Of all the many refuges that are available to the enterprising political scoundrel, the promise that his election will encourage and then usher in a set of radical constitutional amendments has by far to be the most crooked. With primary season upon us, we sit now amid a veritable ocean of such assurances. On the Democratic side, we have seen Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Lawrence Lessig, and a host of other also-rans promise repeatedly that, if they are elected to the White House, they will push hard to reverse the changes that were wrought by Citizens United and to limit the First Amendment’s protection of core political speech. On the Republican side, the ever-enterprising Ted Cruz has expressed his desire not only to push the toothpaste back into the tube and ensure that each state is permitted to determine what does and what does not constitute a “marriage,” but also to transform the workings of the Supreme Court so that it does not make such an egregious mistake again. Elsewhere, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham have both pledged to modify the 14th Amendment to end “birthright citizenship”; Bobby Jindal has reiterated his commitment to a “balanced budget amendment”; and Marco Rubio has drafted a simple rule that would render the individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare flatly unconstitutional. By the time that the campaign is over, we will no doubt have been subjected to a host of further recommendations.
The most profitable reaction to these vows is the derisive scoff. None will pass. None will provoke serious national debate. None, in fact, will escape for a single moment from the dusty confines of the Judiciary Committee. Whatever their merits, whatever their inspiration, whatever the genuine grievance that they have been drafted to remedy, they are all destined to die echoing in the partisan air.