Scott wrote earlier this morning about Harry Reid’s support for a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to regulate spending on political campaigns, down to the last dollar. The amendment was proposed by Tom Udall last year; you can read the full text here. This is the key language:
Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on—
(1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and
(2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.
The proposed amendment is astonishingly radical. It would allow Congress to ban any spending on federal elections, which means that a challenger could beat an incumbent in only the most extraordinary circumstances. (Campaign finance regulation has always been mostly about incumbent protection.) Or Congress could ban all contributions or independent spending by individuals or corporations in excess of, say, $10, while allowing unlimited expenditures by unions. This would guarantee that if the Congress is once controlled by Democrats, the Republicans could never win it back.
If candidates and their supporters can’t spend money to get their messages out, that means that voters will learn about candidates only through the prism of the press. Since the press is almost 100% controlled by the Democratic Party, Harry Reid and his fellow donkeys would like that just fine. The Udall/Reid amendment takes no chances on this score:
Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.
No, of course not. In the Udall/Reid world, you have a right to free speech only if you own or write for a newspaper, or own or appear on a television or radio network (the Democrats are still working on the radio part). Otherwise, your participation in the political process is at the mercy of Congress’s regulation.
But consider this idea: suppose we enacted the opposite of the Udall/Reid amendment. Suppose we allowed individuals and organizations to contribute to campaigns and spend money on independent expenditures as they do at present, but barred newspapers, magazines and television and radio stations from any reporting or comment on political candidates or campaigns? Let’s get those malefactors of great wealth who own newspapers out of politics so the rest of us can have a fair shake! That, too, would require a constitutional amendment, but it would do less damage than the Udall/Reid amendment and would be more in keeping with the nature of the United States as a constitutional republic.
Lest anyone imagine that Reid’s attack on free speech was just another instance of the Majority Leader’s looniness, the Democratic Party jumped in, just hours after Reid’s announcement, to urge loyal Democrats to make war on the First Amendment. The party sent out this email yesterday afternoon. Note that the Koch brothers are not just a Harry Reid obsession. In the narrative of the Democratic Party itself, the destruction of all Americans’ right to free speech is 100% about Charles and David Koch. Click to enlarge file size:
Why are the Democrats doing it? They obviously have no chance of enacting a constitutional amendment, which requires a 2/3 vote in both houses of Congress and approval by 3/4 of the states. So what’s the point? In part, of course, they are trying to keep their base riled up in hopes of increasing turnout in what looks like a blowout election year. But I think there is more to it than that.I think the Democrats really do believe that the American people have gotten too unruly. Across a broad front, they want to disabuse Americans of the idea that they have a right to say what they believe, and to think for themselves about political issues. This campaign takes many forms. The IRS scandal is part of it, as is the use of other federal agencies like the EPA, OSHA and various U.S. Attorneys’ offices to go after the administration’s political opponents. The liberals’ mostly-successful efforts to prohibit conservative (or even not-so-conservative Republican) speakers from appearing on college campuses is part of the Democrats’ long-term campaign to suppress free speech, as is the unending culture war against the expression of “incorrect” opinions and beliefs.
The Democrats are playing a long game here. No, they can’t achieve, at present, a constitutional amendment that will give Congress the power to ban all Americans not employed in the media from supporting or opposing candidates. But as they slowly undermine Americans’ longstanding belief in free speech, the day may indeed come when Congress is given the power to decide whether anyone will be allowed to challenge Congress. That will be the day when all of the Left’s fantasies will be within reach.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.