Mr Belly Button and the Green Party re: Citizens UnitedAugust 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Posted in Conceited, Judicial Misjudgment | 3 Comments
Tags: ChiefJustice Roberts, Citizens United, Constitution, democracy, Green Party, Move to Amend, Occupy, oligarchy, Paul Ryan, plutocracy, Public Citizen, Romney, super PAC, Supreme Court
On January 20, 2012, I participated in a demonstration in a small park that faces the Supreme Court. The demonstration decried the Court’s absurd decision in the Citizens United case.
Citizens United is the case that ignored the fact that corporations are purely legal entities, created solely to shield their executives and board members from personal legal liability for the corporation’s actions, and – secondarily – to obtain favorable tax treatment. They are not political entities, and their political preferences are certainly not independent of the private political preferences of their executives and board, effectively magnifying the personal influence of those individuals on the outcome of the election.
The Court’s decision favored plutocracy and oligarchy over democracy. It did so because that is what Chief Justice Roberts and his cronies, like Willard Mitt Romney and his cronies, really believe in. True to its purpose, the decision spawned the sudden appearance of the super-PACs, with their hidden, very rich donors.
The Court’s decision also spawned efforts to enact a Constitutional amendment that would overturn the Court’s decision. The demonstration I attended was in support of such efforts. It was organized by a group that I had never heard of before: Move to Amend.
Those participating in the demonstration were diverse, and included many who, like me, had no connection to the organizers. Some of the participants were from the Occupy movement. It was the first time that I had personally encountered any.
The demonstration was in the morning, and during the demonstration the organizers issued an invitation to an open discussion that afternoon about what could be done next. The discussion was held in a building adjacent to the Supreme Court. I attended.
The meeting was led by one of the main organizers of the morning’s demonstration. I will call him Mr. Belly Button, because he was impressed by the fact that every human had a belly button, and no corporation did. He insisted on showing his to all assembled.
Mr. Belly Button announced that he would next show us Move To Amend‘s proposed amendment to the Constitution. He said that he was eager for discussion and comments, but that they would not result in any changes of wording. The wording was already fixed, unchangeable.
Move to Amend‘s proposed amendment is good. But before the meeting I had come across another proposed amendment, S. J. Res 29, that was more general, and covered aspects of the problem that were not covered by Move to Amend‘s version. The inability to influence the wording of Move to Amend‘s proposed amendment made it pointless to raise this issue. That was a loss for the whole effort to obtain an amendment that would fix the Citizens United decision, and related prior decisions by the Court.
(S.J. Res 29 was proposed by Senators Udall (New Mexico), Bennet (Colorado), Harkin (Iowa), Durbin (Illinois), Schumer (New York), Merkley (Oregon), Whitehouse (Rhode Island), Begich (Alaska), and Shaheen (New Hampshire).)
Because the wording of the proposed amendment was fixed, the focus of the discussion became what to do next.
One particularly self-esteeming gentleman from Atlanta said that eventually the whole Constitution should be rewritten, because those who wrote it were not representative, and included slave-holders.
That is important enough to require some comments.
The barons who imposed the Magna Carta on the King of England were not at all egalitarian. They were not elected by the adult population that would be affected by their action. So by the logic of the gentleman from Atlanta, England should now revise the Magna Carta.
To embark on rewriting the Constitution from scratch would ignore the law of unintended consequences, the twistiness and contingence of historical branching, all of which result from the complexity of human society. Rewriting the Constitution in one fell swoop would be extraordinarily foolhardy. But neither Mr Belly Button nor any other of the dominant voices at the meeting blanched or voiced any objection. They even hinted at favoring an eventual complete rewriting of the Constitution.
Any system of government that works fairly well should be changed only incrementally, testing the results of each small step before going on to the next change. The evolution should resemble biological evolution during an interval that contains no planetary-scale geological or astronomical catastrophes.
That applies also to Paul Ryan’s goal of sweepingly reorganizing and rescoping the government, which underlies and goes far beyond his proposed budget.
It is worth noting some aspects of those in attendance.
Move to Amend appeared to me to be a fixed group of individuals who moved opportunistically from issue to issue. I got the impression they waited for the emergence of the next new issue that they could ride, and changed the name of their group accordingly. Most or all of the organizers seemed to be leading activists in the US Green Party.
As far as I could glimpse their underlying agenda, it seemed pretentious and grandiose. Fortunately, because the group regarded pragmatism as synonymous with impurity, their agenda is unlikely to ever be implemented, or even to contribute to policies implemented by others.
As noted earlier, the audience was much more diverse than the organizers. Many were practical and non-doctrinaire. In particular, I was very favorably impressed by those from the Occupy movement. They had thought long and hard about the issues. That was understandable, in view of the personal sacrifices they were making. Unlike the organizers, those from the Occupy movement were very focused on the effectiveness of proposed actions and policies.
Another organization, Public Citizen (URL1, URL2) is partnering with Move to Amend to promote Move to Amend‘s proposed amendment to the Constitution. Public Citizen is presently trying to encourage people to push for the amendment right now. That is a big mistake. This is the wrong time, even though the deformation to the electopral process that has been wrought by the Citizens United decision is presently in full view. The politically aware portion of the citizenry are and will be focused exclusively on the election until it is over. For the moment, talking about Citizens United is a waste of time, money and energy, and will detract from the attention that activists are willing to give to the issue after the election.