The 2014 elections and the Second Great Disenfranchisement

Elections are supposed to be the way people select their leaders. Increasingly that is no longer the case. The courts now occupy an enormous role in determining the outcome of elections–even before they start. That is clearly the case this year where too often the goal has become to rig elections by making it harder for some, especially people of color, the poor, and the young, to vote. This especially seems to be the strategy of Republicans who continue to push the Second Great Disenfranchisement in American history. Continue Reading

Constitutional Personhood: A tale of women, fetuses, corporations, animals, robots, and Martians

“We the people” are the first three words of the Constitution. Legally it should be simple to decide who is part of that we. But as the Hobby Lobby decision showed when the Supreme Court ruled that a corporation had religious rights, it is not always clear who or what the Constitution considers a person or a thing. One would think that it is simple–persons have rights, property does not. The reality is that throughout American history the constitutional line between property and personhood has been thin and contentious. Continue Reading

Amend the Constitution to restore the democracy the Roberts court killed

Money is not speech. Corporations are not persons. Most of us intuitively understand that. The Supreme Court clearly does not. In Citizens United v. FEC, it ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to expend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. More recently, in McCutcheon v. FEC they struck down the overall caps on how much money wealthy individuals can contribute directly to campaigns and to party committees. The Supreme Court’s decisions are wrong and they deserve to be overruled with a constitutional amendment to restore the First Amendment to its rightful place protecting American democracy, instead of as a tool to suppress speech rather than enhance it. Continue Reading

Lobbyist influence in the 2014 legislative session

Many of us learned about government and how it works by watching “I’m Just a Bill on Capitol Hill.” Part of the ABC School House Rock series, it depicted the process of how a bill becomes a law in Washington, D.C. It describes the role of citizens, members of Congress, and the president in legislating. Yet it left out an important actor–lobbyists. In so many ways, legislating would be impossible–good or bad–without lobbyists, and that is equally true in Minnesota. Continue Reading

What we learned from the Minnesota primary?

Far less than you think. Journalists and politicos want to write the big story and find trends. If there is a special election in one race they see in it a harbinger of a trend. Think of Eric Cantor losing to a Tea Party candidate and how from one race everyone is saying that the immigration issue did him in and therefore Republicans will refuse to compromise on this topic. Maybe it was immigration that cost him his seat, or maybe it was that he lost track with his constituents or simply was complacent in his campaigning. This is what did Jim Oberstar in. Continue Reading

The last hurrah of Jesse Ventura

Whatever the verdict in the libel case against Chris Kyle, Jesse Ventura has lost. He had lost years before the trial and everyone knew that except for Ventura himself. In so many ways this trial revealed that Ventura came to believe all the hype about himself that he was a popular and respected political figure. The reality is that he was never the icon that the media and he made himself out to be and this trial is Ventura’s last gasp for fame. Continue Reading