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No More Excuses

A moment of truth has arrived for Democrats. With two narrow victories in runoff elections in Georgia for U.S. Senate seats, the Democrats now will have control of both houses of Congress as well as the White House. The last time Democrats were in that position was at the beginning of the Obama Administration, and they squandered the opportunity to make sweeping changes.

A lot can and probably will happen between now and January 20. President Trump is on his way out, but will undoubtedly try to burn down as much as he can before he’s made to leave. So will congressional Republicans who are falling out of power. What so many of them have done to indulge the president’s fantasies about widespread voter fraud and cast aspersions on the legitimacy of the election—without a smitch of evidence—won’t be the end of it. Our democracy is proving durable enough to survive the onslaught, but these irresponsible antics are still doing immense harm to public confidence in our democratic institutions. Our country will be paying for that for a long time.

What’s been playing out in the aftermath of the election makes one thing crystal clear. Most Republican politicians are deathly afraid of their increasingly unhinged base. There’s been no limit to what they will say and do to remain in good stead with the extremists in their ranks.

While Republican politicians are afraid of their base, the Democratic base seems afraid to expect or demand more from the party’s leaders. Those leaders have refused to embrace Medicare for All even though it is widely supported by the public. Even when Democrats have had control of Congress and the White House, the federal minimum wage has been kept at $7.25 an hour, a poverty wage. It hasn’t been increased in well over 20 years. Antitrust laws haven’t been meaningfully enforced for decades, and corporate power and control over our lives has grown steadily over those decades, decimating family farms and small businesses alike not to mention endangering our democracy. As I wrote in my book Unscrewing America: “Over the past several decades, the list of new ideas or policy innovations for the 21st Century coming from the left is a short one. Even the signature Democratic policy reform in recent memory—the Affordable Care Act—was borrowed from the right-wing Heritage Foundation and was known as Romneycare in Massachusetts before it became Obamacare nationally.”

Yet those who’ve been at the forefront of the party’s leadership have not been cast aside. They’ve been kept in power by the party’s base. These politicians have done nothing to deserve it, but they’ve been given another chance to deliver results for the American people. It’s time to put up or get out of the way.

Mike McCabe


January 6, 2021

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Front-page story in Wisconsin State Journal – December 31, 2020

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Politics Unworthy of the People

This terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year is almost behind us.

And the year 1 A.T. is nearly here. After Trump, that is.

Still, an awful lot of people remain utterly flummoxed by so many of their fellow Americans falling so hard for a billionaire reality TV star whose message began with fear-mongering, race-baiting, and anti-immigrant nativism and ended with the conceit that he alone could keep us safe, maintain order, and make us prosper economically.

It’s not easy to wrap one’s head around the forces behind his rise to power unless you are personally feeling the anger fueling raging populism that has swept across our country like wildfires. There is a significant segment of American society that can tell politicians aren’t listening to them and are not working on their behalf, and they are steamed.

Many Americans are convinced that the country’s best days are in the rearview mirror. The nation’s politics reflects this angst and will continue to for the foreseeable future. Is it so hard to understand how tens of millions of Americans who fear they’re being left behind could be drawn to someone who tells them they are right to feel the way they do and promises to bring back the good old days?

America is in transition economically at the same time our country is experiencing dramatic social change. Economic dislocations are always painful and traumatic, and the fear and uncertainty and sense of loss that accompany them always find a political outlet. When large numbers of people left the land and went to factories and offices more than a century ago, there was political turbulence. With a global economy emerging, with factory jobs exported overseas or automated out of existence, with great recessions and jobless recoveries and widening economic inequality, once again there is political turmoil.

America is being socially transformed. Mighty blows were struck for civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights. Now we’re in the midst of a national reckoning with systemic racism. For many, this all feels right. It was about time. Some find the social upheaval discomforting, but they’re adjusting. For others, such change is intolerable, and they are pushing back. Hard. The ferocity of the political backlash is itself a sure indication of how transformative social change movements have been and continue to be.

America is being remade, both socially and economically. There are abundant signs of reinvention and renewal all across the country, but not on Capitol Hill or in Wisconsin’s state capital. Most Americans are adapting to the shifting ground beneath our feet, but our national politics is lagging behind and dragging us down. That makes it harder than necessary for Americans to adjust to the challenges of our time.

