“Let us now praise Democratic hypocrisy.” That is how Jonah Goldberg, writing for the National Review Online, begins his criticism of Democrats in Congress working to amend the Constitution to enable Congress and state legislatures to, once again, regulate campaign finance spending and giving.
In “Tampering Tinkerers of Capitol Hill: The Democrats’ proposed constitutional amendments reek of hypocrisy,” Goldberg cites four Democrats who have previously opposed constitutional amendments on the “puffed-up principle that we mustn’t ‘tinker’ or ‘tamper’ with the genius of the Founding Fathers’ constitutional design.” He quotes Senators Schumer, Leahy (still in office) and Bumpers (retired) and Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D., Ariz.) to paint all Democrats supporting the inadequate SJR-19 as “hypocrites.” That’s akin to calling all Republicans in Congress hypocrites because two weeks ago Speaker Boehner got House authorization to sue the President for acting alone with Presidential Directives two days before telling the President to deal with the humanitarian crisis at the southern border on his own because Congress could not get legislation passed to address it.
Still, Goldberg has a point. Someday, when warranted, liberals and conservatives will want to amend the Constitution for one reason or another. Using the excuse that Congress should “not be so vain to think we know better than the Founders what the Constitution should prescribe” (Senator Leahy, 2011) was short-sighted.
Goldberg argued quite accurately: “If the Constitution forbids X but the American people decide — through extensive political debate — that X should be permitted, then the only legitimate course of action is to change the Constitution to allow X. Stacking the courts with priests of the Living Constitution cult who will simply rewrite the Constitution by fiat is lawless, undemocratic, and anti-constitutional.” It needs to be stressed, it is the Court, stacked with priests of plutocratic and corporate power, that has amended the Constitution by equating money to speech and by granting constitutional rights to associations. The proposed amendment gaining momentum in Congress would return the power of how much money is donated and spent on elections to the people, not the Court. How money raised and spent should be a “manner of holding elections” covered by Art. 1, Section 4 of the Constitution. SJR-19 would re-establish that power in Congress as the Framers intended.
What Goldberg seems to miss is the grassroots support for this amendment and other amendments before Congress. A majority of Republicans, independents and Democrats want the Constitution amended to overturn the “uninformed, arrogant [and] naive” (Senator McCain) Citizens United decision. This is only a partisan issue in Congress.
Goldberg’s conclusion is inverted. He claims that “[t]he Democrats’ hypocrisy amounts to real progress.” Actually, what this amendment would do is take the legal status of campaign finance regulations back to what it was until 1976. Only then can progress toward a genuinely democratic order be established if Congress then obeys the will of the people. That certainly will not happen with this Congress. Republicans and Democrats in Congress need to represent their constituents rather than their corporate backers.
If hypocrisy is the worst charge the National Review can make toward politicians in Congress trying to make the nation more democratic and less plutocratic, then this movement of the people is in great shape. Hypocrisy is rampant in Washington. “Let us now praise Democratic hypocrisy.” Indeed!