Ye Olde Amendment Ploy

One of the things that a politicians can do to immediately underscore to me their total cynicism vis-a-vis their own supporters is to propose a constitutional amendment on a highly controversial subject.

To wit (via Bloomberg):  Ted Cruz Introduces Bills to Stop Gay Marriage

Days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage, Senator Ted Cruz has filed two bills to protect states that bar gay couples from marrying.

Cruz’s legislation would establish a constitutional amendment shielding states that define marriage as between one woman and one man from legal action, according to bill language obtained by Bloomberg News.

A second bill would bar federal courts from further weighing in on the marriage issue until such an amendment is adopted.

Yes, I know that Cruz knows these are both doomed to fail (really, he has to know this–just as he has to know the odds are quite good that SCOTUS will decide this matter in a manner that he will not like).  I further understand the political value to Cruz to signal to his supporters.  As such, the move makes a certain amount of sense.

Really, as much as I want to blame Cruz for making this move, I suppose the real culprits are a) the press for making a big deal about these kinds of proposals, and b) the general public for not understanding how difficult it is to amend the constitution.

In terms of pure fantasy, it would be interesting to hear what a campaign would sound like if voters actually understood the way our policy process actually works.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Political Theory, US Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. michael reynolds says:

    The problem with democracy is that the people are always to blame in the end.

    Cruz’s followers are low-information, high-faith people not quite in contact with the same reality as the rest of us. I suspect if you asked them they’d say God will intervene to pass an Amendment. Let’s face it, if you’re a Ted Cruz supporter you may be on the right politically, but on the IQ bell curve you’re well off to the left.

  2. @michael reynolds: I understand what you are saying. However, the broader point remains true: even highly educated people tend not to really understand how our government works (or why it often fails to).

    And yes, poor democracy: worst except for all the rest.

  3. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: I know a highly educated successful business man that completely loses his mind once religion is brought into the discussion. Stuff like denying that the Srebrenica massacre occurred while swearing up and down that Christians are being persecuted here.

  4. lankyloo says:

    A couple of years ago I looked up who had the most proposed constitutional amendments. It turned out to be my congressman, Jesse Jackson Jr., before he went to jail. The interesting thing was that I had no idea until I bothered to look it up. If I remember correctly, he had 7 or 8 proposed amendments, including rights to employment, housing, health care, and the like.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    @lankyloo: He just discovered this method of playing to the peanut gallery before Cruz did, that’s all.

    And given how he ended up in the hoosegow, I’m a wee bit more amendable to the thought that Jesse Jackson, Jr. actually thinks this is how the system works. Cruz? He’s not that stupid.