by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
“We the people. Those words changed everything. Power rested in the people, not the government. Freedom to think, to speak, to act, to criticize your government, all protected.” Great rhetoric, worthy of praise. Yet these words from candidate Joe Biden introduced President Joe Biden’s agenda to curtail the very freedoms those words extol.
Biden’s “Plan to Guarantee Government Works for the People” acknowledges that the First Amendment prevents his ultimate goal to “entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections.” That’s why he’ll push for a constitutional amendment to get the people’s rights out of the government’s way.
During the 2020 election, more Americans made campaign donations than ever before, and millions of Americans made their voices heard through independent groups that represented them. The president wants to ban such civic engagement, which is protected by the First Amendment.
Biden’s plan would bar so-called outside spending — speech from groups not controlled by candidates or parties. That term tells you all you need to know about the mindset behind the plan. Since when are the people outside our democracy? This, apparently, is the president’s vision of democracy: a status quo-preserving machine wherein those in power get a monopoly on political speech, while the people are mere spectators.
Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation to get us halfway there. H.R. 1 (S.1 in the Senate), takes aim at your “outside” voice, which Biden wants to silence. The bill also demonstrates how efforts to silence independent groups won’t stop at speech urging fellow Americans to vote for or against candidates. H.R. 1’s provisions for “Stopping Super PAC–Candidate Coordination” reach far beyond super PACs and would capture speech that has nothing to do with elections. Any organization that discusses policy issues could trigger the sweeping “coordination” standards.