The GOP Is Occupied with Amending the Constitution

rick perry cowboy hatA perfect summary of the Grand Old Party’s relationship with the U.S. Constitution comes from Texas Governor Rick Perry at Mike Huckabee’s candidate forum on Fox News last Saturday. Governor Perry claimed as president he could overturn a law passed by Congress by executive order (he can’t), and then to show his bona fides on the subject he pulled out a copy of the Constitution from his breast pocket – displaying it proudly to the national audience.

Of course, he held his prop upside down.

And said, “It’s all right here.”

Indeed.

Republicans love to worship the Constitution as scripture. Perry keeps his next to his heart. They also love to talk about adding some Even Newer Testaments to this sacred document. They’re strict constructionists believing in the original intent but they’d prefer to see it improved drastically. Translation: It’s so perfect they’d like to see it changed.

Saturday, candidates talked about amending the Constitution to outlaw abortion, keep marriage heterosexual, term limit the Supreme Court and take away citizenship from children born to illegal immigrants.

English author Samuel Johnson famously said patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. For Republicans, talking about amending the Constitution is the first defense against having actual policy discussions. The 112th Congress has ground to an all-out halt by GOP obstructionism and instead of having an authentic plan to help the country that elected them, they opted to vote in (among other symbolic bills) a Balance Budget Amendment. This of course, like the majority of the bills the House will pass this year, will never become law.

rick perry's cowboy hatThis is bureaucratic busy work. A great display of government waste Republicans love to spend their time on the federal payroll talking about.

In order to amend the Constitution you have to get two-thirds majority in both Houses and then it has to be approved by three-fourths of state legislatures. Meaning: You have to build a broad consensus to change the founding document of our nation.

Republicans are not consensus builders – they’re talking point pounders. They’re re-branders. They’re more likely to ram through laws on the fly like Ohio Governor John Kasich’s union busting law which was months later overturned by voters – than super majority-sized popular things like taxing the rich. The middle-class will see a tax hike this year due to the payroll tax expiring. It appears Republicans are going to allow this to happen in order to protect the wealthiest Americans from paying more of their easier-earned cash to the federal government. Those who are being squeezed? Tax hike! Those who are squeezing? Lowest tax rate in two generations. Not a popular stance – but Republicans are taking it.

tina dupuyA Constitutional amendment demands wide support, something Republicans don’t bother themselves with.

Face it: they will never amend the Constitution even though it’s their favorite go-to non-starter.

However, a group that’s all about consensus building – at least at their meetings I’ve sat in on across the nation – is the Occupy movement. And their list of grievances includes money in politics and corporate personhood.

To Occupiers, corporations are like robots in every sci-fi movie ever made: they’re created by man, having taken on human traits (or in this case legal rights) and are turning on their makers … to eventually destroy the world. The Occupiers don’t see one party or another as an answer. They’re not like the tea party who are just a voting bloc for conservatives. They see both parties as being hostages to corporate money and complicit in the extreme economic inequality in the country.

How do they plan to tackle this? By calling for an amendment to end corporate personhood – to in effect overturn Citizens United. You’ll hear whispers of this among activists as a way to solve the problems that have prompted nearly 5,000 Americans to be arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience all across the country. Some polls show that over two-thirds of Americans would like to see the Constitution amended to overturn that decision.

Tina DupuyThe problem is we’re very used to this empty go-no-where non-solution of a Constitutional amendment from Republicans who know theirs will never happen; in that way Republicans have already preempted any earnest campaigns for an amendment.

I’ve brought this up to Occupiers and they are undeterred. They tell me they are, after all, the 99 percent, and there’s power in those numbers. They replied with what I’ve heard them say before: “We’re not going fast. We’re going far.”

Tina Dupuy
Taking Eternal Vigilance Too Far 

About Tina Dupuy

Tina is a nationally syndicated political columnist, investigative journalist, award-winning writer, stand-up comic and wedge issue fan.

Comments

  1. As Dupuy notes, GOP-style constitutional amendments will go nowhere. The Occupy constitutional amendment, at least as described, won’t go anywhere either.

    That’s because – except as metaphor – corporate personhood is not the actual legal problem capable of being addressed by a constitutional amendment. Corporations are obviously not persons. They don’t marry. They may seem to ‘screw’ you, but in fact they can’t and don’t copulate. They are genderless. (The word ‘corporation’ implies metaphorically some kind of ‘corpus’ – body or organism: but that does not make a corporation a person.)

    In themselves they don’t even abuse power. The power abusers are actual persons – high corporate officers. They can legally concentrate and abuse economic power, because they are empowered to do so by corporate charters under the laws, which are concocted by our readily corrupted political oligarchy: the <1% of the people who hold any kind of policy-making government office in our Roman-republic-style constitutional system.

