Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, decided to celebrate Valentine's Day in an odd way.
On a day when most people were thinking about hearts and flowers, Long called for a new federal constitution. He said he wants the states to consider two issues for amendment and revision - the commerce clause to the U.S. Constitution and the federal government's taxing authority.
Long said that states' rights are "in shambles right now." He cited the national health care reform - what conservatives love to call "Obamacare" - as evidence.
At first blush, about all I can see about Long's little valentine is that it's not quite as bad an idea - but it's close - as the one some deep thinkers came up with to have states, including Indiana, secede from the union to protest President Obama's re-election. We've been down that road before. It leads to a place called Antietam and what is still the bloodiest civil war in human history, a time when brothers, cousins and fellow countrymen killed each other by the hundreds of thousands.
Let's not do that again.
If Long's notion is not quite that extreme, it still, to use a phrase my grandfather used to love, "comes from a place where the trains don't run."
Several things could be noted about Long's idea.
The most obvious is that even the moderate wing of the Republican Party now occupies territory to the right not just of Ronald Reagan, but also Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond.
The second is that Long's proposal is a tacit admission on the part of Republicans that they're not going to win the debate on health care at the ballot box or in the courts.
The GOP has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Republicans like to point the fact that they control the U.S. House of Representatives, but they actually lost the popular vote - 49 percent to 48 percent - in congressional races in the 2012 election. Gerrymandering allowed them to retain control of the chamber.
Conservatives pinned their hopes on the Supreme Court overturning health care reform, but that didn't pan out. Perhaps because he didn't want history to see him as John Marshall in reverse, Chief Justice John Roberts - a conservative appointed by George W. Bush - upheld the bulk of the health care changes.
But let's set that aside for now, even though it is worth remembering should Long or other lawmakers who vote for this proposal pontificate about honoring either the will of the people or the rule of law.
Instead, let's focus on the meat of Long's concern, his displeasure with the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. It can be found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 and it says that Congress shall have the power:
"To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."
That's it. There are no "ifs," no "buts" and no asterisks.
The need to regulate commerce was one of the primary reasons the Founders dispensed with America's early governing charter, the Articles of Confederation, in favor of the Constitution. For some of the Founders, including Alexander Hamilton - once a patron saint of conservatives and the GOP - it was the primary reason for adopting the Constitution.
The Founders adopted the commerce clause to achieve two goals.
The first was that they wanted to prevent states - and businesses within states - from using state boundaries as a barrier against punishment for illegal, predatory or unscrupulous business practices.
The second reason was the one that motivated Hamilton. He wanted to establish the United States as a national economic power, not a collection of weak states vying with each other for pieces of a much smaller pie.
Although I'm a Jeffersonian at heart, I have to grant that Hamilton was pretty successful. His plan - and reliance on the commerce clause - helped create the greatest economic power in the world's history.
Now, though, Long and other conservatives want to say that the commerce clause denies the federal government the authority to regulate health care, which, by some estimates, accounts for a fifth of the U.S. economy. They apparently don't like what Hamilton, James Madison and Ben Franklin, among other giants, drafted and think they can do better themselves.
If erasing 225 years of American history and economic success is how David Long and conservatives celebrate Valentine's Day, I can't wait to see what they have planned for the Fourth of July.
John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.
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