Friday Talking Points [301] -- Seven More Amendments

[ Posted Friday, April 25th, 2014 – 16:24 UTC ]

There were two political stampedes this week, both towards and then back away from the same man: rancher Cliven Bundy. Bundy was a strange hero for conservative Republicans to adopt, since he is essentially fighting for his right to be a "taker" (in "conservativese") from the federal government -- a right that he refuses to pay for, and by doing so has broken the law. So he's a law-breaker and he wants to mooch off the public for free -- two traits which conservatives routinely rail against. I guess conservative Republicans can be forgiven, since there was all the excitement of guns and going toe-to-toe with the dastardly gummint agents -- which always causes conservative hearts to swoon.

Then Bundy opened his mouth and shared a few choice thoughts. About "the Negro" in America, and all sorts of other enlightening subjects. Just as quickly as the Republicans had stampeded towards Bundy, they all then executed a move that would have won them the barrel race, by reining in and wheeling about in order to gallop furiously away.

So, at least for the spectators, it was an amusing week in politics. Also amusing was the continuing follies of Republicans out on the campaign trail. First up is a state legislator from New Hampshire, Will Infantine, who helpfully "mansplains" to all the ladies why men make more money than women:

Men by and large make more because of some of the things they do. Their jobs are, by and large, more riskier [sic]. They don't mind working nights and weekends. They don't mind working overtime, or outdoors in the elements.... Men work five or six hours longer a week than women do. When it comes to women and men who own businesses... women make half of what men do because of flexibility of work, men are more motivated by money than women are.

Well, thanks for clearing that up, Will!

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also stepped in it during a campaign stop last week as well. When asked about the high unemployment in the county, McConnell responded by trying to punt the ball back to the state government: "Economic development is a Frankfort issue. That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet." His Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, gleefully jumped on McConnell's gaffe: "The only job that [McConnell] has cared about over the past 30 years is his own."

But the one video clip that everyone really needs to see (if you haven't already) is of House Speaker John Boehner absolutely ridiculing his fellow House Republicans, when asked why nothing has happened on immigration reform. Boehner's answer was priceless, but this is one case where just reading the text of Boehner's words doesn't do it justice:

Here's the attitude: "Ohhhh. Don't make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard." We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it's remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don't want to. ... They'll take the path of least resistance.

What's truly amusing is how Boehner said it, though, so everyone should take the time to watch the video clip. Maybe all those rumors saying Boehner is getting tired of being Speaker have some basis in reality, who knows? Here's the other bookend to this story, from Eric Cantor:

Immigration reform still isn't on the agenda for the House GOP, according to a memo sent Friday by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to Republican members.

The spring legislative agenda, which lays out the House GOP conference's priorities for the coming months, promises legislation aimed at "building an America that works," including, unsurprisingly, a promise to attempt to repeal Obamacare. But it doesn't mention the word "immigration" once, despite continued statements from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that he would like to address the issue.

And finally, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is in the news, as he has been making the rounds in the media to promote his new book (more on his book in the talking points). In an interview with NPR, Stevens was asked whether he thought marijuana should be legal at the federal level. His response:

Yes. I really think that that's another instance of public opinion [that's] changed. And recognize that the distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction. Alcohol, the prohibition against selling and dispensing alcoholic beverages has I think been generally, there's a general consensus that it was not worth the cost. And I think really in time that will be the general consensus with respect to this particular drug.

We couldn't agree more.


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

Eric Holder, who won the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week last week, has followed through and released official guidelines for clemency. Holder should be congratulated again for his concrete moves to dismantle the "War On Drugs" mentality in the federal government.

The people behind the move down in Mississippi to get business owners to proudly display their inclusiveness certainly deserve some sort of award. After the state passed a law which seems intended to allow businesses to refuse to serve certain customers with impunity, stickers are now popping up in some Mississippi store windows which read: "We don't discriminate. If you're buying, we're selling." Well said!

And while they're supposed to be non-political, we'd still like to applaud the low-level federal judges who are quietly launching a "Magistrates' Revolt" against sweeping data collection. It's a fascinating story, and one that may grow over time.

But this week's MIDOTW award goes -- for the first time! -- to First Lady Michelle Obama. She was scheduled to speak at a high school graduation ceremony in Topeka, Kansas, because it would have been on the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation in public schools. The reason Mrs. Obama chose to speak to a Kansas high school to mark the occasion can be found in the full name of the case: Oliver Brown et al. v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. A historic event, in other words.