    The one thing that would undo the power of high corporate officials would be wholesale amendment of the federal and other constitutions to provide decision-making not by a small oligarchy of officers but by many citizen teams.

  2. It’s great that the Occupiers are not automatically supporting either political party, because both the Repubs and Dems have sold us out to the plutocrats who bribe them. To reclaim our government for the common American, we need to disperse with both parties, create new alliances that incorporate the best of both the right and the left, and establish policy demands that support the middle and working classes over both the rich and the poor. That will be a tricky endeavor, since the right is easily manipulated by religion, big business and war profiteers, and the left is naïve about the non-sustainability of our welfare society. But if we can get most of the left and right to question their entrenched political positions, we have a chance to reclaim our birthright as Americans.

    Which brings me to the comments you made, Tina, regarding changing the US Constitution. Aside from the GOP’s silly “all hat, no cattle,” bluffing, we really should acknowledge that our constitution has some serious flaws that need to be corrected. The Electoral College and the structure of the Senate with its inherently imbalanced representation are two glaring problems. The framers of our Constitution did an excellent job fashioning our democratic republic, but their race, class, gender and cultural biases limited their insight and effectiveness. In the past two centuries we’ve become more democratic than even the founders envisioned when they devised a system that empowered male owners of women, property and slaves to make decisions on behalf of the rest of the enfranchised members of American society. Clearly, the march toward a more stable, equitable democracy entailed enormous changes to the framers’ original design, and future progress demands no less of us.

    …candidates talked about amending the Constitution to outlaw abortion, keep marriage heterosexual, term limit the Supreme Court and take away citizenship from children born to illegal immigrants.

    The right to an abortion will be fought for a long time, primarily because it’s hard to define what life is and when it begins. I personally don’t think anyone should be able to force a woman to bear a child against her will like a farm animal, and I don’t think a fertilized egg is magically bestowed with a soul. It’s not any more alive than an unfertilized egg, thousands of which are discarded naturally through a woman’s life. But perhaps men are anxious about their relatively small role in child making, and trying to control women’s bodies probably helps to mollify their fear. Personally, I doubt we’ll resolve the abortion rights issue until we have truly effective birth control for MEN.

    The second issue above is more clear cut. Gay marriage should have been available to LGBTQ citizens decades ago, and would have been if our elected Democrats hadn’t chickened out and betrayed us. Bill Clinton’s embarrassing compromise with the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a boondoggle for the Republicans who have used it ever since to Get Out the Vote and fundraise. The best solution now is massive numbers of progressives should demand an immediate repeal of DOMA so we can settle this once and move on to more important issues, like the economy. Minority leaders in particular should emphasize the similarities between oppression of gays and racial minorities, and communicate the difference between religious marriage and the civil marital contract and associated rights that lesbians and gays are denied. Enough is enough. The Dem Party failure to address this issue has and will continue to be a burr in our side as the GOP uses it again and again to get their lousy candidates elected.

    The left is generally sensible on these first two issues, but the last item in your list above is birthright citizenship, and progressives and liberals are dead wrong on that issue. We should not try to take away citizenship from children already born in this country, but the left needs to acknowledge that this particular public policy is a quagmire we need to extract ourselves from. What’s the point of paying billions of dollars to have immigration rules and controls, if we’re going to allow an end run around our policies with illegal aliens and “instant citizen” babies? Contrary to popular beliefs on the left, illegal aliens who suck off our scarce public resources undermine our working and middle classes, make the rich richer and degrade our hard won labor protection by accepting lower wages and ignoring workplace safety violations by employers.

    Some progressives believe that open borders are the solution to the world’s problems, but just a decade of a massive influx of the world’s uneducated poor would destroy this country’s economy and result in billions of people struggling for slave labor jobs just to get enough food to eat. We’re a great nation precisely because we’ve fostered the rise of the middle class, which demanded workplace protections, environmental protections, minimum pay, child labor laws, social security programs, etc. The plutocrats are in the process of destroying our hard won gains, and progressives are doing their dirty work for them by blindly denying the impact and incredibly high costs of illegal immigration.

    To clarify, this argument has NOTHING to do with race or racism. It’s about sound public policy that exports and promotes democracy and a strong working/middle class both here and in other countries, rather than allowing the world’s worse problems to seep into this and other countries that have managed to establish strong democracies with a vibrant, politically sound middle class. Progressives should support this concept of exporting healthy democracy rather than sinking to the level of the worlds worse theocracies and plutocracies, but American liberals are often naïve and work against their own interests in this area.

