There seems to be a lot of support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Is that likely to happen?

It is hard to take this idea seriously. Even if amending the Constitution were a good idea, an amendment would have to get the votes of two- thirds of both houses of Congress and be ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states. There is no chance that either of these things could happen in the near future.

And what if the amendment were ratified? It would free Congress and state legislatures to ban corporate political spending and set limits on independent expenditures. But that does not mean they would do those things. And if they did, the constitutionality of the new reforms would be determined by the same Supreme Court the reforms were meant to get around.

Some things do need to be done by amending the Constitution, such as giving women and eighteen-year-olds the vote, limiting the president to two terms, and giving electoral votes to the District of Columbia. But other things have been accomplished through changing interpretations of an unchanging text: labor unions used to be illegal combinations in restraint of trade, racial segregation used to be constitutional, the minimum wage used to be a violation of the freedom of contract, and Congress used to have no authority to prohibit child labor.

These social and economic changes happened as the Supreme Court itself changed. The same is true of campaign finance. The problem is the court, not the Constitution, and the court is a product of our current politics. Changing the Constitution without changing the Supreme Court would be a legal solution to a political problem, which means it would not be a solution at all. But to get a better court we will need better politics.

 
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