But there was an outcry over her speaking to the graduation ceremony; not over politics but over logistics. If the First Lady spoke, the security involved would have limited the seating available. Since limiting spaces for friends and family at a graduation ceremony isn't such a good idea, Michelle Obama graciously moved her speech one day earlier, to a separate ceremony from the graduation.

This was a classy move. It put the students (and their loved ones) first. Michelle Obama's communications director said, of the move: "Once we learned about the concerns of some students, we were eager to find a solution that enabled all of the students and their families to celebrate the special day."

So, for avoiding bad feelings on a day which will be a celebration not only of this generation's success in education but also of the history of a landmark Supreme Court decision, First Lady Michelle Obama is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate First Lady Michelle Obama on the White House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

This one's just embarrassing no matter how you look at it.

Democratic candidate for governor in Pennsylvania Tom Wolf is in a bit of hot water, because he apparently plagiarized a big chunk of the policy plan he's running on, lifting it from documents from a company that does business with the state. That's bad, but what's worse is the name he chose to give this campaign document: "Fresh Start."

Fellow Democratic candidate (Pennsylvania hasn't held its primary election yet) Allyson Schwartz pointed out the plagiarism, and her spokesman couldn't resist twisting the knife a bit: "Tom Wolf claims to be a different type of candidate. He says he will take us in a new direction with a 'Fresh Start' policy, yet the words aren't even his own." Ouch.

Wolf did apologize, and swears it'll never happen again. But the damage has already been done. For running on a "fresh" list of ideas which was not his own, Tom Wolf earns the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

[It is our longstanding policy not to link to candidates' web pages, so you'll have to find Tom Wolf's contact information on your own.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 301 (4/25/14)

Because it was a slow news week in politics, we're going to do something different today. Instead of offering up our usual seven Democratic talking points, instead we're getting into the spirit of John Paul Stevens's new book, "Six Amendments." In it, he proposes six new amendments to the United States Constitution. I listed the text of his proposed amendments yesterday, in case you're curious what ideas he came up with (although I have to admit I haven't read his book yet).

I've been thinking about the basic concept all week, though, and came up with my own proposals to amend America's founding document. While we're keeping with our normal format of seven items, one of my proposals is pretty much the same as one of Stevens's. So (other than number four, below) here are my six proposals for new amendments. Some of these may prove unworkable or not popular enough to clear the very high bar for amending the Constitution, I realize, but (maybe with some rewording) I think that they're all beneficial ideas.

You, of course, may disagree. Or you may have your own ideas for amendments. Either way, let me know about it in the comments, as usual.


   Right to vote

The first sentence of this was proposed by a commenter at my site. I added the second sentence just to hammer the idea home (and because you don't get to use the word "unalienable" very often).

The right of the people to vote shall not be infringed upon. Every American citizen has the unalienable right to cast a vote in all elections which happen in their district or state.


   Right to privacy

There is no actual, enumerated right to privacy in the Constitution. This would rectify this problem, which has caused no end of trouble in the courts. It could probably be worded better, but I think you'll get the main concept.

The right of privacy shall not be infringed upon. The papers, effects, and communications of the people shall be secure unless a specific warrant has been issued to search or seize them. This includes the people's right to private communications with their doctors and all electronic communications of any type.


   No corporate "personhood"

This one isn't a unique idea, there are already people pushing for some version of this to become a real amendment. Again, could probably be worded better, but you get the idea.

Corporate entities are a legal construct useful in business, but such corporations cannot be said to have any personhood as far as the rights this Constitution guarantees to human persons.


   Money is not speech

This is the one that is almost identical to one on Stevens's list. I had to put it a little more forcefully, though.

Money shall in no way be considered speech, and shall in no way be included in First Amendment rights. Congress has the power to regulate the financing of candidates in federal elections.


   Weekend voting

Let's get rid of a very archaic schedule, and instead make voting much easier for all.

Federal elections will henceforth occur on the first full weekend in November. Polls shall be open on both Saturday and Sunday, to accommodate the maximum number of voters. Furthermore, any voter who wishes to vote by mail shall be allowed to do so.


   Free election ads

At the heart of the "money in elections" problem is the high cost of advertising. Since the airwaves are public, the federal government has the power to change all of this dramatically.

Because the people own the public airwaves, prior to an election all television and radio stations shall provide a certain set amount of free advertising time to all candidates on an equal basis.


   Let's get rid of this Orwellianism

This one is pretty simple, and I included it just because it bugs me so much.

All American soil shall be deemed a "free speech zone," without limit or subdivision. Peaceful political protests shall not be segregated away from any public area.

-- Chris Weigant


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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post


20 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [301] -- Seven More Amendments”

  1. [1] 
    Paula wrote:

    All good, but number 7 really struck me - good addition!