One of countless examples is that workers now have to change jobs much more frequently than in the past. Guaranteeing access to medical care by making health insurance truly portable so it follows workers regardless of where they are employed makes all kinds of sense in today’s economy. The political system has so far proven incapable of meeting the need. No wonder there is so much anti-establishment fervor.

America is being remade, both socially and economically. It needs to be transformed politically too.

Mike McCabe


December 21, 2020

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End-Running Gridlock

There is so much Wisconsin needs to do to deal with rising economic inequality, health insecurity, social injustice and the climate crisis.

Turn the minimum wage into a living wage. Further reward work by cutting taxes on earned wages while raising them on unearned income like capital gains that currently are taxed at a lower rate. Get more people health care by accepting federal Medicaid expansion funds that the state has turned down. Invest in renewable energy and extend broadband to rural areas and inner-city neighborhoods that can’t get high-speed Internet. Legalize marijuana and tax sales to raise new revenues to help pay for these needed investments while at the same time striking a blow for racial justice in a state where Black people are over four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession despite similar usage rates.

None of these actions will be taken through separate state legislation. Republicans who control the legislature have made it abundantly clear they won’t pass any bills the governor wants. The Democratic governor can veto any Republican legislation, and his vetoes stick because Republicans lack the supermajorities needed to override them. It all leads to stalemate.

The only way to get around partisan gridlock and get any of what voters want and our state sorely needs is to put it in the state budget. The budget bill is the one piece of legislation that has to pass every two years. The next one is due in 2021.

Formulating the budget starts with the governor’s recommendations in late February. Then it’s the legislature’s turn. Legislators can ignore what the governor proposes and rewrite the budget as they see fit…unless the governor has some bargaining chips. Gaining needed negotiating leverage is why Governor Tony Evers needs to propose zeroing out funding for private school subsidies.

The voucher system that doles out these taxpayer-funded subsidies for private schools is one of the GOP’s most beloved pet programs. When ruling Republicans in the state senate and assembly include funding for the program in the budget, as they surely will, the governor can eliminate the funding again using his extensive veto authority. As mentioned, Republicans do not have the two-thirds majorities in both houses required to override his vetoes.

That means Evers has it in his power to dismantle the voucher program. In order to save taxpayer-subsidized private schooling, Republicans will have no choice but to support some of the governor’s budget initiatives. This is the one and only practical way to overcome partisan gridlock in Wisconsin’s divided government.

Say legislative Republicans won’t budge and refuse to support any of what the governor seeks. He can make one of their signature programs go away. Eliminating the voucher scheme would be no great loss to our state. It was started nearly 30 years ago with promises that it would boost student achievement and improve the performance of both public and private schools throughout the state. It has failed to deliver the promised results. Voucher students do no better than their peers in public schools. By some measures they do worse. What these private school subsidies have done is siphon resources away from community schools, weakening them badly, especially in rural areas of the state.

Up to now, Wisconsin Republicans have shown little to no interest in working with Evers and have blocked his actions at every turn. To get the budget voters want and our state needs, he needs to play hardball with them.

Mike McCabe


December 10, 2020

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No Time for Timid

Early next year Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers will propose a new state budget for the coming two years in the midst of all the uncertainty that a pandemic produces. It’s an unenviable task and playing it safe is an understandable impulse, but this is no time for an abundance of caution. We face emergencies even bigger than COVID-19—economic inequality, health insecurity, social injustice and environmental insanity—that will lay our state and country to waste if left unaddressed.

Wisconsin needs a state budget that matches the moment. The moment demands bold action to start reversing the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, cure what ails our sick health care system, arrest climate catastrophe, and come to terms with chronic and systemic injustices in our society.

There’s a virtually endless list of possible curative measures. But six ideas are especially popular with the public. Voters of every stripe in battleground states and Republican strongholds across America support these progressive policies. Wisconsin’s citizenry does too.

First, boost wages so when you work you aren’t poor. Lift low-wage workers out of poverty by raising the state minimum wage in Wisconsin from $7.25 to $15 an hour.

Second, reward work by restoring taxation based on ability to pay so earned wages are taxed at a lower rate instead of a higher rate than unearned income such as capital gains and inheritances.

Third, promote wellness by accepting federal Medicaid expansion funds and obtain federal waivers to make as much of the state’s population eligible for BadgerCare as federal Medicaid rules allow.

