Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sensitive briar inflorescence

with 18 comments

From August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183
comes this little sensitive briar flower globe, Mimosa roemeriana.

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Wished-for Constitutional Amendments

When the people who have come to be known as the Founders of the United States devised a Constitution to specify the form of government the country would have, they realized there was no way to anticipate all the future needs of a new and quickly growing nation. With that in mind, they established a mechanism by which to amend the Constitution as the need arose. The Founders designed the amendment process to be rigorous enough to deter frivolous and trendy changes.

The first 10 amendments got added as a group in 1791, soon after the Constitution was ratified. Those form the so-called Bill of Rights, which some of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention insisted would have to be added in return for their votes to ratify the original Constitution. In the 230 years since the Bill of Rights, just 17 more amendments have passed, for an average of one every 13.5 years. The most recent amendment got approved 29 years ago.

Over the past decade I’ve occasionally had ideas for amendments I’d like to see added to our Constitution. Maybe I’ll mention one here every so often, beginning today. Here goes.

While people casually call the United States a democracy, it’s actually a republic, or a representative democracy if you like. At the national level, each citizen is represented in the legislature by three people. One is the citizen’s locally elected delegate to the House of Representatives. With the number of Representatives capped at 435, that means each one on average currently “represents” almost 750,000 people. In the other branch of Congress, every citizen is represented by two Senators.

Although the positions of Representative and Senator are local, in the sense that they represent a portion of a state or at most a whole state, recent elections have seen huge amounts of money pouring in from out of state to the campaigns of candidates running for the Senate and the House of Representatives. It’s no longer unusual for out-of-state campaign contributions to outweigh local contributions, sometimes by a lot, and it’s true for candidates from both of the main American political parties. As I see it, that’s like letting someone from another town have a say in how you budget the money in your own household, or telling you what you should eat for supper. We wouldn’t tolerate that, but we’re allowing people from other states to have a say (via campaign donations) in who’s going to represent us in our own state.

To deal with that, my proposed Constitutional amendment says that at all levels—national, state, and local—someone may donate money to the campaign of a politician or to a group promoting a ballot measure only if the donor is legally entitled to vote for that candidate or ballot measure. Some people would try to circumvent that restriction by donating money to an organization that then funnels the money to a distant politician’s campaign or to a group promoting a ballot measure. My amendment requires that money donated to an intermediate group would have to be tagged with the jurisdiction in which the donor lives, and the intermediate group could spend that money only on political causes in that same jurisdiction. If the law caps the amount a donor may contribute to a candidate or a group promoting a ballot measure, then my amendment would make it illegal for the donor to donate to multiple intermediate organizations as a way to exceed the cap.

What do you think?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 8, 2021 at 4:28 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Too much room for loopholes. I recommend an amendment to outlaw all political donations, with public funding of meeting objective qualifications. Something must be done.


    September 8, 2021 at 5:16 AM

    • I did worry about loopholes. It’s hard to find wording that blocks unwanted consequences.

      The proposal of having only public funding would raise objections from people claiming that their individual agency is being curtailed and their taxes are going to support candidates they oppose.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 8, 2021 at 5:31 AM

      • ….the $$ also allotted to the candidate supported (unless they support no one). They can use the Right of Free Speech to support candidates prior to the vote. As well as their vote. “Money is not speech.”


        September 8, 2021 at 8:32 AM

        • I think my choice of the word “agency” was a good one. It preempts the argument about money versus speech.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 8, 2021 at 8:52 AM

  2. It’s an attractive idea in many ways, and of course would overturn Citizens United, since those corporate “fictional persons in law” cannot vote, just buy votes. But do you think this is also a type of mandatory parochialism, that would serve to reinforce the extreme gerrymandering going on these days?

    Robert Parker

    September 8, 2021 at 8:26 AM

    • When crafting my amendment I wasn’t sure how to deal with organizations (e.g. unions and corporations). One approach would be to ban organizations from making political donations altogether. A rationale is that the individual people in the organization can still donate to whoever they want; letting the organization do so as well is letting some people get two bites at the apple, so to speak. There’s also the unfairness of someone who is forced to join a union and pay dues, only to see the union donate money to candidates that the person doesn’t approve of.

