The Purity of The First Amendment Questioned

By Donald A. Collins | 3 October 2023
Church and State

(Credit: Bob Simmons / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On 9/22/23 my wife and I watched a powerful PBS documentary on WETA in DC about the legendary Floyd Abrams, a famous and personally charming, now elderly like us, lawyer who over a distinguished career pioneered defense of the first amendment of our Constitution which protects free speech and the rights of free inquiry.

Read here about his landmark cases from the Pentagon Papers to Citizens United helped define free speech as it is understood today.

Here’s a summary of Abrams famous Pentagon Papers win that was quickly decided.

In 1967 then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara commissioned a secret government study on American involvement in Vietnam. When completed in 1968, the project comprised 47 volumes containing more than 7,000 pages. The work was labeled classified, and only 15 copies were made.

In early 1971 Daniel Ellsberg, a RAND Corporation employee who had worked on the project, secretly made copies of the documents and passed them to reporters for the New York Times. On June 13, 1971, after several months of review, the Times began to publish these so-called “Pentagon Papers.”

After the first three installments were published, the Nixon administration, citing national security concerns, obtained a restraining order barring further publication of the Papers. When the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the order, the Times made an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case the next day (June 26). The Court issued its opinions on June 30; in all, the entire legal process had taken only 15 days.

Read the entire article on the Pentagon Papers decision here.

As I have argued in my some of my last opinion pieces, the greed of the wealthy has taken control of our government, making for a massive reduction in our middle class, which many knowledgeable authorities have argued as essential in keeping a successful democracy.

Read here how our middle class has shrunk, the majority of us are living paycheck to paycheck while the rich have gotten richer.

In watching Abrams’ work to preserve the rights of free speech in the several cases presented in the PBS program, I was impressed and in agreement with his arguments until his position in winning approval of the Citizens United decision in 2010 by the Supreme Court. This 5-4 decision allows corporations to make unlimited amounts of donations to political campaigns.

The effect since its enactment has been to sharply reduce our middle class and increase the already substantial political influence even more to our wealthiest citizens over the governmental entities they now control.

The Brennan Center summary on the effect of Citizens United:

The 2010 Supreme Court decision further tilted political influence toward wealthy donors and corporations. January 21, 2020 will mark a decade since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a controversial decision that reversed century-old campaign finance restrictions and enabled corporations and other outside groups to spend unlimited funds on elections.

While wealthy donors, corporations, and special interest groups have long had an outsized influence in elections, that sway has dramatically expanded since the Citizens United decision, with negative repercussions for American democracy and the fight against political corruption.

Read the entire 2019 Brennan Center article here.

Let me repeat, in my 9/22/23 OP ED citing the opinions of NYU professor Galloway, I also noted that most of our citizens are living paycheck to paycheck or worse, causing many of to lose faith in our democracy.

Trump and his allies are blaming Biden for everything in their efforts to gain authoritarian power in the 2024 election. During his term as President, Trump added over $8 trillion to our national debt, a far greater percentage than ever in history for which Biden who added under $2 trillion is now getting the blame.

Read the facts here.

As noted above, “69% of Americans in Urban Areas are Living Paycheck to Paycheck; 14 Percentage Points Higher than Suburban Consumers” as this article, one of many with the same message tell us.

Our Constitution, as unique and important as it is, has despite the claims of the Originalists such as the late Justice Antonin Scalia and other present Justices that the Constitution is sacred and not to be changed, gotten 27 amendments so far and still needs urgent changes, such as my suggested 28th Amendment to set an age limit of 75 for all those men and women elected or appointed to our federal government.

Abrams’ position supporting the dangerous Citizens United law offers another example of how perfection is beyond human capacity. The power of money to control or corrupt is proven over and over worldwide, sadly about some of our leaders on both sides of the aisle as in the current Senator Menendez case.

And the bottom line here is the denigration of our precious Middle Class as the wealth gap gets more and more dangerous to our democracy as as this article describes.

In brief it says, “The middle class, once the economic stratum of a clear majority of American adults, has steadily contracted in the past five decades. The share of adults who live in middle-class households fell from 61% in 1971 to 50% in 2021, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.”

Lest I forget to state the obvious, our national debt now $33 trillion cannot rise forever without destroying our democracy, but its size while ignored too long by both parties now requires governance on both sides of the aisle, just as the unsolved immigration crisis, again untreated by both parties.

Closing the Federal government in 44 more days will not solve these chronic sicknesses!

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC, has spent over 50 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of “From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013”, “Trump Becoming Macbeth: Will our democracy survive?”, “We Humans Overwhelm Our Earth: 11 or 2 Billion by 2100?”, “What Can Be Done Now to Save Habitable Life on Planet Earth?”, “Vote”, “Can Homo Sapiens Survive?”, “Will Choice and Democracy Win?”, “Can Our U.S. Survive 8 Plus Billion of Us”, “Economic Growth: A Cancer on all Earthly Life” and “On the Precipice of Political Disaster in 2024”.

Floyd Abrams: Speaking Freely | Official Trailer | American Masters | PBS

When The New York Times published the Pentagon Papers | Floyd Abrams | American Masters | PBS

‘Real disconnect’ between cost of living and workers’ paychecks | Meet the Press Reports

How the Citizens United Decision Changed U.S. Political Campaigns (full documentary) | FRONTLINE

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