For the first time in modern history, the leading issue concerning voters in the upcoming presidential election, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, is that “wealthy individuals and corporations will have too much influence over who wins.” Five years after the Supreme Court gave corporations and unions the right to spend unlimited amounts in political campaigns, voters have had enough. Republican candidates, including Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, and the main Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, all acknowledge the problem, with some tying it to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which unleashed virtually unlimited “independent” political spending. The solution proposed by some, notably Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Graham and Mr. Sanders, is amending the Constitution. It sounds appealing, but anyone who’s serious about reform should not buy it. For a presidential candidate, constitutional reform is fake reform. And no candidate who talks exclusively about amending the Constitution can be considered a credible reformer.
This is not because we don’t need constitutional reform. Of course we do. No sane constitutional designer would have picked the mix of restrictions and rights that our Constitution has been read to embrace. And with due respect to the Supreme Court, neither did our framers. Amendments will be essential to restoring this democracy, just as a healthy diet is essential to the recovery of a patient who has suffered a heart attack.
Nor is this because a constitutional amendment is impossible. No doubt it is ridiculously difficult to amend our Constitution. The veto of one house in just 13 states — representing as little as 5 percent of the American public — could block an amendment. But in the last hundred years we’ve added 10 amendments to our Constitution, with an average ratification time (excepting the most recent, which took 202 years) of less than 16 months. We’ve done it before; we can do it again.