  2. [2] 
    Mopshell wrote:

    Oh my, this is a fantastic FTP this week, Chris! Mind you, having finished breakfast and while waiting for my usual FTP treat, I replied to your Thursday post with my suggested Constitutional changes but I will repost them so they can be a part of this conversation too.

    The Great Bundy Escapade:

    My favorite parts of this were:
    1)The very funny and fabulous smackdowns of Bundy, Fox (particularly Hannity) and CNN by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. It inspired some of their best work and were by far the sanest commentaries on the whole affair!

    2)The unthinking eagerness of the Koch brothers, GOP politicians and right wing media to jump to Bundy's defense thus exposing their anti-government, liberty-is-law-breaking, pro-amateur-militia "principles" and bestowing them on an unlikable, self-important anti-hero who advocated putting women and children in the front line!

    3)The hilarious popcorn-entertainment event of their rollicking rapid retreat when BFF-Bundy became Bigoted-Bundy. I did laugh!

    4)The absolute gift to Democratic candidates that all the Koch billions couldn't buy!

    Boehner's Bane:

    Immigration reform! Honestly, could the man take any more possible positions on this? Firstly, way back in January, it was "We will get something done this year" negated in February by "Because we don't trust this Administration to enforce laws, we will pass nothing this year" (followed by Pelosi's classic, "We might as well pack up and go home then!").

    Now it's: "We get elected to solve problems and it's remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don't want to..."

    Well at least he's finally telling it like it is which is a refreshing change from the usual calculated rhetoric. Not that anything will be done of course. In an election year, Republicans can't risk their base discovering what they really think about immigration reform, that their stance owes more to pressure from their big business pals which contrasts with what their base expects from them.

    MIDOTW: I'm delighted that you chose Michelle Obama and for all the right reasons too. I am constantly impressed by her; a huge fan. :-)

    Seven Amendments:

    (1)I also have one concerning voting:

    I think it would be a good idea if the Constitution actually guaranteed the right to vote because, currently, it doesn't. While it is implicit in the 15th (granting African American men the right to vote by declaring that the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."), the 19th (granting women the right to vote) and the 23rd (granting the right to vote to those 18 and over), nowhere does it explicitly guarantee the right to vote.

    I would like to suggest that a Constitutional amendment and addition to Article II should begin with words borrowed from the Gettysburg address: Government of the people, for the people, by the people guarantees and protects the right, and mandates the responsibility, of all United States citizens aged 18 years and over to vote in Presidential, Congressional, Governor and state government elections; and that this right and responsibility be not denied or abridged in any way, by any means.

    The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, by a majority national vote.

    Strike the second and third paragraphs and replace the fourth with:

    While Congress may determine the date of national elections, the days on which they shall be held will be Saturday and Sunday when voting booths shall be open for a minimum of 12 hours per day; which day shall be the same throughout the United States. Absentee votes, mail votes and early voting must be organized by the states and offered as an option to all voting citizens.

    Okay, that should take care of mandatory voting, eliminate the outdated electoral college, severely restrict any attempt to suppress the vote, and make voting easier all round.

    (2)I didn't think of this but I applaud you for doing so. I should, however, like to add to yours:

    The right to privacy shall be recognized as applying to all citizens of all ages with respect to the following: no pursuit, scrutiny, reporting or recording of any type by the media of a person's private life unless the person or persons involved have provided express permission in writing co-signed by two witnesses.

    (3)I didn't think of this one either but I'm in full agreement that this deserves to be in the list!

    (4)I really like your addition to Stevens' recommendation. I, too, have a suggestion regarding freedom of speech.

    I have long thought that freedom of speech, covered in the First Amendment, has been under aggressive attack - lies, distortions, disinformation, being legally equated with money - which has so profoundly undermined the integrity and original intention of the First that it is practically meaningless.

    To protect it, I suggest the following:

    While Congress shall make no law prohibiting or abridging the freedom of speech, Congress shall protect the integrity of the right to freedom of speech by requiring accuracy in media reporting. Responsibility for oversight shall be invested in an independent, non partisan agency with the powers to fine and demand public corrections for proven inaccuracies. Opinion pieces must be clearly labelled as promoting opinion and name those participating.

    That isn't well worded but it contains the general idea I want to convey.

    (5)I thought of this too (though I added Sunday to mine after reading your suggestion) and it's covered in my (1).

    (6)This is a really great idea and is practised in both Australia and Britain. I'd like to add and addendum which is Australian and which we cherish:

    Forty-eight hours before the opening time of the first voting booth in the country, all political advertising via media must cease.