Fourth, wire Wisconsin to close the digital divide and bring high-speed Internet connections to every doorstep in the state, allowing anyone anywhere in the state to work or run a business from home and for all our kids to be on an even footing for doing schoolwork.

Fifth, wean Wisconsin from reliance on fossil fuels by committing the state to an aggressive climate action plan to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050 that targets economic development funding to the renewable energy sector, which has been creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy.

Sixth, legalize weed. Doing so would end racially discriminatory criminal prosecution of nonviolent conduct related to the possession and sale of marijuana, halting one cause of mass incarceration. It also would prompt new business start-ups with the opening of dispensaries throughout the state, stimulate the economy and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue to fund health care access, broadband expansion and renewable energy investments.

There’s understandable yearning these days for national unity and a return to something resembling normalcy. But this is not a normal moment that lends itself easily to unity. The unemployed want jobs, the hungry want to eat, the evicted want apartments, the foreclosed want to keep their homes and the sick want cures far more than they want political harmony or a return to “normal.”

The moment we’re living in is fraught with peril. Wisconsin needs a budget that rises to the occasion.

Mike McCabe


December 2, 2020

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Climate Action Town Hall: Links and Resources

More than 100 people attended Our Wisconsin Revolution’s Climate Action Town Hall last Saturday, making it the highest-attended event we have ever held. The max our Zoom account can hold is 100, but the overflow audience was able to follow along on Facebook, where you can still see the full two-hour event.

The town hall, organized by the Fox Valley, Green Bay, and Northwoods chapters of Our Wisconsin Revolution, took place Saturday, November 21, at 7 p.m.

Speakers included:

  • David Barnhill, former director of environmental studies at UW-Oshkosh and founder of Northwoods Climate Action on climate change in Wisconsin
  • Sarah Lloyd, OWR board co-chair and dairy farmer, on climate change and agriculture
  • Sara Wescott of the Menominee nation on climate action in indigenous communities
  • Cathy Cowan Becker, OWR northeast regional organizer, on what a Green New Deal could look like
  • Christina Sedall of Sunrise Appleton on youth climate activism
  • Fadhel Kaboub, president of Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity and an expert on Modern Monetary Theory on how to pay for a Green New Deal
  • Dan Dieterich of Citizens’ Climate Lobby on carbon fee and dividend

The town hall was introduced by Mike McCabe, executive director of Our Wisconsin Revolution, and moderated by David Williams, leader of OWR’s Fox Valley Chapter who works in the weatherization assistance program for the community action agency Advocap, with a land acknowledgement by Joella Striebel, northwest regional organizer for Our Wisconsin Revolution, and aspecial guest appearance by Amanda White Eagle, tribal attorney for the Ho-Chunk nation who recently ran for State Assembly in the 92nd District.

Here are the links, information, and presentations (if we have them) that we shared for each speaker during the town hall:

Welcome – Mike McCabe

Join our mailing list – https://www.ourwisconsinrev.com/join-find-a-chapter 

Contact our organizers:

Follow Mike McCabe on Twitter at https://twitter.com/4everinjeans 

Like Our Wisconsin Revolution on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OurWisconsinRevolution 

Moderator – David Williams, Fox Valley Chapter

Join a Fox Valley Chapter Meeting – https://www.mobilize.us/ourrevolution/event/311272

Join a Green Bay Chapter Meeting – https://www.mobilize.us/ourrevolution/event/316638

Like the OWR Fox Valley Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OWRFoxValley 

Follow David Williams on Twitter – https://twitter.com/DWforWI

Land Acknowledgement – Joella Striebel, Northwest Regional Organizer

Learn more about the tribal nations of Wisconsin at https://dpi.wi.gov/amind/tribalnationswi 

To learn which Native lands correspond to your region, text your zip code to 907-312-5085

Follow Joella Striebel on Twitter at https://twitter.com/FemKillJoyElla 

Introduction – Amanda White Eagle, Candidate 92nd Assembly District

Learn more about Amanda White Eagle at https://www.whiteeagleforwisconsin.com 

Like Amanda White Eagle on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/amandawhiteeagleforWI 

Follow Amanda White Eagle on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaWhiteEag1 

Climate Crisis in Northern Wisconsin – David Barnhill, Northwoods Climate Action 

See presentation slides here (pdf)

