With less than a week to go before Election Day, the Democrats running for the U.S. Senate are making their final pleas to voters. They’re especially intent on proving that they can tackle the growing number of problems around the globe: the Islamic State in the Middle East, Russian aggression in Ukraine, Ebola, and so on.
But actions speak louder than words. Every incumbent Senate Democrat — particularly Mark Udall (Colo.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Al Franken (Minn.) — has had plenty of chances to sponsor, debate, or vote on bills dealing with these international crises.
Instead, they spent the Senate’s last days in session voting to gut the First Amendment.
Here’s the backstory: Despite the myriad issues facing America on the international stage, the “world’s greatest deliberative body” spent its last days in session debating an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment in question — co-sponsored by five of these senators and supported by all of them — would give states and Congress
power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents…including through setting limits on—
(1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election…
(2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.
In practice, the amendment would give politicians nearly unlimited power to regulate and control speech that affects elections — from books to films to bumper stickers and beyond. Never mind that such speech is precisely what the First Amendment is meant to protect.
There’s isn’t a single facet of free speech that can’t be limited under this proposal. It is an outright assault on the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech. Yet every Democrat in the Senate voted for the amendment as one of their last acts before Americans head to the polls in November.
Rarely will you see a more blatant attempt by politicians to protect themselves at the expense of Americans’ freedoms. With Congress in control of political speech, Washington will become even less accountable than it already is. And if you plan on challenging an incumbent, good luck: The system will be rigged against you.
No wonder Americans are cynical about Washington. In a world that gets darker by the day, our elected officials are more concerned with protecting themselves than with protecting America.
Consider a few of the issues that the Senate—which has a powerful role to play in shaping American foreign policy—should instead be addressing. The most obvious is Ebola. In recent weeks, cases have been diagnosed in Dallas and New York City. In the midst of this terrifying development, the federal government has appeared incompetent, unable to stop the disease from entering the country or spreading.
Then there’s the Islamic State (ISIS). It grows more powerful by the day; it is now besieging Syrian towns on the border with Turkey, Kurdish cities in Northern Iraq, and the outskirts of Baghdad, among other places. This despite American air raids on its troops and fortified positions.
The Senate might also want to discuss Russia, which continues to wage a quiet war against the sovereign nation of Ukraine. This is a perfect opportunity for serious leaders to reconsider America’s role in the post-Cold War international order, especially since our withdrawal from international leadership in the past six years has allowed our enemies to strengthen and proliferate.
Finally, those who are on the front lines of international crises, our nation’s veterans, continue to be ignored at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Despite token “reforms” this summer, thousands of veterans are still pleading for the VA to better treat their Post-Traumatic Stress and other wounds both visible and invisible.
I could keep going, but the central message is this: There are dozens of international issues and crises, to say nothing of domestic concerns, that require senators’ attention. This is why voters elected them in the first place — to tackle the toughest issues of our time. They have fundamentally betrayed that trust. Rather than demonstrate real leadership, they and the rest of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate spent their last minutes in session trying to silence their political opponents.
Perhaps they are afraid voters will rightly rebuke them on November 4 for failing to do their jobs.