102 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2016 Last revised: 1 Jun 2016
Date Written: January 26, 2016
The 2016 election campaign's defining issue is the recovery of democracy from the death grip of plutocracy. The reform proposals that are supported at the outset of the primary season by Democrats and their leading presidential candidates are all inadequate for the task. This study provides a critical analysis of the current set of the widely promoted proposals on this issue of money in politics. It features those of the Democratic candidates and the congressional party. The analysis of these proposals functions as a strategy primer on the subject of money in politics for purposes of wisely assessing the widely promoted but misleading and terminally ineffective strategies. This helps open space for identifying and formulating effective strategies.
Democrats and their professional activist allies, including celebrity activists and non-profit organizations have not been credible sources of strategic advice on the issue of money in politics. Their priority is the marketability of soundbite strategies, not effective political strategy. The current proposals are necessarily deficient because they all start from the erroneous assumption that the Constitution was written to establish a corrupt plutocracy and that it must therefore now be amended to enable democracy.
This premise asks us to believe, without evidence, that the framers' professed intention to establish a democracy legitimized solely by the consent of the governed must now be considered to have been an elaborate fraud because five undistinguished Supreme Court justices tell us, two centuries later, that their Constitution mandates a plutocracy where money buys legitimacy. It is safe to say that the framers, who never said any such thing in the many volumes they wrote about the Constitution, are more reliable sources on this question than two Reagan and three Bush family appointees elevated from deserved obscurity to serve political ends.
The active form of the Amendment Diversion is advocacy of a constitutional amendment as the only solution to plutocracy. This advocacy is most often phrased as having the purpose of "overturning Citizens United," which would only leave in place the noxious root of the problem, which is Buckley v Valeo (1976). Such advocacy often takes the form of the mere concept of an amendment, little more than the quoted phrase, thereby avoiding the devilish detail of producing actual text. Amendment proposals that are reduced to text, upon analysis, are found to have perverse unintended consequences.
Alternative diversionary proposals instruct us that the only available remedies short of such an amendment are a set of ineffective shopworn piecemeal reforms that comply with the Supreme Court's judicial supremacist interpretations. These interpretations reflect the Court's own plutocratic Constitution, nowhere to be found in the text of the original document. Servile compliance with the Supreme Courts' illegitimate plutocratic amendment of the Constitution is the passive form of the Amendment Diversion.
This series on "The Amendment Diversion" is contained in three "Books" to be published in 2016. Book I describes Hillary Clinton's reform proposal which is so minimally piecemeal as to be probably counterproductive. Her proposals explore just how thinly a piecemeal reform of money in politics can be sliced so as not to offend her donors, while appearing to offer substance. In this effort she embraces President Obama's example of how Democrats avoid offending their plutocratic backers while throwing spare soundbites to their uninformed and effectively disenfranchised voters.
Hillary Clinton is campaigning on her experience and pragmatism. But pragmatism in the form of piecemeal, gradualist, incremental reform of systemic corruption tends to only make it worse. Clinton's proposals on money in politics so vastly underestimate what it takes to reform a systemically corrupt government that it draws into question her fundamental understanding of the subject.
Nor is Clinton's experience with this issue during her service as Secretary of State a recommendation for her candidacy. Instead of attesting to her knowledge, Clinton's experience confirms that she lacks either understanding of or concern about the centrality of the issue of systemic corruption. Her direct intervention to derail anti-corruption programs in Afghanistan contributed to the current precarious status of the Kabul government, and to rendering futile the longest war in American History.
Even if Clinton's proposals are not necessarily different in significant ways from her opponent Bernie Sanders' current proposals, her relevant experience, pragmatic approach and lack of determined resolve is the opposite of what is needed to remedy the defining problem of the era.
Keywords: Money in politics, strategy, democracy, Constitution, constitutional amendment
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Hager, Rob, The Amendment Diversion: How Clinton, the Democrats, and Even Sanders Distract Attention from Effective Strategies for Too Much Money in Politics by Promoting Futile Remedies -- Book I: Hillary Clinton and the Dark Money Disclosure 'Pillar' (January 26, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2722336