jducoeur: (Default)
[personal profile] jducoeur

I usually reserve my scorn for the Republicans these days, but right at the moment I am deeply cranky at the Democrats.

I just got a spam email (that sounds like nothing quite so much as a loud used-car ad) pointing me to this page. Suffice it to say, the Democrats have apparently submitted a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and they are trying to get zillions of signatures on a petition supporting it.

Now don't get me wrong -- Citizens United is a problem, and not a trivial one. The notion of the "corporate person" has taken deep root in American jurisprudence over the years, and this decision demonstrated that there are some real downsides. And while I'm pretty passionate about the first amendment, I also think there's a place for reasonable campaign finance rules: CU swung things a bit too far towards the fundamentalist viewpoint, IMO.

But I am deeply angry with the Democrats for tossing around a constitutional amendment as if it was just another political football. I am especially angry that, after a couple of minutes of looking around, I haven't yet found the proposed text of this damned amendment. It's not on their home page. Hell, it's not even on their "About" page. I'm sure it is out there somewhere, but they are, as far as I can tell, deliberately obfuscating it, and that is a fine way to lose my support. You can't just say, "We made a Constitutional Amendment, and we're on Your Side, so you know it's good!"

One of America's strengths is an exceptionally streamlined constitution. Compared to many countries, it is short, clear and highly focused on principles, rather than fine-grained rules. It is extremely difficult to change, and for good reason: it isn't a legal code, it is an architecture for that code, and the fundamental guidelines that everything else draws from. No, that isn't consistent, and you can certainly argue about whether you agree with all of those guidelines, but by and large it's still an impressive system, and we should be cautious about tinkering with it.

To me, the way the Democrats are handling this is demeaning to the Constitution. This game of screaming, "CU is evil! We must stop it at All Costs! And we aren't going to bother you with the details!" is deeply insulting to the electorate and the country.

Yes, we need a serious, reasoned debate about the influence of money on politics. And yes, that might eventually lead to an amendment. But hysterically insisting that we should sign This Petition Right Now is not the way to do it...

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-25 03:08 pm (UTC)
metahacker: (doyouhas)
From: [personal profile] metahacker
I hear you.

But I wonder--protecting voting rights would be one of the places where we MIGHT need something amendment-level. Anything that changes the structure of government fundamentally (say, enshrining voting rights for people regardless of skin color) seems like it might belong there. But maybe it should be in another voting rights act that gets gutted because Gorsuch doesn't see it in the Constitution?

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-25 07:46 pm (UTC)
metahacker: (doyouhas)
From: [personal profile] metahacker
Alright, so, a thought occurred to me. Maybe you can help word this question.

I want to ask my Democratic leaders something, which is something like:
"How are you, if you get back into power, going to prevent the sort of rampant power grab we're seeing currently? In other words, (given past record of centralization of power by Democrats), what actions will you take to restore and enhance the checks and balances inherent in the system?"

Basically--put up or shut up, for them. You say you (don't) want a revolution--give us a reason to trust in you, and then we'll get behind you and turn on the afterburners.

Some folks (Warren) have explicitly stated they'd, first thing, try to push through a stronger voting rights act (if we happen to have a democracy left by 2018); can we get all of them to say so, publicly? First, put out the fire; then see about righting the house.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-26 02:42 pm (UTC)
metahacker: A picture of white-socked feet, as of a person with their legs crossed. (Default)
From: [personal profile] metahacker
The filibuster, and reliance on executive orders, were two of mine.

But I'm really not sure what else they were supposed to do in the face of complete GOP obstructionism. Deal-making has always been a fragile way of constructing government in a two-party system; the risk of the other party simply not showing up, while holding a majority, has now become reality for almost a decade. There's precious little ground to compromise when one side's position is "give us all the power, and we'll decide when to let you use it, which is never".

So I don't know. The system may not be viable any more, but updating it would take some careful consideration.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-26 04:59 am (UTC)
mindways: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mindways
Mostly, I agree with you. I loathe ActBlue because they spam me with these sorts of "you don't need to think, just hit that panic button in your brain and give money" emails. (And because no matter how often I unsubscribe, if I'm doing a monthly donation through them I get re-subscribed when it processes.)

That being said, a serious, reasoned, high-profile debate about the influence of money on politics is going to attract money influencing it - the more high-profile / higher likelihood of anything actually happening from it, the more money, and the more pressure. If the debate takes a long time, that pressure will have a lot longer to act.

My Constitutional history is not strong, but my general impression is that many amendments happened as a result of a suddenly-rising wave of popular support. (Probably with support from people who'd been futilely beating that drum for a long time.) I might be wrong, but if I'm not, "strike while the iron is hot" is probably relevant.

Which again, isn't to say that you're wrong, nor that they're not being irritating about it.

(To start the discussion: what's your take on corporate personhood?)
Edited Date: 2017-08-26 05:06 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-26 11:42 pm (UTC)
mindways: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mindways
Corporations *aren't* literally people, and they *don't* have all the rights and responsibilities of people; pretending that they are people muddies the waters just as much as it clarifies them.
It seems to me that the truth-value of "Corporations are people" is not constant; it slides from being largely-but-not-entirely true in the case of sole proprietorships to being pretty much entirely false in the case of very large corporations (which are built out of people, but "built out of" != "is".)

I also think that there are multiple problems in the corporate sphere - our model for corporate organization has gotten more sophisticated since the 1600s, but hasn't much changed in basic approach / tenor / concept, and that model is excellent at producing entities that are - if considered in human behavioral terms(*) - sociopaths. It doesn't always do so, but it does seem to be a rough norm, approached with increasing frequency / intensity as a corporation gets bigger. (Perhaps tempered by them being composed of people who *aren't* sociopaths, and can factor some level of basic humanity in.)

(*) = Of course, they're not humans, so we probably shouldn't be using such a term - but I'm not sure we have good everyday vocabulary for it.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-28 09:11 pm (UTC)
drwex: (Default)
From: [personal profile] drwex
You're right that this is more thoughtless bloody meat in the water kind of fishing for money. It's awful, misleading, and flat-out wrong. (In addition to, as you noted, ridiculously careless.)

The discussion about corporate "personhood" is a red herring, though. CU is built on a prior decision from which CU is the absolutely logical descendant. That other decision is commonly referred to as Buckley v. Valeo. Here's a reasonably decent explainer: http://www.amendmentgazette.com/how-spending-money-became-a-form-of-speech/

Prior to this decision, money was not equated with speech. Money was (properly, in my opinion) equated with property. There's a vast difference in our legal system between speech rights and property rights. Without going into the details, I'll just say that I believe political spending deserves protection, but not the high degree of protection it has as speech. If there was a lesser degree of protection then collective entities would still have some rights in how they use and spend their money but that expenditure wouldn't be limitless.

Two other important points to consider:
1. You can't realistically place limits on corporations without thinking through the effects of those limitations on other collective entities including Democratic favorites such as unions and newspapers.
2. The actual damage after CU was not done by corporations but by super-rich individuals whose spending could no longer be capped. People for whom spending a couple hundred million on an election is a reasonable choice. This problem was SUPER exacerbated by another decision McCutcheon v. FEC (see here for another explainer: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/04/what-john-roberts-doesnt-get-about-corruption-105683). Essentially what happened was Justice Roberts saying that unless I get something explicit and traceable from you - the quid pro quo standard - then you spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get me elected has no effect on my decision-making and isn't buying influence.

Also, I fart rainbow unicorns, dontchano.


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