by Rob Roper
On the floor of the US Senate, Bernie Sanders made an impassioned plea for support of his proposed Constitutional Amendment that would essentially eviscerate the First Amendment in the name of, ostensibly, getting the influence of big money out of politics.
Sanders speech came under the banner of “Taking Back Our Democracy: Responding to Citizens United and the Rise of Super PACs.” His proposed response is to toss the cornerstone of our nation’s political freedom, the First Amendment, and crush it with a new constitutional amendment that states the following:
• For-profit corporations are not people, and are not entitled to any rights under the Constitution.
• For-profit corporations are entities of the states, and are subject to regulation by the legislatures of the states, so long as the regulations do not limit the freedom of the press.
• For-profit corporations are prohibited from making contributions or expenditures in political campaigns.
• Congress and the states have the right to regulate and limit all political expenditures and contributions, including those made by a candidate.
All of this violates our First Amendment rights to assembly, to petition, to speech and to press. If it didn’t there would be no need, from Sanders’ perspective, to amend the Constitution in the first place. They could pass their laws and regulations today. However, as bad as points one through three are, nothing comes close to the terrifying implications of that last bullet point alone.
The First Amendment, states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
If Sanders gets his way, these bedrock principles, the very rights that secure our status as a free people, would be upended by, “Congress and the states have the right to regulate and limit all political expenditures and contributions, including those made by a candidate.” There’s no delicate way to put it, this should scare the living crap out of everybody. Period. Because this is fascism, folks.
Read it again: “Congress and the states have the right to regulate and limit all political expenditures and contributions, including those made by a candidate.” This takes us from a nation where “the people” have the right to a country where “Congress and the states have the right.” It takes us from the founding principle of “Congress shall make no law” regarding political activity to the tyranny of “Congress shall make ANY law!” If Bernie Sanders gets his way, would live in a country where the government (made up by definition of incumbent politicians) will have the power to control and to, indeed, criminalize the campaigns of their political opponents. That is Nazi Germany. That is Stalinist Russia. That is not the United States of America.