Unlike certain “Democratic” strategists (irony alert) in Montana, I’m not one to suggest that a candidate’s age determines her eligibility for office as I believe that voters should choose the best candidate regardless of age. However, when a candidate’s age perhaps suggests a fundamental lack of understanding about the modern world and its forms of communication, age may just become a factor to consider.
John Bohlinger seems to be demonstrating that lack of understanding.
I finally had the opportunity to read the Constitutional Amendment he’s proposed as part of his all-in-one Senate/Special Session/Constitutional Convention Comedy Tour, and the language is disconcerting–because rather than protecting the rights of Montanans, something even Bohlinger admits it won’t do, the text of the amendment will make illegal practically every form of communication invented since the emergence of the Internet.
The text of the Bohlinger Amendment reads (the ALL CAPS signify changes):
11. Searches and seizures. The people shall be secure in their persons, papers, COMMUNICATIONS IN ANY FORM, INCLUDING DIGITAL, homes and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures, OR FROM ANY FORM OF INTERCEPTION, REPRODUCTION, OR STORAGE OF COMMUNICATIONS, INCLUDING DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS, THAT IS NOT AUTHORIZED BY A WARRANT. No warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing shall issue without describing the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized, or without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation reduced to writing. THERE SHALL BE NO ISSUANCE OF GENERAL WARRANTS.
Grammatically, the first sentence, despite its length, is really clear: there can be no unreasonable search and seizure (the old language) and that Montanans wouldn’t be able to make a photocopy or save a voicemail message without first obtaining a warrant (the Bohlinger language).
Off the top of my head, the amendment that Mr. Bohlinger is proposing would make recording a favorite TV show on TIVO (STORAGE), listening to This American Life on the radio (INTERCEPTION), saving a Word file on a computer (STORAGE), and roughly 6.4 million other functions of day to day life illegal in the state of Montana. It would even make it illegal for a certain campaign strategist to endlessly retweet the same news on #mtpol all day (REPRODUCTION).
[WARNING TO REPUBLICANS : Hyperbole is one of the most common forms of satire. Hyperbole can be used to heighten effect, to catalyze recognition, or to create a humorous perception.]
I suspect legal scholars would also raise serious objections with the nature of the amendment. By specifying a subset of communications (digital), the amendment would actually take a blanket protection of the rights of Montanans and make it narrower. Anything not explicitly defined would suddenly be called into question because it would lack the specific protections afforded digital communication in the amendment.
Now, given the incredible precision and focused nature of the Bohlinger campaign thus far, I hesitate to suggest that this constitutional amendment proposal was scrawled on the back of a napkin in a Helena coffee shop before being rushed over to the Montana Secretary of State and the political media for another moment in the spotlight, but it certainly wasn’t vetted, wasn’t researched, and wasn’t even written well.
Serious candidates don’t make up constitutional amendments and propose ballot initiatives because they generate attention. The people who work on ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments pore over legal scholarship and yes, even proper grammar and syntax to ensure that what they propose will actually improve the state of the law.
This political dog and pony show certainly won’t do that.