    I can't tell you how much we look forward to the start of those 48 hours after a long campaign!

    (7)I'm somewhat confused by the whole "free speech zone" thing but this sounds like a very good amendment to me from what little I know. (Yeah, yeah, I'll get around to googling it...)

    Another idea I picked up from YoyoTheAssyrian is the following:

    I really like the idea of getting all that religious rubbish out of the classroom! Let's make it an addition to the First Amendment in those pesky establishment and free exercise clauses:

    There shall be complete separation of church and state which encompasses all offices and agencies of government including Education in both state and privately funded institutions, and Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. The free exercise of religion shall be protected insofar as such protection does not infringe on any other rights or responsibilities.

    Lastly, I should also like to amend Article III Section I:

    The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour until the mandatory retirement age of 60 and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

    Oh I know, so very very long but I have to thank you, Chris - I really enjoyed this. It gave the chance to really pull together diverse thoughts that have been incubating for some time and to appreciate how others are thinking. Great fun!

  3. [3] 
    TheStig wrote:

    I'm not sure any constitutional amendments can be passed in the present day, but....

    The Right to Vote and No Corporate Personhood amendments might just reverse our drift into deeper oligarchy and ensure a more perfect union. These two are the heavy hitters. Enshrine them in the Constitution and proposals 2,4,5,6 and 7 could be swiftly addressed by more conventional legislation.

  4. [4] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    Nice job, Chris.

    I'd avoid the word "mail" in #5 (perhaps referencing absentee or not-in-person). I live in a vote-by-mail state and it's fabulous, but in the not-too-distant future, I expect other means to be used (e.g. electronic voting).

    #7: Perhaps a bit too large. I like the idea, but it needs to be limited a tad (is a classroom a public area? a movie theater? an aircraft carrier or military base? a cemetery?)

    #6: Interpreting "equal time" is tough. Really low-polling fringe candidates, for instance. Arguments can be made to include that, but it really needs to be carefully worded.

  5. [5] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    The constitutional amendment I would add would be:

    The government will not support or in anyway enforce mutual exclusion with regards to membership in groups including political parties.

  6. [6] 
    Mopshell wrote:


    #6: Interpreting "equal time" is tough.

    Perhaps it could be done in a similar fashion to the Brits:

    Each candidate will be given 2 x 30 minute segments on each tv channel/radio station broadcasting to their electorate, during the 30 days leading up to 48 hours prior to election day.

    The 48 hours rule is an Australian thing (no political advertising allowed in the 48 hours prior to election day); I don't remember if it is also used in Britain or not (it's years since I lived there).

    I also take your point regarding the word "mail" which I too included in one of my amendment suggestions. Perhaps it could be "mail or electronic vote"?

  7. [7] 
    LewDan wrote:

    The privacy amendments would preclude obtaining warrants. Warrants require some type of probable cause which can only be obtained by investigation. Notification of investigations would facilitate destruction of evidence and damage reputations of the innocent, which could actually promote government abuse and harassment using public investigations. There's a reason grand jury deliberations are secret!

    Attempts to amend the constitution to make the implicit explicit, (right to vote, corps not people, money not speech, ect,) suffer from being both unnecessary and pointless. The reason they're issues is due to SCOTUS decisions, and SCOTUS' amending the constitution at will. There IS NO WAY to craft an amendment SCOTUS can't "interpret" away.

    As long as the constitution says whatever SCOTUS says it says the constitution is meaningless and powerless. The constitution already explicitly states the ONLY means by which it may be amended and SCOTUS has ignored it for over two-hundred years! unilaterally amending the constitution however, and whenever, they please.

    Your proposed amendments are whistling in the dark. Not one is necessary. Not one isn't already adequately addressed. Every single one is either implicit, redundant, ill-advised, or an attempt to reverse SCOTUS.

    Every single one is an exercise in futility. You can't fix the problems with SCOTUS by amending the constitution. You can only "fix" the constitution by beginning to follow it. And that means NO amendments unless originated in congresses according to the constitution and impeaching Justices who don't adhere to the constitution.

  8. [8] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Great article as usual. The amendments was a nice departure from what has been yet another week of the elected ones not doing a thing in the place I call dysfunction junction.

    If we could actually get a right to vote amendment passed I personally would lobby to make voting compulsory as it is in other places. I think it is the Australians that have a $40.00 penalty for not voting. We have opened the door to using the tax man to enforce legislation with the ACA mandate why not do it for an activity that is essential to our form of government?

