Over two centuries ago today, the United States Constitution enshrined the aspirational promise that we, the people, should decide the laws that govern us and select the leaders who represent us. But while the U.S. Constitution represented a transformation from tyranny to self-government, it denied the right to vote and the humanity of Black Americans, Native Americans, and women. Since September 17, 1787, generations of Americans have fought to bring a government "of the people" closer to its promise, and won 27 amendments to the Constitution. Today, we still have work to do to bring this nation into better alignment with our founding principles.
This Constitution Day, we must confront our broken electoral politics with a plan to ensure our government truly answers to the people. Just as Americans before us amended the Constitution to remedy injustice, we must pass the 28th Amendment to remove the all-consuming influence of money in politics – which drowns out the voices of the American people.
Ten years ago, the Supreme Court struck a heavy blow to our democracy in Citizens United v. FEC, holding that unlimited money in politics is equivalent to free speech and that corporations have the same rights as people. The decision opened the floodgates for even more, often secret, special interest money to influence our elections – letting the ultra-wealthy have the most say in our democracy.
That's why I, along with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), introduced the Democracy For All amendment to overturn Citizens United and create a 28th Amendment. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly $10 billion has already been spent on the 2020 presidential election alone, much of it from secret money.
Our current politics are dominated by the wealthy and powerful – because they write the checks that fund campaigns – at the expense of millions of American voters.
The 28th Amendment would remedy this by making it clear that corporations are not people – and that spending money is not the same as free speech. It would restore a democratic system where responsible limits on campaign spending are allowed—and no longer outlawed by Citizens United.
The guardrails of our democracy have always rested on the foundation of free and fair elections. We do not need to look far to find evidence that our political guardrails have broken under the weight of secret money in our elections. Since the Citizens United decision, just 10 individuals have injected more than $1.2 billion into our elections.
We can't achieve the most common sense, bipartisan priorities in Washington—like acting on climate change, ending gun violence, and increasing access to affordable health care—because politicians are beholden to the short-term interests of the wealthy few instead of the long-term needs of all Americans. That's why our very first priority must be amending the Constitution to end the reign of big money in our politics, and to restore the power to the people. And we must demand that elected officials are accountable to the people they represent – not to the special interests.
So make sure to vote in your local, state, and federal elections. Add your voice to the nationwide effort writing letters like this one to your local paper. And call your representatives often, and remind them of the promises they made to you and your neighbors. Tell your representatives to pass the 28th Amendment.
Our country's Constitution is a living document with a built-in mechanism for change. It is also bound to the promise that we, the people are entrusted with creating a more perfect union. We are more than ready to ratify Democracy For All, and we must use our voices to demand our government back.
US Sen. Tom Udall