Tom Udall vs. The First Amendment


Pretend moderate Tom* Udall (D-NM) has teamed up with avowed socialist Bernie Sanders (Socialist-VT) to pen a lengthy, meandering, hypocritical, and logically challenged piece in Politico describing a constitutional amendment they have submitted that is designed to ensure that only Democrats and socialists can participate fully in the Democratic process.


But today, those improvements are in serious jeopardy. The Supreme Court struck down a major part of the Voting Rights Act and Congress has yet to pass a fix. Voter ID laws are the new poll taxes. And thanks to years of pressure from conservative activists, five members of the Supreme Court have destroyed more than a century of campaign-finance laws.

* * *

When the Supreme Court says, for purposes of the First Amendment, that corporations are people, that writing checks from the company’s bank account is constitutionally protected speech and that attempts to impose reasonable restrictions on campaign ads are unconstitutional, our democracy is in grave danger.

Let’s unpack this just a little bit. First, the issue of the Voting Rights Act and Voter ID laws (which are supported by an astounding 70% of Americans) are completely different issues from the issue of corporate spending on elections. Nothing that Udall or Sanders has proposed would in any way address either issue (even if we grant their facially insane characterizations of them). In keeping with the rest of this mess of an article, Udall and Sanders are merely cobbling together complaints about things they don’t like in a rambling and nonsensical screed about a legislative fix to completely different problems. I know this seems like a petty thing to complain about, but Kurt Vonnegut was mostly right when he said that people who can’t write can’t think, and this piece constitutes resounding proof of the concept.


Why, for example, does the existence of campaign ads constitute a grave danger to the very concept of democracy? After all, a core concept of democracy, especially with respect to free speech, is that the remedy to bad or incorrect speech is not government restriction on speech, but more speech. When the government plays arbiter between whose speech is protected and whose is not, that is the true threat to Democracy, not the very concept that groups of people who have things they want to say have the money to say them on television.

Likewise, Udall and Sanders’ claim for broad based public support for their initiative is bizarre, to say the least:

The American people clearly agree with us. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia, along with more than 500 cities and towns, have passed resolutions calling on Congress to overturn Citizens United. Polls consistently show a majority of Americans would like to abolish super PACs.


I don’t know if Udall and Sanders realize this but sixteen is way less than half of fifty. But even if it were not, they would dismiss out of hand such a call for action on virtually any other issue as improper. Citizens United was a decision that the action already taken by Congress was prohibited by the Constitution. It’s not within the power of Congress at all to overturn such a decision. If it were, it would be within the power of Congress to overturn Roe v. Wade, which liberals have been arguing against for years.


Free speech for me, but not for thee, has been the mantra of liberals for years.

UPDATE: The original version of this article incorrectly identified Mark Udall of Colorado as the author of the amendment.



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