Wednesday, January 11, 2017

ABORTION IS A FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT

[Note: This blog (version 16-12-25) substantially revises an earlier one on this topic.]

The prospects for Constitutional protection of a woman’s right to choose (understood hereafter: or not choose) to have an abortion are promising for opponents and perilous for supporters of Roe v. Wade.  Justice Henry Blackmun’s 1973 majority opinion has failed to persuade many in the legal community that it is solidly grounded and soundly reasoned.  Its inadequacies have provided the means to complicate the issue and make it conflict-prone ever since.  Its history has been a tangle of medical, administrative, or financial laws or regulations restricting the right or its exercise at the state level, and requiring judicial affirmations, revisions, or reversals at all levels of state or federal judicial systems.  Intensified efforts to erode the decision and increased odds of judicial nominations picked to reverse it put Roe v. Wade and abortion rights at great risk.

One understandable response by advocates to this growing threat has been to rally in support of Roe v. Wade.  For over 40 years, it has been the guardian of abortion rights and a symbol of women’s liberation.  As such, it is not easily abandoned.  However, the current situation argues that the time has come to re-think the basis of abortion rights, first by critiquing the deficiencies and defects of Blackmun’s opinion, then by identifying a strategy to counter the arguments of its judicial, political, and religious opponents.

The abortion conflict has been a struggle on many battlefields between those arguing and acting on political convictions and those arguing and acting on religious convictions.  But this political-versus-religious divide is a false dichotomy.  Abortion is a religious matter of belief and practice, inherently a matter of conscience.  Advocates of abortion rights could attract support and disarm anti-abortion opposition by arguing that the right to religious freedom protects abortion rights.  They would force opponents to argue the supremacy of their religious convictions and, by court decision or state legislation, the right to impose their convictions on others.  Accordingly, this paper urges that advocates shift their reliance from the privacy argument of Roe v. Wade to an argument based on freedom of religion and from an establishment of religion under the First Amendment.


1

Blackmun’s majority opinion summarizes the legal, medical, and religious histories of abortion, with accounts of historical practices worldwide, English and American legal and medical traditions, and philosophical and religious beliefs, but makes little use of them.  On the one hand, his opinion, noting decisions discovering a right to privacy in various Constitutional amendments—First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth—regards the Ninth and Fourteenth sufficient to ensure a woman’s right to choose an abortion.  On the other hand, his opinion limits a woman’s privacy-based right by a state’s right to protect the increasing “potential for life.”  Blackmun defines this “potential” by a trimester division of pregnancy (weeks 0-12, 13-28, 29-40) reflecting the then-existing knowledge of unborns’ development and their ability to survive outside the uterus at various stages of gestation, or their viability.  His opinion thus asserts both a woman’s right and a state’s right—with the result being unending attacks on or defense of Roe v. Wade and inflamed conflicts between women and many state governments.

Blackman’s opinion has major defects.  One, it disregards the acknowledged diversity of philosophical and religious beliefs defining life and its beginning.  Blackmun writes:

We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.  When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer....[All Jews and many Protestants have given] strong support for the view that life does not begun until live birth.

Obviously, the judiciary should not speculate about the answer; equally obviously, it should not stipulate one.  But it does, by commingling two distinct issues.  The first is a matter of religion: when does life begin—at conception, at quickening, at breach; the second is a matter of medical science: when is life ex-utero possible, and is the possibility independent of medical support or dependent on medical intervention.  Without offering an explicit rationale, Blackmun prefers the answer of science to the answers of religion.  His preference apparently reflects an assumption that the definition of medical science can provide a reasonable response to irreconcilable religious differences about abortion.  This assumption is wrong.  Scientific definitions of the beginning of life are stipulations serving scientific methodology, not setting standards for deciding non-scientific issues.  And his preference, far from being reasonable, implies coercion.  Since any scientific answer to this religious question corresponds to the religious convictions of only some, not all, women, invoking science as the standard presumes to tell other women that it properly dictates how their religion should define the beginning of life.  Blackmun’s preference thus agrees with one Christian definition of the beginning of life, disregards definitions held by other Christians and all Jews, and imposes one sectarian Christian standard on those Christians who believe that life begins at other stages of gestation and on all Jews, who believe that life begins at breach.

