On Thursday, Harry Reid brought SJ Res 19, to repeal the heart of the First Amendment, to the Senate floor for a vote. The result must be considered stunning by all Americans who value their freedoms. Every Senate Democrat–every one, a 54-vote majority–voted for First Amendment repeal. Here is the roll call of infamy; click to enlarge:
The Democrats pretend that this was merely a vote to reverse the demonized Citizens United decision. That claim is ridiculous. This is what the Udall amendment (the revised version that the Senate voted on) actually says:
Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.
Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.
Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.
Note that under the amendment, Congress could both “regulate” and “set reasonable limits on” raising and spending money on elections. The power to “regulate” is not qualified by any other term of the amendment except Section 3, which means that a Democratic Congress would have the power to regulate campaign spending by prohibiting all spending on behalf of Republican candidates, or in opposition to Democratic candidates. Ridiculous! you might say–that would obviously be unconstitutional. Not any more it wouldn’t be; not if the Democrats get their way. The First Amendment would be repealed as it relates to politics.
Why have the Democrats pushed the Udall amendment, knowing that it can’t possibly pass? They are playing a long game, I think. Historically, the idea of repealing the First Amendment would have been unthinkable. The purpose of the Udall amendment, I believe, is to mainstream what has always, until now, been inconceivable. The public is being accustomed to the idea that the First Amendment might be repealed–not flag burning and nude dancing, but the innermost core of the amendment, supporting and opposing candidates in elections–and if the Democrats ever have the votes, it will be.
At National Review, Kevin Williamson ties the Udall amendment to the Democrats’ broader effort to criminalize opposition to its agenda:
Democrats pushing the measure to repeal free speech pretend that it is a campaign-finance measure, but the only criteria it establishes for Congress to ban an advertisement — or a book, or a film, or a television show, or a magazine — is that money is expended in an attempt to influence a political outcome. Under those rules, the Ohio Inquisition’s successful move to ban billboards critical of an embattled Democratic congressman would have been totally acceptable under the provisions of a gutted First Amendment.
The Ohio Inquisition, and the Minnesota Inquisition, and Harry Reid’s war on the First Amendment are hardly isolated episodes. …
The same Texas prosecutor behind the indictments of Governor Perry and Mr. Hall was also behind the indictments of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Representative Tom DeLay, both of which ultimately were laughed out of court. The point of these indictments is not to obtain convictions; the prosecutor did not even present a case against Senator Hutchison when the matter came to trial. And the point of the Ohio Inquisition was never to achieve a legal victory against the Susan B. Anthony List: The point was to bully the group, and the billboard company, into remaining silent and forgoing criticism of Democratic candidates. In that, the censors were successful: SBA List won in court, but those billboards never went up.
Likewise, the point of indicting Governor Perry and Mr. Hall is not to send either man to jail, but to harass them, to bully them, to bankrupt them if possible, and to keep them from functioning as effective critics of entrenched Democratic political interests.
The only thing stopping federal authorities from suffocating free speech — not only by independent groups such as the SBA List, but by individuals, trade groups, National Review, and the New York Times — is the First Amendment.
And Harry Reid wants to gut it. Figure out why that is and you’ll know everything you need to know about the Democratic party, which with each passing day functions less and less like a political party and more like a crime syndicate.
To my knowledge, not a single Democrat, either inside or outside of the Senate, has spoken up in opposition to that party’s war on free speech.