Column: It shouldn’t be there but we might as well vote yes on it

Practical Idealism: Seeking a balance between what can be done and what should be done in the political landscape today

Tyler McGinty

Tyler McGinty

Tyler McGinty, News Editor

Proposition 59 is a toothless, wasteful and terribly misleading proposition that I cannot wait to vote yes on. What Proposition 59 essentially says is that the elected representatives of California will do everything in their power to overturn the Supreme Court of the United State’s decision on Citizens United v. FEC. For those of you unfamiliar with the Citizens United decision, it allowed an unlimited amount of contributions to campaigns, provided the donations are given to political action committees and not individuals running for office. This would be a fantastic proposition if the elected officials of California had any power to do anything to overturn the decision of the Supreme Court.

There are only two ways to overturn a Supreme Court decision: another Supreme Court decision or a Constitutional amendment. Either way, there is very little our representatives can do. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, since she sits on the Judiciary Committee, probably has the most power to do anything about it. She could make an attempt to use Citizens United as a litmus test for judges when performing hearings on candidates for the Supreme Court (or any judiciary position, honestly.)

However, she’s only one member out of twenty. If no one else is interested, she can’t exactly sway the vote. So Feinstein may be able to do everything in her power to make sure that the next justice wants to overturn Citizens United, but that may not be any help at all.

If Feinstein does succeed in getting that nominee through, then Sen. Barbara Boxer also gets to vote in confirming them. That’s all the power our elected officials have to even get a justice that would be in favor of overturning Citizens United on the bench. Then we’d have to wait for a case to make it to the Supreme Court, and by then there might be a totally different set of justices. It certainly doesn’t seem like we have a lot of power there, does it?

Since there’s a chance that a similar case might not even make it to the Supreme Court, the most proactive measure we would have is to amend the Constitution. I mean, it only takes a two-thirds majority of both the House of Representatives and the Senate (or two-thirds of state legislatures) to decide that amending the constitution is needed and then for that amendment to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Since all Constitutional amendments in the Senate have to come through the Judiciary Committee, once again Feinstein is the only one that can make a meaningful move on an amendment. Not only are the odds of that happening substantially slimmer than just getting the Supreme Court to pass down a new decision, but California’s representatives have even less power in this case.

The fact that the proposition is toothless is what makes it so wasteful. I have no idea why California would waste the money to place a proposition on the ballot that can’t conceivably do anything. Especially because our representatives couldn’t decide to do everything in their power to overturn Citizens United without this (entirely non-binding, by the way) proposition.

Finally, it’s terribly misleading because anyone who doesn’t have a lot of knowledge about the Supreme Court or just happens to skim over the proposition is going to think they’re actually voting to overturn the decision.

If I was lucky enough to be in the room while whoever decided to craft this worthless proposition, I would have advised against it. There is literally no reason to put this on the ballot. So why am I voting yes? Because it’s already there. It shouldn’t have been there and the odds that it will accomplish anything is exceedingly rare, but if it passes, other states might follow our lead.

If California can lead the charge on this, there might be enough states willing to do something similar. Even though Proposition 59 won’t accomplish anything, it may let other elected officials know that the people want Citizens United overturned. That’s the only benefit of this proposition: sending a message.