Learn more at the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts at https://wicci.wisc.edu 

Learn more at the Wisconsin State Climatology Office at http://www.aos.wisc.edu/~sco/clim-watch/index.html

Follow David Barnhill on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidBarnhill77 

Follow David Barnhill on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/david.barnhill.925 

Climate and Agriculture – Sarah Lloyd, president of Columbia County Farmers Union, co-chair of Our Wisconsin Revolution

See presentation slide here (pdf)

Learn more about the National Farmers Union’s policy on climate change at https://nfu.org/climate-change 

Learn more about Grassland 2.0 at https://grasslandag.org 

Here are some concerns that farmers have about carbon markets – https://nffc.net/iatp-and-nffc-report-on-carbon-markets-and-climate-policy 

Follow Sarah Lloyd on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lloyd4wi 

Climate Action in the Indigenous Community – Sara Wescott, Menominee nation environmental activist

Learn more at the Northeast Indigenous Climate Resilience Network at http://www.nicrn.org

Learn more at the College of the Menominee Nation Sustainable Development Institute at http://sustainabledevelopmentinstitute.org 

Learn about Menikanaehkem at https://www.menomineerebuilders.org  

Learn more about Back Forty mine resistance at http://www.noback40.org  

What Could a Green New Deal Look Like – Cathy Cowan Becker, Northeast Regional Organizer and Ready for 100 volunteer

See presentation slides here (pdf)

Find the text and cosponsors for the Green New Deal resolution at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/109/text 

Here’s all the cities, counties, and states committed to 100% renewable energy – https://www.sierraclub.org/ready-for-100/map?show=committed 

Wisconsin cities committed to 100% renewable energy:

  • Eau Claire
  • La Crosse
  • Madison
  • Middleton
  • Monona

Want to start a 100% renewable energy campaign in your community? Here’s a toolkit – https://www.sierraclub.org/ready-for-100-toolkit 

Follow Cathy Cowan Becker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ccbecker271 

Youth Climate Activism – Christina Sedall, Sunrise Appleton

Find a Sunrise Movement hub near you at https://www.sunrisemovement.org/hubs 

Sunrise resource page for people over age 35 – http://bit.ly/sunrise-young-at-heart

Join the Sunrise Slack! The #35-plus-supporters community is at https://join.slack.com/share/zt-jdwxofuf-9MZ3C~46uOoK7_KmY9PNPw

Sign the Climate Mandate petition telling Joe Biden to choose a cabinet free of fossil-fuel funding and corporate lobbyists at https://climatemandate.org 

Sunrise’s impact on the 2020 election in Wisconsin

  • 152,000 unique voter contacts
  • 109,000 texts sent
  • 62,000 postcards delivered
  • 131,000 calls made

Like Sunrise Appleton on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sunriseappleton 

Follow Sunrise Appleton on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/sunrise.wi/ 

How We Pay for a Green New Deal – Fadhel Kaboub, Denison University, Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity

See presentation slides here (pdf)

Find out more about the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity at http://www.global-isp.org 

Learn more about Modern Monetary Theory in The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton at https://stephaniekelton.com/book 

Follow Fadhel Kaboub on Twitter at https://twitter.com/FadhelKaboub

Follow the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GISP_Tweets 

Carbon Fee and Dividend – Dan Dieterich, Citizens’ Climate Lobby

See presentation slides here (pdf)

Learn more about Citizens’ Climate Lobby at https://citizensclimatelobby.org 

Learn more about carbon fee and dividend at https://citizensclimatelobby.org/energy-innovation-and-carbon-dividend-act 

Follow Citizens’ Climate Lobby on Twitter at https://twitter.com/citizensclimate 

Like Citizens’ Climate Lobby on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CitizensClimateLobby 

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Caste, American Style

This is no time to mince words. Our country is in decline. To reverse that decline, and this is a tall order, we have to overcome at least four national emergencies we are experiencing all at once.

One is economic inequality that is ripping at the fabric of our society and turning one American against another. On top of that, there is health insecurity. There is more to the anxiety so many are feeling than COVID. Millions feared falling ill even before the coronavirus started ravaging our nation because they lacked health insurance enabling them to afford medical care. Millions more lost jobs when the pandemic hit causing them to lose the insurance that was tied to their employment.