Two, Blackmun’s opinion is flawed by his resort to viability, a medical condition with little history in law or medicine.  Until the advent of modern medicine in the early 20th century, viability did not concern theologians and lawyers, not to mention politicians, because unborns removed from the uterus or delivered before full term rarely survived.  However, once modern medicine enhanced their chances of survival, everyone assumed that what science made possible, society should accept as an answer to a contentious religious question or at least as common ground for dismissing it.  So most theologians, lawyers, and politicians, knowingly or not, made viability part of traditional Christian discussions determining at what point, conception or quickening, unborns attain the status of life, acquire religious endowments, and require or deserve legal consideration.  The resulting enactments or decisions may accord with majority views, but they ignore the religious beliefs and practices of others and thereby establish a necessarily religious standard of some which violates the religious convictions of others.

Yet viability is an unreliable and dubious standard.  Blackmun’s trimester division of pregnancy was a rough approximation of the conditions of viability.  However, advances in medical science extend the conditions and thus move the boundaries of his division.  Wherever the boundaries are, this shifting standard assumes that medical science, not philosophical or religious belief, should be the basis of abortion rights.  Thus, this medically based trimester entails controversy and conflict, and enables legal challenges based on any claim, scientific or not, sectarian in motivation or not, which raises medical issues.  Ironically, for the religiously motivated, the earlier the viability, the greater the reliance on artificially assisted as opposed to naturally assured survival ex utero, with science in the role of life-giver, a role which they would otherwise assign to God. 

Three, Blackmun’s opinion assumes that the viability of the unborn gives the state an interest “in protecting the potentiality of human life” or the “potential for life.”  This phrase has several deficiencies, not the least of which is a contradiction.  On the one hand, it implies that the unborn is a life, not in utero, but only after delivery, when the “potential” becomes actual.  On the other hand, it treats the potential life in utero as if it were actual life.   It assigns the unborn the status, not recognized in Constitutional law, of a person entitled to the protection of the state.  Although he assumes and repeatedly asserts this potential-is-actual-life equation, Blackman neither specifies the sources, nature, or magnitude of that interest, nor justifies it by balancing state and individual rights over the period of the pregnancy.  He assumes that the state’s right increases during the pregnancy as the “potential for life” increases and thereby allows increasing restrictions on abortions.  He does not assess the woman’s interests or concerns during her pregnancy, especially under changing circumstances or conditions.  Moreover, since most women, whether of faith or not, increasingly desire to protect their unborn over time, and since most religions specify increasingly stringent guidelines or standards for abortions, the legal concern for the “potential for life” is superfluous—one more reason to question the justification of a state interest or the necessity for state intervention.  Ironically, his opinion, so far from protecting a woman’s right provides the means for negating it.

The effect of Blackmun’s majority opinion has been to pit the state’s power to regulate abortion against the woman’s conscience to choose an abortion.  It has enabled a growing number of states to regulate the right of women almost out of existence.  Many are attempting to regulate any aspect of abortion—medical procedure, clinical setting, administrative arrangements, or financial requirements—which impede or eliminate the ability of women to have an abortion if they choose to have one.  The cynical fiction to justify medically or clinically unnecessary and sometimes dangerous, administratively cumbersome, or financially onerous regulations is women’s health.  Although abortions are safer for women’s lives and health than induced or even natural deliveries of the unborn are, these facts count for little in the enactment of religiously or politically motivated restrictions on abortion. 


2

Any thoughtful discussion of abortion addresses the relative weights of individual rights and government responsibilities in the context of federal and state laws, case law, and the amended Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in light of changes in social circumstances, political conditions, and legal thinking.  Underlying many state and federal cases are two fundamental questions:  One, does a pregnant woman have the sole right to choose whether to have an abortion at a time of her choosing.  Two, if not, what grounds give the government a role in that choice?  For, in virtually all other matters of personal health and medical care, the individual has the sole right to choose or refuse treatment or specific treatments, or to delegate those decisions to another person.

Admittedly, government has a right to deny individual choice in some circumstances to protect the public.  It can require health procedures like vaccination or quarantine to protect the public because carriers of transmittable diseases jeopardize the health or life of others.  But abortion is not “catching”; one woman’s abortion cannot induce abortions in other pregnant women.  By ordinary standards applicable to medical decisions, no public health interest justifies government regulation of abortion.