    As for number 5 I personally feel it is to weak as proposed, I would rework it to read:

    Federal elections will henceforth occur on the first full week in November. Polls shall be open for reasonable hours starting on the first Monday in November and every subsequent day until the second Tuesday in November. No campaign advertisements or appearances shall be allowed during the voting period. Furthermore, all citizens shall be allowed to cast a ballot, without reservation or infringement using any legally recognized voting method allowed for their locale.

    Obviously what I am proposing for 5 would also have to go hand in hand with several "clauses" to other proposed amendments.

    The first one being, a clause that regulates news outlet reporting methods it could get tacked on to 3 or 4 and would be something like:
    At any time that polling places are in operation, news media outlets shall be restricted to reporting on election results as reported by the election registrar's office.

    A clause like this while it could be argued that we are infringing on free speech, I really don't think so, after all we are talking about corporate enterprises that at times (lot's of times) have a vested interest in influencing our opinions, and besides a clause like this is more about preserving our sanity and preventing our newfangled long election window from turning into "missing plane" coverage from CNN. It is not as if they have had 23 months, 3 weeks to do their jobs let's have piece and quiet during the election window.

    The other big clause is tacked onto 1 and would read something like:
    Each vote cast shall be counted as one vote for the person intended in each race that they cast a vote in. All ballots shall be subjected to all reasonable methods to ensure all votes are counted and will not be disqualified without prejudice election registrars shall notify voters of ballot disqualification and allow a re-vote during the voting period.

    This clause probably needs some work, but it is intended to ensure that the highest number of votes are tallied and voters disenfranchisement is reduced from the current levels of today where votes are disqualified for under-voting or over-voting. Over-voting I get, but what should happen is that the one over vote section should be disqualified and the rest counted. Under-voting is the one that really disturbs me as there may only be one person worthy of my vote but I don't get counted because the scantron kicks my ballot out and it gets put in the pile to be counted only if there is not a clear winner.

    The other thing that this clause assumes is that we have done away with the electoral college and recognize that one person, one vote is the law of the land. switching to one person one vote alone would greatly alter the tone and tenor of the election cycle as candidates would have to campaign for actual votes versus the current system of tailoring their rhetoric to win just certain states. Of course we would have to do something about the gerrymandering situation as well, but, that is a post in and of itself.

    The last "clause" I would see the need for could get tacked onto 4 or even 6 and I envision something like:
    No person running for elected office or position shall not be entitled to raise funds,spend raised funds, or utilize external committees for use on the campaign in excess of the total amount of compensation for the term of office for the position they are campaigning for.

    I look at this one as truly getting the money out of politics. If you can't spend more than the job pays to get the job in the first place maybe, just maybe, the one who are elected will be less inclined to listen to the special interests...

    Well that's my 2 cents...

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    at the risk of repeating my comment from the previous thread, i think there should probably be some sort of amendment to eliminate the legal hedging that has resulted from globalization and easy travel. the framers could never have guessed how easy it would someday be to relocate a person, a business or any sort of property to the other side of the world. it's time that ability stopped being used as a means to circumvent the law.

    while we do still have to respect the laws of other sovereign nations, i believe our government has the responsibility to enforce every law in every corner of our influence, from the eighth amendment in gitmo to sweatshop labor laws in developing nations.

    part of this effort would also have to eliminate the "subcontracting" defense. if you hire somebody else to do something you're not legally allowed to do, your own legal culpability shouldn't be mitigated by the fact that the person you hired is in another country.


  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    As long as the constitution says whatever SCOTUS says it says the constitution is meaningless and powerless. The constitution already explicitly states the ONLY means by which it may be amended and SCOTUS has ignored it for over two-hundred years! unilaterally amending the constitution however, and whenever, they please.

    I don't think it's accurate to say that a change in interpretation is equivalent to an amendment. There are different levels of change; the effects of decisions like McCutcheon and Citizens United have to be weighed against the effects of decisions like Brown and Miranda. Marbury does give the SCOTUS a great deal of power, but even failed court-packing attempts have demonstrated that such power is far from absolute.

    While I agree that an amendment in and of itself won't create the changes that are needed, the fact that so many people are talking about the need to go there has got to make a dent over time. Even though the ERA eventually failed, the fact that it came as close as it did had a lasting impact on society. Florida's anti-gerrymandering amendment to the state constitution did not in fact stop gerrymandering from happening, but it sent a clear signal to the legislature that they'd better watch their step. It may not quite have been the change we were hoping for, but it's still a step forward.


