Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Patience and Fortitude, not Petitions

I wish people would not write to me asking me to sign a petition (and send money) to a group advocating "support planned parenthood," "undo citizens united," "get rid of gerrymandering" or some other very worthy cause that can't possibly be achieved with the present congress.  "Citizens United" repeal requires either a decision by a different Supreme Court or an amendment to the federal constitution, neither of which can occur until after an election cycle that changes the nature of congress as well as a new President.  Why not try to do things in order?  Make some appointments to the Supreme Court (new President and Senate).  Elect more Democrats to the House and Senate.  Elect state legislators who believe in truly representative democracy instead of creating permanent Republican majorities in the House of Representatives.  I hate to turn these groups down.  They will think I don't care about the evils they write about.  I do care.  I just think they are using a wrong approach to achieve their goals.

Our constitutional system was designed to be slow-moving.  It takes years to amend the constitution.  Conflict between the President and Congress is built in.  The system is inefficient, expensive, and slow.  Sometimes we the people can't wait.  Sometimes we are enraged by a decision by one branch of the government (e.g., the Supreme Court).  One of these decisions led to the Civil War.  The alternative that we know of is a government with a single person or group making all the decisions, such as Argentina under the Generals, Pinochet in Chile, Hitler, Stalin, and the rest.  These are examples of governance that was efficient and rapid.  We don't know of any benevolent despotic governments in recent memory.  On balance, we stick with what we have and try to make things a little bit better.

Reverse "Citizens United"  A state legislature can't do a thing about the decision.  If enough state legislatures agree, they can propose and ratify an amendment to the constitution that declares that Money is not equal to Speech, and that too much money drowns out free speech.  Perhaps some future Present with a sympathetic majority in the Senate can appoint justices that will understand the disconnect between money and free speech.  In that case, it won't be necessary to amend the constitution.

Support Planned Parenthood  Here we are dealing with a dishonest political trick.  The members of congress who are part of the effort to defund the institution must be voted out of office.  They are using lies to justify their attack on the institution.  They know they are using false information, so merely trying to change their minds won't work.  "'Raus mit 'em!"

Gerrymandering  In most states the state legislature draws the boundary lines that define the districts from which federal and state legislators are elected.  By using data from previous elections, one can determine areas with majorities on one or the other of the two major political parties.  To gerrymander the state in favor of party A, one has to draw the boundaries so that districts that favor party A outnumber districts that favor party B.  Party B districts contain a high proportion of party B members.  Party A districts contain just enough party A members to make the districts "safe" for party A candidates.

These are some of the problems with our present governance.  Correcting them will take time, perseverance, patience, and hard work.  They are not going to be solved by sending petitions to a congress that will simply ignore them.

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