Government can also prescribe or proscribe medical procedures or medications to protect patients from unreasonable risks to health or life.  Because abortions are safer than natural or induced births, they require no regulations essentially different from those of other approved and comparable medical procedures to protect patients.  Special regulations curtailing abortions address no unreasonable medical risks to women.  Again, by ordinary standards, no abortion-specific medical reason justifies a government limit on or denial of a woman’s choice to have an abortion.

Blackmun’s claim of a government interest in the “potential for life” is a novel one.  It bears no relationship to the conventional government interests in public health and patient protection.  Indeed, it shifts the focus of legal consideration from the woman to the unborn, with all of the problems which that new consideration involves, as noted above, and others.  For one, if laws to prevent abortions departed from precedent by defining the unborn as persons entitled to the protection of law, they would not likely apply in all cases.  For instance, if the unborn threatened the mother with death or great physical or emotional harm during gestation, the mother would presumably have the right of self-defense by having an abortion.  This novel claim seems more a judicial juggling act and a political sop to the states—and, we now know, a failed one—than a sensible legal decision.  Blackmun might have meant to offer a compromise, but it effected a legal muddle and perpetuated a political and religious controversy.  The lesson should be that halfway Constitutional decisions settle no issues and satisfy no one.


3

America’s religious pluralism means that its religions have different definitions of the beginning of life.  State and federal courts should have recognized that controversies over abortion were religions controversies, however opponents couched their arguments.  Advocates of a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion have inclined to talk of political rights; opponents have inclined to talk about religious values.  Both meet in one and the same place: the First Amendment.

Blackmun’s opinion is perverse in its response to religious issues.  First it recognizes, then it rejects, different religious definitions of the beginning of life, as the quotation above shows.  It is puzzling in its amnesia about or avoidance of the First Amendment to issues relevant to freedom of religion and freedom from an establishment of religion.  His opinion should have realized that these religious definitions could serve as a solid basis for finding that a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion is a right guaranteed directly by the First Amendment.

What is wanted is a replacement of Blackmun’s opinion in Roe v. Wade, in any decision on a woman’s right to choose an abortion, with an opinion which refers directly to, is not inferred from, the Constitution.  Roe v. Wade moves from “penumbras” in several Constitutional amendments to a right of privacy to a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.  The replacement opinion should be clear and clean in moving from the First Amendment to a woman’s right.  Such a clear statement denies federal and state governments from imposing any restrictions on abortions different from comparable medical operations.  The result might be reduced, if not eliminated, clutter of irrelevant arguments about real or bogus medical science and congestion of partisan cases in federal and state courts.

Again, the fundamental question about abortion is a political one; who decides—the woman or the government?  The struggle over the answer to this question is one skirmish in the larger conflict between those who prefer theocratic government to a Constitutional democratic in matters of faith and morals.  To the degree that government decides any aspect of a woman’s choice about abortion, it tips toward theocracy; to the degree that the woman decides, it tips toward democracy.  These are the ultimate stakes in the debate about abortion.

 In American democracy, with a religiously pluralistic society and First Amendment guarantees against an establishment of religion and for freedom of religion, no level of government has a legitimate role in a woman’s decision about abortion.  Since her decision is a matter of moral or religious conscience, no democratic government has a right to restrict an abortion at any stage in her pregnancy, to compel medical tests or procedures, to mandate medical information, or to require doctors to take into account anything other than her particular needs.  The fundamental questions are simple ones; an analysis of the main considerations leads to equally simple answers.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

DOWN WITH STATE AND LOCAL DOWN-BALLOT REPUBLICANS

Although I loathe Donald and love Hillary, I kidded that I wanted to vote for Jed Bartlet, but the ballot did not provide for a presidential write-in.  Words fail this English Ph.D. to describe the moral abyss, psychological morass, and political maelstrom which Trump is.  The combination of ignorance, arrogance, and sociopathy has never appeared before on the national stage as the candidate of a major political party.  For this unique ascension of this man to his nomination as candidate for the presidency of the United States, all Americans are indebted to the Republican Party.

