How do you tell the difference? Here’s one test: if he’s proposing a constitutional amendment, is it something that could plausibly help a lot of his fellow-citizens? Or is it, instead, a measure very narrowly targeted to stroke his own vanity? (And what happens if it’s both?)
The newspaper quotes unnamed sources who say [Arnold Schwarzenegger] . . . “has been talking openly about working on getting the constitutional rules changed.”
The source said the 66-year-old Schwarzenegger, a Republican, intends to file the necessary paperwork to challenge the rules . . . .
The Austrian-born Schwarzenegger, who became a U.S. citizen in 1983, said three years ago in a “Tonight Show” interview that he would run for president if the law were changed.
There are lots of things about the constitution that might need some tinkering. We could abolish the electoral college, for example, to make the president a directly elected office. We could clarify that rules restricting campaign contributions do not impinge on the First Amendment right to speech. We could define (and limit) the legal rights of corporations as a constitutional matter. We could create districting rules to eliminate (or at least reduce) gerrymandering. (In theory gerrymandering is already unconstitutional, but in practice that’s been impossible to enforce.) We could require Congress to pass a budget on time. We could adopt a more parliamentary system of representation. We could even get really radical and define the scope of judicial review under Article III. Not all of these ideas are equally meritorious, but they illustrate the point — all sorts of suggestions to improve the system present themselves, once you’re willing to wade into the constitutional thicket.
Which is why it’s a little disappointing that Arnold Schwarzenegger will use his considerable wealth and political clout to try to, rather openly, change a constitutional rule solely for his own benefit.
That said, Schwarzenegger’s ego might accomplish something pretty good. America’s polity is likely to become more and more composed of lawful recent immigrants — especially if immigration reform is given real teeth. Those people should have an opportunity to participate fully in the political process and to have their concerns represented at the highest level. Maybe it’s the Governator who will give them that opportunity — even if he does it for nakedly opportunistic reasons.