Friday, August 1, 2014

Amend it don't end it

Image via The Amendment Gazette.
Stupid Jonah Goldberg moment: he's complaining that Democrats are proposing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision, even though "ironically" they are constantly opposing constitutional amendments
not just on the merits but on the puffed-up principle that we mustn’t “tinker” or “tamper” with the genius of the Founding Fathers’ constitutional design.
And then his first example is criticism of Republican attempts to eliminate birthright citizenship as tampering with the 14th Amendment. The one they ratified in 1868, or 81 years, you know, after the Founding-Fathery stuff.

There's a point worth making in there, by the way. The legit examples Goldberg points to, when Democrats oppose a Balanced Budget Amendment or one to give the president a line-item veto, do in fact threaten the fatherly foundations of our democracy: the first by blocking the federal government's ability to create national debt, which (alongside the ability to secure the Union against local insurrections like Shays' Rebellion) was practically the whole reason for dumping the Articles of Confederation; and the second by radically altering the utterly fundamental balance of power among the three branches, in the president's favor.

The amendment proposed by Tom Udall, in contrast, establishes the right of the government to impose regulations on campaign spending, which had always been considered constitutional from its introduction in 1867 until Citizens United in 2010, and permits the constitution to distinguish between "natural persons" and corporations, which I think old Madison and Hamilton and Jay would have thought pretty uncontroversial, as one of our greatest historians opined 74 years before Citizens United:
it seems fairly certain that the first ten amendments to the Constitution refer, at least primarily, to the rights of natural persons—human beings; and not to the rights of corporations—fictitious persons. When the origin of the amendments is reviewed, and the character of their supporters examined, it seems impossible to believe that the mass of people who demanded, sponsored, and ratified the amendments had corporate persons in mind. (Charles Beard, 1936)
Jonah's making a virtue of his ignorance as usual and arguing out of his ass.

Here, for your delectation, is the text of the Udall amendment:
Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political 
equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral 
process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits 
on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to 
influence elections.
    Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement 
and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may 
distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other 
artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such 
entities from spending money to influence elections.
    Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant 
Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the 

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