Bernie Sanders’s Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Unlike some right-wing nutjobs in the Senate, Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed only one constitutional amendment (.pdf), ever. It is an attempt to undo the potentially fatal damage done to our democracy by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, in which the Roberts Court, by a bare majority of 5-4, effectively ruled that corporations are people for First Amendment purposes, and thus political spending by corporations is constitutionally protected speech and therefore may not be restricted. The premise is so absurd one would hardly believe it, but Mr. Chief Justice Roberts engineered the result (search the wiki for “June 29, 2009”) by ordering the parties to re-plead the case on different grounds… as Justice Stevens argued in his dissent, “the Court chose to hear argument on issues the parties had agreed were not to be presented to the Court and that it reached a decision on constitutionality when it could have found for the plaintiffs on narrower grounds.”

But The Five prevailed; Roberts obtained his constitutional argument, and the rest is history. The 2012 election will be overwhelmingly influenced by corporate-financed campaigns and ads, most of them in favor of candidates of the party with more money… you know which, though the Dems are doing their damnedest to catch up in this antidemocratic (word chosen deliberately) race.

Won’t those corporate contributions be balanced by contributions from individual citizens? Um, Karl Rove has reportedly already spent a half million dollars of mostly corporate money in the campaign against Elizabeth Warren alone, and it’s a year from the elections! Few individuals have the money to play this game, and even fewer are anything other than Republicans. Individual participation in our purported democracy will effectively be limited to voting, and who knows how long that will last, or even whether the votes are properly tallied. (In sElection 2000, they most emphatically were NOT properly counted.) So America’s mere citizens are about to be effectively disenfranchised by this morally deplorable, purely politically motivated Supreme Court decision.

No wonder Sanders is proposing a constitutional amendment!

I am always slow to support even worthy constitutional amendments. The only one I’ve ever unreservedly supported in the past is the misfortunate Equal Rights Amendment, and we all know what happened to that. But with a few reservations, I do support Sen. Sanders’s amendment. If we don’t do something, our democracy becomes a plutocracy, probably irreversibly so.

I have only one reservation about the wording of Sanders’s amendment: it applies only to for-profit corporations and their equivalents. To me, that sounds like a loophole big enough to drive an old Saturn V moon rocket through. Nonetheless, I am signing the petition of support. It’s the best we’ve got, and we’d better hope there is some way to get it passed.

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