Then there is social injustice, for years a brightly glowing ember that burst into flames this year, sparked by racial tensions that exploded into nationwide unrest and upheaval. Speaking of flames, much of America’s west coast has been burning, the direct result of a fourth national emergency—environmental insanity. We are staring down the barrel of a gun—a looming and undeniable climate crisis—that threatens life on this planet.

As if four national emergencies are not more than enough to deal with in the midst of a pandemic, we’ve all had to endure a contentious, bitterly divisive election full of disinformation and lies. Our election system and democratic institutions have so far held up under immense stress. It feels like our country has dodged a bullet. But we’re not out of the woods yet. The election’s aftermath has been unprecedentedly disturbing. There may be more bullets to dodge between now and January 20. Then the truly hard part begins.

The conditions that brought Donald Trump to power were decades in the making and will not disappear just because he vacates the office. The lethal combination of growing economic inequality and chronic social injustice has produced what is effectively a caste system in America. The country has its royalty, its courtier class, its commoners and its untouchables.

The failings of our health care system aggravate this condition, as they fall hardest on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable among us. Those same populations also suffer the most from environmental degradation. The air and water are much more likely to be poisoned where they live. Their homes are the first to be swept away by floodwaters resulting from climate change.

All four of our national emergencies are most brutal to those on the bottom rungs of America’s caste ladder. If these emergencies go unsolved, anger and desperation will grow.

Bold action is required to reverse the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, cure what ails our sick health care system, arrest climate catastrophe and come to terms with systemic racism…or our nation’s decline will continue and tensions will escalate. Problem is, America’s major political parties are not thinking or acting boldly. One has been doing everything in its power to prevent the country from striking at the root of these emergencies. The other’s alternative has been cautious incrementalism. One party is increasingly scary, the other perpetually scared.

That won’t do. It’s up to we the people to think big, demand more, insist on bold steps. We are all about to be tested like never before.

Mike McCabe


November 16, 2020

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People v. Money in Fond du Lac

Lighthouse at Lakeside Park, Fond du Lac. Photo by gobucks2/flickr

It’s a tale of big money, citizen outrage, and complicit politicians, all fighting over the fate of an iconic Wisconsin park.

Often referred to as the crown jewel of Fond du Lac, Lakeside Park is so iconic that its lighthouse is in the city logo. This landmark, built in 1933, sits inside a park whose open green space and trees have provided treasured family memories for generations of Fond du Lac residents.

Now this public space is targeted by a private investors group ready to spend $5.2 million to construct a restaurant on Lighthouse Peninsula as well as a large amphitheater on Oven Island. The project would forever change the historic park that graces the shores of Lake Winnebago.

In response, Fond du Lac residents took action to oppose development of the park, through a Facebook group of 3,700 members, a Change.org petition now up to 2,676 signatures, and testimony to City Council. More than 300 have left comments about the proposal on the city’s website, the vast majority against developing the park.

When none of that worked, Friends of Lakeside Park stepped up action. The citizens group gathered thousands of signatures on a legal petition to put any development at Lakeside Park to a vote of the people, through a procedure in Wisconsin known as a 9.20 petition.

Under Wisconsin’s 9.20 statutes, citizens can enact direct city ordinances by gathering signatures from at least 15 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last election. Friends of Lakeside Park did that, gathering 3,039 signatures on a petition regarding the restaurant proposed for Lighthouse Peninsula and 2,967 signatures on a petition regarding the amphitheater proposed for Oven Island.

In both cases, the petitions would have required any developments at Fond du Lac’s crown jewel park to be voted on by the people of Fond du Lac. It wouldn’t necessarily stop such developments but would vest decision-making authority in the people rather than donors working with city officials.

Sadly, Fond du Lac city government seems determined to ram through the plan to develop Lakeside Park regardless of citizen input. On October 14, City Council rejected the petitions from Friends of Lakeside Park by a vote of 4-2, with one abstention.

City attorney Deb Hoffman advised the petitions were not proper because direct legislation cannot be used to repeal an existing ordinance — in this case Resolution 8859 to begin planning toward the Lakeside Park development plan, passed by City Council in February.

But Mary Beth Peranteau, attorney for the citizens group, disagrees. She points out the direct legislation supported by thousands of Fond du Lac citizens would not repeal Resolution 8859 but simply put it to a vote of the people.