    Remember, birthright citizenship is a concept established hundreds of years ago when people couldn’t travel easily from country to country. It came from European common law, where people who were attacked by invaders or oppressed by their own leaders had to pack up their families and travel to other countries. Birthright citizens allowed them to establish their family lineage as citizens in their new homeland. The centuries old cultural policy was formally codified in this country by the Fourteenth Amendment that ensured children of slaves newly freed by the Thirteenth Amendment would be citizens themselves. In today’s modern world where you can fly to the US while pregnant, have a baby, and instantly access all benefits of citizenship, it’s no longer a functional policy. In fact, the Fourteenth Amendment was never even designed to be used that way, although the courts have interpreted it so. Today, birthright citizenship creates an incentive for people to bypass immigration controls. When it was written, people had to walk or sail to get to another country. Now they can fly into the U.S. for the explicit purpose of having a baby (“maternity tourism”). If a woman sneaks across the border (or even comes here on a legal visit) and has a baby, the US citizens can be saddled with the cost of the childbirth, and that “instant citizen” is entitled to all of our social programs that we pay for with taxes, such as welfare, federal Section 8 housing, Medicaid, Medicare, ObamaCare, social security disability and more. If the parents are deported or put their kid with another family, public money for foster care can be paid to relatives even if the mom and dad are still living with their kid. If the child becomes disabled in any way, he or she is entitled to 100% complete Social Security Disability for the rest of his or her life. The parent may have never even paid into the Social Security system, yet their kid can help suck the life out of it. Hispanic illegal immigrants can (and do) demand that their kids be educated in Spanish instead of English, which costs the public even more, and the kids can even get free college thanks to American taxpayers. Illegal aliens can get all this for their kids, even if they’ve never paid a dime into the system!

    Clearly, our birthright citizenship policy has to be changed so that it no longer creates such an incentive for breaking immigration law. This is not trampling upon the fundamental principles the U.S. is based on, it is recognizing that when the 14th Amendment was written, there were no planes available to pop into the US to have a baby. There were also no nuclear bombs and terrorists vying to destroy our country. The world is a different place today. The world’s population is out of control and causing long term environmental damage. Unbridled immigration could easily be the death of our democracy, and certainly will be used by the wealthy to further degrade our hard won protections for families and workers. We have protections not found in third world nations whose citizens work 16 hour days, don’t have safety standards or minimum pay, and send their kids to jobs instead of school. Is that what we want? If so, let’s open up the borders, because the worlds billions would love to come pouring into our country to make it the way they think it should be, including outvoting progressives who believe in living wages and installing Sharia law and other totalitarian policies we disagree with. But if you think our way of life is good, then we need to model it for other countries, supporting the growth of democracy and sustainability both here and elsewhere. To do so, we need to maintain limits on immigration, eliminate birthright citizenship for lawbreakers, and do all we can to help the downtrodden in other countries that have ever increasing populations of poor people, and rich plutocrats who take advantage of the economic disparities.

    Today, there is no good reason for keeping the birthright citizenship rule in place anymore. It’s archaic, outdated and a terrible enticement for abuse by people all around the world. It allows aliens to jump ahead of the immigration line because all those babies and kids are automatically a priority over potential adult workers who could come here and actually help our country. And each one of those “instant citizens” can sponsor the immigration of all of their family members. This birthright citizenship policy, along with amnesty for illegal immigration, is just not fair to those immigrants who abided by the laws, nor is it fair to those who are still waiting to come here. Furthermore, it does not solve the world’s problems to let the rich masters of overpopulated countries off the hook for the extreme economic hardship they’ve created for the poor in their countries. Instead, it enables those who benefit from poverty in other countries to keep ripping off citizens of those countries and the US. The question is, why are liberals so he!!bent on helping only those who cheat to become American citizens? Why doesn’t the left care about all those kids whose parents DIDN’T break into this country? This dysfunctional policy doesn’t serve us well, nor does it forward what should be our truly progressive priority, which is to promote and support viable middle and working classes in poverty stricken countries.

    By the way, other countries have recently changed their policies to limit birthright citizenship to current citizens. Our country will eventually do it as well, but it naïve liberals will likely to do their best to let millions more illegal aliens steal from us first. If we want to reclaim our government for the common American, we need to agree to create public policy that forwards that goal. Birthright citizenship is just one of the many inducements for illegal aliens to break into our country. If we’re going to have immigration policy at all, and pay so much money to manage immigration, then we need to stop allowing illegal aliens to do “end runs” around our laws.

    Are progressives ready to reevaluate their support of illegal immigration? Are they willing to finally step up to the plate and demand an end to discrimination against gays and women? Are we willing to see the progressive value in supporting immigration policies that support strong democracies in other countries, rather than enabling plutocrats and aristocrats to take advantage of the world’s poverty stricken masses? Are we willing to work with those on the right who have valid criticisms of our knee-jerk liberal responses to the world’s problems?

    I hope so, because if we don’t, we have no hope of stopping the eventual destruction of our middle class that has been underway for at least half a century.

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