Sept. 17 is Constitution Day. A day to value our Constitution – and celebrate being an American.
These are challenging times in our nation; our very form of government is being threatened on many levels, one of the most destructive being the unlimited influence of concentrated money in our elections.
Although Americans cherish our Constitution, it has required amending numerous times. Now is one of those times. Over 80% of Americans of all political affiliations support a return to reasonable regulation of election financing. This cross-partisan support defies the terrible divisiveness we see around us. But due to Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions, it will take a constitutional amendment to accomplish this.
Amendments are not easy, but they are possible. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments corrected the notorious Dred Scott Supreme Court decision that locked slavery and oppression into constitutional law. The 17th Amendment, in response to a corrupt, appointed U.S. Senate, created the popular election of senators; the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote. Unfortunately, most women of color had to wait nearly five decades to actually exercise that right. The 24th Amendment abolished the poll tax, and the 26th Amendment, in 1971, lowered the voting age to 18. All these amendments were citizen-driven and overturned misguided Supreme Court decisions.
The new amendment will need to:
• Allow Congress to regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money to influence elections
• Distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities, for the purposes of such regulations
• Establish that such regulations do not abridge First Amendment free speech rights
The great news is that the amendment movement is farther along than many realize. House Joint Resolution 2, with cross-partisan sponsorship, along with House Joint Resolution 48 and Senate Joint Resolution 51, all have wide support. All five of our New Mexico congresspersons currently sponsor/cosponsor these bills. Twenty states, including New Mexico, have passed resolutions calling on Congress to pass an amendment. But there is more work to be done.
Citizen Leaders at American Promise (www.americanpromise.net), a national cross-partisan nonprofit with a local chapter, is working diligently. One important initiative is the American Promise Candidate and Elected Official Pledge. Signers at all levels pledge to use their office to advance a campaign finance reform amendment. Current signers include numerous New Mexico elected officials and candidates, including, locally, Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen, Los Alamos County Councilor Pete Sheehey, state Senate candidate Harold Pope Jr., Santa Fe County Clerk candidate Katharine Clark and Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber.
The list is growing. Call or email your officials and candidates, (and) ask them to sign the pledge, take a stand on reforming our democratic process and return our beautiful state and country to We The People.
In these dark times, we all need hope for a brighter and more unified future for our country. The good news is that most Americans – across all parties – support this kind of reform. People are tired of Big Money controlling our government, preventing meaningful legislation from being enacted on issues they care about – racial justice, climate change, immigration, gun violence, human rights, health care, jobs, the economy and more. Americans want our representative government back!
What better way to celebrate Constitution Day than to join other volunteers in working toward an amendment whose time has come? We welcome you. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ishwari Sollohub lives in Santa Fe.