Further, Peranteau argues, the development plan is still subject to design review and code approvals. “No plans have been submitted for approval and no funds committed to the implementation of the plan. Ultimately the effect of the direct legislation proposed by the Friends would be to add another approval requirement” – approval by the people of Fond du Lac.

So why is Fond du Lac City Council trying so hard to deny its own citizens a vote on the fate of its most iconic public park?

The answer, in short, is money. In particular, City Council members are worried that if they don’t quickly approve the proposal for private development of Lakeside Park, in the words of Council Member Ben Giles, “the money will walk.”

Indeed, the investors group is threatening to pull its $5.2 million if the controversy doesn’t reach a conclusion soon. “There have been some donors who have really expressed reluctance who keep their money allocated if there is not some certainty provided,” spokeswoman Sadie Parafiniuk said.

From where we sit, this looks an awful lot like blackmail. City Council members were elected by the people to serve the best interests of the people — and a large citizens group in Fond du Lac has clearly indicated they do not want this proposed development in Lakeside Park.

There is no reason why the restaurant could not go in a different location, either on the west side of Lakeside Park or inland along Harbor View Drive. The reason these alternate locations were not proposed is private investors want the lakeview next to the lighthouse and nearby boat slips. But such a location is not required for them to do business.

The proposed location also brings up two practical matters. First, is building a new restaurant really the right thing to do in the middle of a pandemic, when current restaurants in Fond du Lac are barely hanging on? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on helping existing businesses in Fond du Lac that are struggling?

And second, why is the city rushing to build a restaurant in the middle of a flood plain? Most of Lakeside Park is in either a 500-year or 100-year floodplain — but as we have seen, with climate change, century floods are starting to happen every few years. The floods of March 2019 are still fresh in the memories of many in Fond du Lac.

Big money shouldn’t be able to dictate all the terms of engagement with a city. City leaders should be acting on behalf of the people who elected them, and city residents should have the final word on what happens to public space their tax dollars support.

Friends of Lakeside Park has now filed legal action against the city over the rejection of their 9.20 petitions, and they need your help to pay attorney’s fees. You can support them by donating here.

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Op Ed – October 20, 2020

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Originalist, My Ass

Amy Coney Barrett is the latest in a long line of judges fond of calling themselves originalists. They claim that means their rulings are faithful to the original wording of the U.S. Constitution. They also like to call themselves textualists, meaning they are supposed to abide by the plain language of the law.

“Originalist” and “textualist” are marketing brands, not a judicial philosophy. Pledging allegiance to the Constitution and fidelity to the law sounds good, but the way these judges rule bears no relationship to the label they wear.

Judge Barrett was asked during hearings on Senate confirmation of her Supreme Court appointment if either the Constitution or federal law give the president the authority to delay an election. Both the Constitution and federal law are crystal clear on this question. The answer is no. The president has no such authority. Judge Barrett did not give that answer. She proved right then and there she is an originalist in name only.

So-called originalists on the nation’s highest court blessed unlimited corporate election spending in the 2010 case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. They reached their conclusion by marrying two legal doctrines, neither of which can be found anywhere in the Constitution.

The first doctrine is that money is speech. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to free speech. The amendment is 45 words long. The word money is not one of those 45 words. The conclusion that money equals speech cannot be reached by sticking to the Constitution’s wording.

The second doctrine is that corporations are people or, more precisely, they are citizens with constitutional rights. If you read the entire Constitution, from the first word “We”—as in “We the People”—to the very last word of the 27th and final amendment to the Constitution, you will not find the word corporation. Corporate citizenship is a legal invention that is not rooted in any way in the phrasing of the Constitution.

Yet the “originalists” who formed the court majority in Citizens United nevertheless ruled that since money is speech and corporations are citizens, corporations have a constitutional right to spend as much as they want to influence our elections.

The infamous Citizens United decision revealed the canyon-sized gap between what these judges claim to be and what they really are. In reality, there are two kinds of judges. There are those who claim to be originalists but are actually obstructionists. They obstruct change, they work to keep power in the hands of those who’ve traditionally held power. And there are judges who are willing to grant permission for society to change, who open doors for those who’ve been on the outside looking in.

A telling moment in Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearings came when she was asked if she knew the five freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. She named four of them, but couldn’t remember the fifth. The one she forgot was the right of the people to protest, to petition our government for redress of grievances.

Mike McCabe


October 16, 2020