  11. [11] 
    LewDan wrote:


    I would have thought section 2 of the fifteenth amendment was about as clear and unambiguous ad you could get. But SCOTUS negated it by "interpreting" the word "appropriate." SCOTUS simply decided that its self assigned role as final arbiter of all things constitutional means that laws are only "appropriate," and therefore constitutional, under the fifteenth if SCOTUS thinks they're apororiate. The fifteenth now reads "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation WITH THE CONSENT OF THE SUPREME COURT."

    Neither is it even remotely possible to infer SCOTUS' determination that government may not infringe on the "first amendment rights" of the legal constructs government creates by charter as "corporations" as anything other than an amendment to the constitution. Incorporation is neither a right nor a natural state. Its a privileged status conferred by government on business entities who agree to abide by the terms government establishes in order to qualify for said preferential treatment. Nothing, anywhere, in the
    constitution constrains what terms may be negotiated in contracts. I signed a contract upon entering the U.S. Army in which I relinquished any number of my constitutional rights. But now, according to SCOTUS, corporations have a "constitutional right" to the privileges and benefits of incorporation without having to meet government requirements and restrictions.

    It is completely accurate to say some changes in "interpretation" are amendments to the constitution.

    I'm not advocating term limits (sorry Liz, haven't been keeping up!) or electing judges, I'm advocating "interpreting" the constitution as it wad intended. That SCOTUS decisions are not determinative. That al three branches are equal, and that EACH has a duty to obey, and protect, the constitution.

    And that means, by definition, that SCOTUS does NOT get the final word on what's constitutional. It means that Congress has an OBLIGATION to make its OWN assessment of constitutionality and that violating the constitution, in CONGRESS' opinion is an IMPEACHABLE offense.

    Its called "checks and balances." SCOTUS doesn't seem to find Congress' EXCLUSIVE constitutional authority to legislate so sacred that it can't throw out laws enacted by Congress it feels are not "appropriate." Why should SCOTUS opinions, which are given exclusivity, NOWHERE in the constitution, be sacrosanct?

  12. [12] 
    mys2950 wrote:

    SCOTUS has corrupted the voting process, giving money the voice of a living person. Need constitutional amendment to limit the amount of time SCOTUS and members of congress should serve.

  13. [13] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    mys2950 -

    Welcome to the site!

    Your first comment was held for moderation, but you should be able to now post comments and have them appear instantly. As long as you don't post more than one link per comment -- multilink comments are always automatically held for moderation (to cut down on comment spam).

    Anyway, gotta run now to post today's article, and sorry for the delay in approving your first comment.


  14. [14] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Paula [1] -

    Yeah, that whole Orwellian "FSZ" thing has always bugged me no end...

    OK, more later (I promise!) but I just had to say that.


  15. [15] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Mopshell [2] -

    Interesting. Hadn't considered doing away with the Electoral College by amendment, but you're right, that would be the way to do it.

    Aren't you an Australian? What do you think about mandatory voting? Please explain how it works, for us Americans. That would be another interesting idea, although I'm not sure it would ever work here.

    The rest of your ideas are interesting, but one of them goes too far -- banning religion from private education. The Catholic Church would howl, that's for sure. However, I REALLY like the last sentence: The free exercise of religion shall be protected insofar as such protection does not infringe on any other rights or responsibilities. That seems to cut right at the heart of the matter -- well done!

    Speak2 -

    Good point about "mail." Like I said, the wording would have to be changed, hopefully by a constitutional law expert.

    As for #6, I would indeed give fringe candidates airtime. Then their views could either be (a) dismissed by the public as fringey, or (b) catch on so much that the major candidates had to address the issue.

    BashiBazouk -

    Um, OK, so what you're saying is you're for open primaries? Or am I misreading your intent?

    LewDan -

    Um, OK, are you arguing that Marbury v. Madison was an unconstitutional power grab? Or am I misreading you?

    While it is true that SCOTUS can misinterpret amendments to the point of nullifying them (look at what happened with COLAs and the XXVIIth Amendment, in recent times), it is a lot harder for them to do so than to overturn a mere law.

    When they overturn a law, they essentially kill the law. But they can't kill amendments, leaving open the possibility that a future court will reverse any nullification of it. In other words, amendments are PART of the Constitution, and SCOTUS cannot strike them down. By definition, they are "constitutional" because they are part of the Constitution itself. Prohibition, remember, had to be overturned by another amendment.

    goode trickle [8] -

    I think the Aussies do have a fine for not voting, but it might be easier here to institute a tax credit for anyone who can prove they DID vote (in the general election). If you voted, you get a $50 credit on your taxes. I think that'd go down easier, politically.