      As for redistricting, I’ve long thought that it should be done by computer, with the program that’s used for the redistricting having to be made public so people (with programming expertise) could make sure it wasn’t rigged.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 8, 2021 at 9:03 AM

      • Yes, I’ve thought the same way about redistricting, have a computer draw as close to a uniform grid as the population distribution will allow. I see in the Wikipedia article about gerrymandering, they discuss “shortest splitline algorithm” and other methods. It’s tough to define “rigged,” it seems inevitable that some districts will include urban, suburban, and rural voters. Sometimes the urban votes consistently overwhelm the rural, and sometimes the urban votes are divided up so suburban-rural voters control the district, and it seems like one group or another will always feel disenfranchised.
        My hometown in NY is in a Congressional district that includes almost the entire Southern Tier (9 counties and parts of 2 others) about 240 miles east-to-west. Tilted toward conservative rural voters, so I think the more liberal voters in Ithaca, for example, don’t have much of a chance to elect anyone. Whereas if the district was drawn north-south, Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania, the conservatives/farmers might feel relegated to permanent irrelevancy.

        Robert Parker

        September 8, 2021 at 9:43 AM

        • The fundamental problem in redistricting seems to be to decide on the principles that will govern it. It’d probably be difficult to get a strong majority to agree on those principles. I’ve not researched the topic, but I’m guessing mathematicians and statisticians have thought a fair amount about it and may have proposed ways to deal with the difficulties you discussed.

          An idea popped into my head now: maybe we could have alternating preferences. For example, in one cycle boundaries could be drawn to somewhat favor rural interests, and then in the next redistricting cycle the preference in drawing boundaries would shift a little toward urban interests, then back again, etc. I don’t know how feasible that kind of alternation would be. One objection is that there are many possible criteria, not just rural~urban.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 8, 2021 at 10:16 AM

  3. Although I am not familiar with the American election system, your proposed amendment to the constitution makes sense.

    Peter Klopp

    September 8, 2021 at 2:12 PM

  4. Your inflorescence is remarkably fluorescent — a perfect example of being “in the pink.” Its vibrancy certainly tickles me pink.


    September 8, 2021 at 6:52 PM

    • We could combine the two words to make florescent, except some people would take it for a misspelling of fluorescent while others would think that’s how fluorescent is actually spelled. Call it a lose-lose situation, and I wouldn’t be tickled pink.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2021 at 4:55 AM

  5. The little sensitive briar is an ideal choice for this post. Constitutional amendments need sensitive handling or a sensitive approach. But they can be done without damaging the flower.


    September 9, 2021 at 12:28 AM

    • Which bit of nature each sociopolitical commentary gets paired with is almost always up to chance. In this case you found a common theme. While the compound leaves of this little plant close up when touched—hence the “sensitive” in the common name—the “briar” part is real, too, and refers to the prickles on the flower stalks, not a few of which have found their way into my skin over the years. The prickles exist to protect the flowers, just as in my view the proposed amendments would protect the nation.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2021 at 5:07 AM

  6. The lighting makes this most enjoyable.

    Good luck getting the folks who receive all those donations to support such an amendment. Just like term limits their personal interest outweighs yours.

    Steve Gingold

    September 9, 2021 at 3:03 AM

    • I know you’re a fan of sidelighting. It seems you’d also be a fan of my amendment. I’ve often thought of my proposed changes as fantasy amendments, given the difficulty of getting them accepted. On the other hand, the 22nd Amendment, which limits the term of the President, got approved in my lifetime (and almost yours), so it’s conceivable a more general term-limits amendment might pass. I’ve had mixed feelings about it. Yes, it would prevent people from staying for long periods and accumulating undue power (and in some cases verging on senility). On the other hand, politicians who had managed to get re-elected over and over in a district would likely get replaced by someone with the same views, so it’s not clear that much would be gained, if anything.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2021 at 5:25 AM

  7. […] week ago you saw an August 22nd view of a sensitive briar flower globe (Mimosa roemeriana) in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. Now from that same photo foray […]

  8. […] crafting amendments to the American Constitution to fix things that are wrong with our government. The would-be amendment I described then involved contributions to political campaigns. Now I’d like to propose an amendment to deal with the horrid thought quoted in the previous […]

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