Things To Act
Friday, June 04, 2004
Flag Burning & Politics
Today's SLTrib has an article claiming that Senator Hatch is planning on pushing a flag burning amendment again this year. I personally am against this amendment, as I think that Justice Scalia got it right in Texas v. Johnson [and the weakness of the dissents is even more striking]. However, as my personal distaste for the notion that doing anything other than ignoring flag-burners is an appropriate use of the monopoly of force is evidently not shared by a significant portion of the American electorate, reviving the issue in an election year may be effective politics. Anti-amenders are probably not going to be as numerous in basing their vote choice on this issue as pro-amenders, and few Congressmen relish the thought of running for reelection while being targeted by "Senator Smith supports flag-burning" commercials. The measure has evidently passed the House before and could probably easily do so again (290/435 votes required). The Senate (67/100 votes required, 63 ayes in 2000) is another matter, as Senators face reelection less frequently and enjoy larger electorates, in which a few issue voters make less of a difference.

The principal advantage Republicans gain from pushing the measure again this year is that Senator Kerry voted against the amendment last time the Senate voted on it. This evidently didn't hurt him in blue Massachusetts, but could potentially alienate swing voters who will decide the fate of his presidential ambitions in November.

On the other hand, a few Senators may be impacted by the vote this year as well. Incumbent Senators who go before the voters this year who voted "Nay" on the amendment in 2000 include Sens. Boxer (D-CA), Dodd (D-CT), Inouye (D-HI), Mikulski (D-MD), Dorgan (D-ND), Schumer (D-NY), Wyden (D-OR), Daschle (D-SD), Bennett (R-UT), Leahy (D-VT), Murray (D-WA), and Feingold (D-WI). Admittedly, most of these Senators are favored for easy reelection. Daschle is probably in closest fight right now, while Murray and Feingold could conceivably lose if Bush wins with strong coattails. It will be interesting to see if they change their positions if this comes up for vote this year. Note also that some who were facing reelection in 2000 who voted for the amendment may conveniently change their minds this year.

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