Donald Trump—racist, misogynist, homophobe, xenophobe, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semite (what have I missed?)—is the clearest embodiment and expression of what Republicanism has insinuated itself to be and what Republicans have supported at least since the “Southern Strategy” almost 50 years ago.  By accepting, appealing to, and exploiting its Base, Republicans have mounted a beast from which it cannot dismount.  The National Republican Party remains steadfast in Trump’s support.  Republican leaders in Congress—notably, the Republican leaders of the House and Senate Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell—and out—Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich—have surrendered their claim to responsible conduct in the service of their country’s interest.  Ryan and Mitchell retreat into waffle; Giuliani and Gingrich rally to the cause.  Depending on the risks to their re-election, Republican candidates try bob-and-weave or rope-a-dope to avoid the defilement of association with Trump.  On the national stage, Republicans are implying that taking personal responsibility is something which they recommend for others.

Republicans should be punished for foisting Trump on this country and allowing him to poison American democracy.  Up-ballot, of course, and down-ballot, for sure—they should all be held accountable for enabling this man’s candidacy.  They should be punished by straight-party voting for Democratic candidates for every office in the land, from the presidency to dogcatcher.  They should never be forgiven until they, as party and as individual party leaders and federal officeholders, apologize for their politically heinous behavior.  Any exceptions to their party’s and their leaders’ irresponsibility are tainted by the company which they keep.

Their last resort—encouraging votes for their Senate and House candidates to obstruct Clinton—shows them as unrepentant about their intent, and as resolved, to wreck American democracy.  As Trump has made clear his intent to rewrite the Constitution according to his impulses, so Ryan, Mitchell, and others have made clear their intent to prevent Constitutional government under Democrat leadership by obstructing all presidential appointments (thank you, John McCain, for spilling the beans).  If the Democrats win the Senate, Chuck Schumer must be willing at the outset to redefine the rules on filibusters and “holds” so that they do not apply to presidential appointments.  Republican Senators can argue and vote against any nominee, but they should not be able to block appointment of qualified individuals to serve government.


Re-building confidence in America’s political system is not something which the Republicans can do, so great is their hostility to democracy, so great is their support for “small government,” and so consistent are their efforts to impair democracy by voter suppression, and government by shutdowns and filibusters.  It is something which only Democrats and Independents can do.  The need for recovery from Republican-sponsored sabotage of the country’s Constitutional commitment to “We the People” is the reason for voting a straight Democrat ticket in all contested elections.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

WHEN TRUMP LOSES, CAN AMERICA RECOVER FROM REPUBLICANS?

A month ago, I wrote that “Trump will win, and Hillary will lose.”  With three weeks until Election Day, I am pleased to write that I am likely wrong, as I wanted to be.  Probably, pessimism tipped the scales of my judgment of a bizarre political contest at a bad moment; certainly, nothing could have prepared me for the specific triggers—sex, lies, and videotape—of Trump’s meltdown (better than the movie).  But, oh, how poetic the justice of it is.

For much of the past year, I have taken the media, which Trump castigates, to task for giving him a pass as merely a narcissist and a bully.  One and one make two; and narcissism plus sadism equal sociopathy.  The grandiose egoism, the lack of empathy for others, the manipulation and abuse of others, the sexual promiscuity, the impulsive behavior, the unpredictability of mood, the indifference to truth, the refusal to take responsibility, the vulgar, vitriolic, or violent language when contradicted, criticized, or thwarted—these and many other features are characteristic of the type.

Trump confronts a personal crisis.  Bad to lose at all, a loss making him what he most detests: a loser.  Worse to lose in public, in a slowly evolving national repudiation in the biggest reality show of his life.  Worst to lose to, yes, a woman, one whom he has slurred as dishonest, crooked, lacking in strength and stamina, addicted, and unattractive.  His sociopathic response is evident in denial, blame-shifting, and conspiracy mongering.  He attributes his loss to an overpowering conspiracy of the media, rigged elections and fraudulent voting, establishment elites of both parties, and international bankers (read: Jews).  Those who have read Hitler’s biography recognize the modus operandi.

My guess, hopeful as it is, is that Trump, whatever he wills, cannot destroy a city like Washington or a country like America.  Balancing his apocalyptic vision of his enemies are equally apocalyptic visions of the damage which he will wreak after he loses.  More likely, when he loses, he will have some few moments of diminished attention, some rallies of distempered oratory and dispirited reception, and then a decent into ignominy and triviality.  His die-hard supporters will die hard in the knowledge that they as well as their leader have been defeated, denounced, and despised.  Disgust is fatal.