    Your other ideas are interesting as well...

    nypoet22 [10] -

    What did Florida do on gerrymandering? California passed a model law (by referendum) which put redistricting into the hands of a non-partisan committee. It has worked fairly well (the 2010 redistricting happened under the new law) and gotten rid of insane district boundaries. I bet it'll work even better in 2020, too. More states should follow CA's lead on this one.

    LewDan [11] -

    So let me get this straight. You would have agreed with Andy Jackson in his showdown with the SCOTUS of his time? Interesting. FDR's court-packing was entirely constitutional, too (although his own party in Congress didn't go along with it), since nowhere does it state how many members of SCOTUS there should be. But I don't know that any president nowadays could get away with ignoring a SCOTUS decision, although it certainly would be an interesting thing to watch. The "co-equal branches" thing is a vast area of uncertainty in the Constitution, to be sure, because it doesn't really address what happens when one branch adamantly disagrees with another.

    mys2950 -

    A "term limits" amendment (for Congress) was a big part of Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America," I believe. But limiting SCOTUS terms is a new idea. Perhaps an age restriction (mandatory retirement at XX years)?

    [OK, whew! Caught up... sorry for the delays in answering...]


  16. [16] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Um, OK, so what you're saying is you're for open primaries? Or am I misreading your intent?

    I'm questioning the constitutionality of limiting my membership to a single political party. Or more accurately questioning why the government has the power to enforce that mutual exclusion.

  17. [17] 
    LewDan wrote:

    Bashi [16],

    You can write-in anyone. The limits are for primaries which are all about political parties and are not actually federal elections. They're more of a public service. Just as government gets to make its own rules for how, and how much, it'll participate in enforcing private contracts it has every right to decide its participation in political party primaries.

    If a party wanted open primaries in a state that didn't have them, for example, the party could always host its own primary elections! Of course then they'd have to pay the costs too.

    Asking why you're "limited" by the government is the wrong question, unless you're also asking why the public is financing Democratic an Republican party primaries instead of partisan political activities being paid for exclusively by the political partisans themselves. Primaries are public/private/federal/state collaborations not just federal enterprises. There's no first amendment right to participation in private organizations' activities.

  18. [18] 
    LewDan wrote:


    I would accept opinions on constitutionality agreed to by any two of the three branches of government. Defining your methodology based on what gets you specific outcomes is exactly what this court does and I'm against. There is no panacea. All three beaches supported WWII internments, didn't make them any less unconstitutional.

    But a court that believes it has the power to reinterpret the constitution at will, and impose its vision on everyone else is DEFINITELY not the way to go. And a public that believes the court has such authority is even worse! The founding principle of this nation, and what I believe in, is "self-determination." I simply fail to ser how anyone who believes in self-determination, and democracy, can accept nine unelected appointees deciding what the law is. Their job is to enforce it. Not make it.

    If the court were infallible and incorruptible I'd have no problem with their opinions alone deciding constitutional issues. There being no such thing as infallible incorruptible institutions our government separates and divides powers so conflicts between branches "check and balance" each other to prevent exactly the kind of unilateral authoritarian dictates SCOTUS seems to think are its exclusive privilege.

    I, like the founders, am less concerned with arriving at the "correct" decision than the one supported by popular consensus, public and institutional. The People are the ones who have to live under our laws, right or wrong, they should be ones to decide them. Not SCOTUS. As The People's representatives Congress should generally have the deciding role, hence their authority to impeach both the President and Justices at need.

    If SCOTUS is to be apolitical, a source of objective opinions, that must BE opinions, nothing more. With the President, Congress, and The people making the final call. Not SCOTUS.

  19. [19] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    BashiBazouk -

    That's certainly an interesting point of view. I don't know that I've ever come across this argument before, but I have to admit I have no answer for it. Why CAN'T someone belong to two political parties? I can't for the life of me come up with a reason, especially when considering the Constitution and the right to freely associate with whomever you wish.

    Food for thought, that's for sure... you have tweaked my interest!

    Got any links to legal arguments about exclusivity in political parties? I'm intrigued by the concept, I have to admit...

    LewDan [17] -

    Yes, but why should taxpayers foot the bill for ANY primaries? They are, at heart, a poll among a private organization (a political party) which has NOTHING to do with government. So they should pay the cost, perhaps. The other side of the coin is "to guarantee the elections process and results" by a non-interested referee (the government), which is a valid concern, perhaps, but it doesn't mean that the parties can't pay the government to perform this service.

    As for the First Amendment, the guarantee of rights is indeed there:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    It's included and inherent in both the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress. What else would a political party exist for, after all?

