application died in committee upon adjournment.
In New York, a resolution rescinding previously passed Article V applications passed in the Senate and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Who Said It?
“[The Constitution] is made for people of fundamentally different points of view.“
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Lochner v. New York, 1905