The real threat of damage is, once again, from Republicans.  After the 2012 loss, the Republican National Committee, under Reince Priebus, did an autopsy and advocated an agenda for reforming the party to increase its chances of success in presidential elections.  Then Priebus and other leading Republicans and party flunkies—Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani—became advocates of the arch-antithesis of that agenda.  Now the party is torn between two factions, the coastal establishment and the interior mob.  The glue of the “Southern strategy,” namely, racism (morphing to include intolerance of immigrants, Hispanics, Muslims, LGBTQs, and woman) no longer attaches the mob to the barons and mavens of capitalistic democracy.  Evangelical Christians will split between the two groups depending on whether their greater allegiance is to Mammon or to Mayhem.  So long as the Republican Party remains divided, its members will again try to prove their staunch commitment to Republican principles, unnamed because unknown, and the usual vacuous slogans of small government, lower taxes, and less regulation, by devoting their energies to obstructing Clinton (as they devoted them to obstructing Obama).  Misogyny will replace racism as the new glue of the Republican Party.  By this political strategy, they will weaken the very government which they aspire to run and, self-defeatingly, lose even more rapidly the race to replace dying white men and their families with minorities and women.


Whether a coherent and competitive political Republican Party can emerge from this election is the question.  If it is to help the country recover from the damage which it has inflicted, it will have to accept defeat, return to the customary role of the minority as the “loyal opposition,” and settle its problems in its caucuses, not in the two chambers of Congress.  In the Senate, as a sign of goodwill, it should support the end of the filibuster for presidential appointments.  Going forward, if it to have any chance at all, it will have to change its leadership—Priebus, Ryan, and Mitchell—and sideline its temporizers or opportunists—among others, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, and Jeff Sessions.  Congressional elders like John McCain and Lindsey Graham should be retired to quiet offices and powerless positions.  For the future, the party should look to someone like Nicky Haley, who has the grit and the sense and sensibility to lead, and not go for the mindlessness and meanness of a Susana Martinez, who, with a bad record, has only her gender and ethnicity to recommend her.  If they go for stars now and do not build a team with a strong bench, they could go the way of the Cleveland Browns and win nothing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

ELECTION REFLECTIONS IN A DARK HOUR

[NOTE: I sent the following letter to a small group of family and close friends in the early hours of Monday morning.  Those who have replied have liked it, and I thought that I would share it, slightly touched up for publication.]

Since I am writing at this hour, you know that I have not been sleeping.  I have pretty much recovered from a bad cold caught on my trip to California to help my ex-wife and her car get to Albuquerque for her new start on life.  She has a nice apartment and a promising job at last (let us pray).  My four dogs and three cats were glad to see me when I retrieved them from the boarding kennel.  Life has returned to normal.

Just in time for the news: Clinton’s pneumonia.  I do not question her health, and I do not pay the press much heed on this one (I sometimes think that it wants Clinton to fail and Trump to succeed; he will generate far more news).  But I find the episode troubling because it prompted me to realize that Hillary is losing the race which she should have won long ago.  And she is losing it because she has no beard to shave.  If she did, she would have to look in the mirror every day and eventually address the questions which the mirror always asks.

So we now have in Hillary a candidate as unwilling to face the reality of her situation as much as we have in Donald a candidate indifferent to any reality other than the moment in the context of his sociopathic spin on it.  Some choice.  In evading the reality of her character and its flaws—a penchant for secrecy at all costs, a willingness to evade political discomfort at all costs—she is paying those costs, for nothing in her campaign treasury can cover them.  Simple: if she does not trust the people, they will not trust her.

Trump will win, and Hillary will lose.  And the reality she will find inescapable.  She will have defaulted to a demagogue who will do irreparable—and I mean irreparable—damage to this country, to democracy, to people for whom political and economic justice remains a dream and to people who have dreamt that they had it, and, most particularly, to women, who will now have to face the historical fact that one of the most highly qualified nominees for the modern presidency and the first woman nominee of a major political party was the first woman to fail, and to the worst candidate ever to run as the nominee of a major political party.