    [18] -

    All three beaches supported WWII internments, didn't make them any less unconstitutional.

    [I'm assuming you meant "branches"...]

    I've made this point before (I can look up the link, if you ask). What is "constitutional" is whatever the SCOTUS of that time DECIDES is constitutional. Unless, of course, you want to challenge Marbury v. Madison. That's the way the American governmental system has operated for over 200 years. So the internments WERE indeed constitutional at the time -- because the White House, Congress, and SCOTUS all agreed they were. I'm not saying I agree with that, mind you. But it was legal fact for all those locked up, with no further recourse after SCOTUS ruled on it. Except, possibly, an amendment.

    Your standard, I have to point out, of "two branches agreeing to constitutionality" has the same constitutional basis as the power grab that happened with Marbury v. Madison -- i.e., none. The Constitution is silent on both.

    The American public has gone along with SCOTUS's power grab since the early 1800s. Does that make it constitutionally correct? I don't know, but that is indeed the reality of the matter.

    Remember: the framers of the Constitution themselves didn't agree on what it meant. Sometimes violently. So why should we be any different now?

    As for your final assertion -- what Alexis de Tocqueville would have called "the tyranny of the majority" -- do you agree that Loving v. Virginia (to name but one decision) was properly decided and constitutional? Because something like 70% of American society disagreed, at the time. So how long, under your system, would it have taken to strike down the miscegenation laws? I'm curious.


  20. [20] 
    Mopshell wrote:

    CW [15] -

    Aren't you an Australian?


    What do you think about mandatory voting? Please explain how it works, for us Americans. That would be another interesting idea, although I'm not sure it would ever work here.

    I'm going to quote myself here from a blog I wrote about this which is here should anyone wish to read it:

    Firstly, yes, we have compulsory voting [and yes, goode trickle the fine for not voting is $40 although I have to say I've never met anyone who's said they don't vote]. Every Australian citizen 18 and over is required to vote. The AEC (Australian Electoral Commission) is an independent agency, the employees of which may not have any formal political affiliation (their personal preferences, however, are sacrosanct). The AEC is responsible for keeping electoral rolls, drawing electoral boundaries and conducting elections, both state and federal. They also count the votes and declare the results.

    Secondly, we have a devil-may-care attitude, summed up neatly in the popular sayings: “she’ll be right, mate” and “no worries” (or, if you really feel the need for passionate emphasis, “no wucking furries”). It’s an attitude of casual indifference that pervades our approach to politics, particularly as the system seems to us to work very well.

    It also illustrates the need for compulsory voting in this country because, frankly, if it wasn’t compulsory, too many people just wouldn't bother.

    The thinking that keeps compulsory voting in place falls roughly into two camps which philosophically converge. There’s the “beastly careless” camp, so redolent of our national attitude, best illustrated by the following regular media event. Every election, some lone voice in the media rants about the case for voluntary voting. Since it is evident that they have expended considerable energy in doing so, counter to the nonchalant apathy which we consider to be the only justifiable case for voluntary voting, they are summarily ignored.

    The alternate argument is much stronger: no right exists independent of its accompanying responsibility which in this case translates as: “if you don’t exercise a right, you effectively surrender that right and we’re not about to give up any rights!” It’s an irony in our national psyche that, while we are generally very casual, we are also indefatigable in our determination never to surrender. It’s a battle-field attitude that, in this modern era, is most obvious in the sporting arena – but that’s a whole other story.

    Compulsory voting also protects our right to vote in that every effort is made to ensure that it’s not only possible for all but also easy (fitting in nicely with our national attitude). Voting is always on a Saturday, starts early and finishes late, with booths located in schools, church halls and other venues within easy reach of locals. There’s also early voting by mail or in person and absentee voting for those who happen to find themselves out of their electorate on the day. No ID is required and I cannot recall a single case of voter fraud during my lifetime (that’s not to say there hasn’t been, just that I can’t recall any and just one case would be big news here).

    As for how it would work for Americans, I believe the vast majority would reject the idea out of hand, given the general reaction to the ACA mandate, not to mention such ideas as random breath testing (we have no problem with it) and replacing imperial with decimal measures (ditto).

    The rest of your ideas are interesting, but one of them goes too far -- banning religion from private education. The Catholic Church would howl, that's for sure.

    Oh yes, they would howl indeed as would every religious training college! Actually, I should have reworded it because my intention was to exclude religion from science classes.

    However, I REALLY like the last sentence: The free exercise of religion shall be protected insofar as such protection does not infringe on any other rights or responsibilities. That seems to cut right at the heart of the matter -- well done!

    Thank you, Chris!

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