Trump has shown us the truth about America and Americans.  It has never been “one nation” of a people united by a shared democratic process, universal justice, and mutual respect for others.  Instead, it has been a mixture of political, religious, and economic factions with no effective core of principles or values.  Plainly, talk about truths “self-evident” and laws guided by constitutional principles has been the pieties necessary to avoid the fact that most Americans do not subscribe to equality, fair play, decency, or even, at a minimum, self-restraint.  The rules-are-made-to-be-broken crowd of the left is as responsible for this state of affairs as the government-is-the-problem crowd on the right.  Both have succeeded in destroying all authority, moral, legal, or political, in the name of liberty, or license.  “Do your own thing” is exactly what we are doing.


Many who subscribe to these pieties will strive to protect and preserve what they assert from the mob of bigotry and the elite of plutocracy.  Thus, to region after region, state after state, city after city, neighborhood after neighborhood, dwelling after dwelling, the hostilities of internecine war will come to America.  As a “radical moderate” of the center which no longer holds, I shall still be part of the good fight for a good, though losing, cause.  Even the need to fight, even if the good cause were to prevail, diminishes the American which will emerge.  The first Civil War never really ended; the second Civil War will not end either.  Reconstruction then, reconstruction at some future date—futility once, futility forever.  The Great Experiment has failed.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

COMMON CAUSE PROPOSAL SUPPORTS FUNDING OF RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGNS & REDUCES MONEY FOR SOCIAL SERVICES

Common Cause’s proposed ordinance for public financing of local elections poses a sharp choice.  Either automatically transfer $200,000 from the City General Fund to a “Fair Elections Fund” (FEF) available to all candidates or leave $200,000 available for social services.  Ordinance advocates have not answered, or agreed upon answers to, four questions: what purposes it serves, what problems it solves, what standards measure success or failure, and whether the benefits outweigh the costs.  Apparently, advocates believe that past elections have been “unfair” and future elections need tax dollars to be “fair.”

Whatever its other deficiencies, the ordinance has three major defects, each with undesirable consequences.

First, the FEF supports an unknown but larger number of candidates, presumably, the more, the merrier.  Not likely.  In a city population leaning left more than right, more candidates can be expected from the left than the right.  Because political discipline in elections is weaker on the left than on the right, the left will likely have several candidates and divided supporters, and the right will likely have only one candidate and unified supporters.  The probable result will be a majority of councilors on the right governing a majority of citizens on the left.  From a democratic point of view, the ordinance would increase the risk of the election of a government lacking “the consent of the governed.”

Second, the FEF supports qualifying candidates—experienced politicians and first-time novices—equally.  Yet experienced politicians, who have name recognition, numerous supporters, and generous contributors, have advantages which first-time novices do not.  They are more likely, their rivals less likely, to raise enough money to receive the maximum funds permitted by the fund.  So the FEF gives as least as much money to the “haves” as to the “have nots,” although the “haves” are likely to receive far more private money to support their campaigns.  Nothing would be “fair” about equal FEF distributions.

To make the fund seem “fair,” the ordinance excludes present Council members from receiving FEF funds for their first campaign after ordinance approval.  Thereafter, any continuing or former Council member, still possessing the advantages of public office, can qualify for public funding.  Clearly, Council advocates intend this ordinance to help them in all but the first of their re-election campaigns after enactment.  Otherwise, they could have refused qualification for FEF funds to any person who has served as a Council member.  What advocates chose not to do reveals that they intend the ordinance to serve mainly their interests, not primarily those of potential competitors.  The public does not benefit from experienced politicians getting taxpayer funds for their campaigns.

Third, the ordinance mandates an annual, “non-lapsing,” FEF contribution.  Anti-democratically, Council advocates intend it to protect this money for themselves before the annual budget process begins and public participation in setting budget priorities commences.  Self-servingly, Council advocates think that $400,000 is better spent on elections every two years than $200,000 for other purposes each year.  Anyone believing that these funds might be better spent on hungry, homeless, or sick people; on victims of domestic abuse or rape; on senior centers or public parks; or other social services should know that Council advocates believe that their needs come first.  Arrogantly, they presume to know better than future City Councils what will be in the best interests of Las Cruces citizens.


Whatever else may be said about the proposed ordinance, mandating the availability of taxpayer funds to experienced politicians for their re-election and denying those funds to other community purposes in advance of discussion neither serve the public interest nor support democratic government.  The only fix is its defeat.