Stop the presses! The Supreme Court of the United States, in an invigorating exercise of judicial activism and scientific legerdemain, has given Money a Voice. Money can now talk, even as you and I, thanks to the 21 January 2010 split decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission. The decision has been annointed with Republican approval as reinforcing the sacred constitutional First Amendment right of free speech. It has also been attacked by Democrats and progressives as giving mega-corporations freedom to use their enormous wealth to pay for advocacy political ads and otherwise employ their resources to influence elections and national policy, thus undermining the democratic proces. Labor unions acquired the same freedom to spend money, but since their money is a hill of beans compared to the Himalayas of moola in corporate coffers, there is no comparison.
Some people are so discombobulated by this decision (including President Obama himself, who mentioned it in his State of the Union address) that various fixes have been proposed in Congress, and a group called MoveToAmend.org is now circulating a petition to amend the Constitution to affirm that "money is not speech," and that, therefore, the First Amendment does not apply to anyone or anything but real human beings. How often it happens that, when someone is dissatisfied with a present legal situation or process, up pops an effort to amend the Constitution, on the theory, I suppose, that will really make it all better, as we all know the Constitution is iron-clad, words of perfection from the all-knowing Founding Fathers. Is this a good idea in this case?
"I hope we shall...crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson.
As I try to digest exactly what the latest Supreme Court grant of "personhood" to corporations will mean to the tattered "representative democracy" that is the government of the United States today (the 2nd Gilded Age), the words of Thomas Jefferson have a poignant ring for me. It seems that some problems are as old as our republic itself.
We, indeed, now have an "aristocracy of our moneyed corporations," an aristocracy that - thanks to the Supreme Court - is now free to pour even more money into the political process that is already poisoned by special interest money and influence.
All this court-mandated mischief is a simply the continuation of trouble caused by another Supreme Court decision, Buckley v Valeo (1976), which declared spending money to influence elections is a form of constitutionally protected free speech.
I don't have a law degree. I don't want a law degree. But, here is what common sense screams at me: Money is not speech; corporations are not individuals.
I can see one small silver lining to this mess, however. For the first time in a very long time, the movement pushing for public financing of elections has had new life breathed into it.
KathyinBlacksburg asked that I cross-post this. It was written specifically for Daily Kos, and some of it is specifically related to that website/community
I teach government. I have periodically wrestled with whether I could continue to do so. I have come close to walking away from it, because I what I saw worried me sufficiently that I wondered what point there was - signing statements, Military Commissions Act, abandoning Geneva as "quaint" "enhanced interrogation methods," extending executive privilege to energy executive coming to the White House to craft policy could have their identities kept undisclosed, Scalia flying on a private plane across the nation to go hunting with Cheney while the last issue was pending before SCOTUS, ... was there still a meaningful constitution and political system about which to teach my students? Meanwhile, educational policy distorting the very process of school itself, depriving those most in need of real teaching and learning of the opportunity to do much beyond prep for low level tests.
Each time I hav wrestled with these issues. Each time I decided to keep teaching - "for now" - in the belief I could make a difference, and that the nation would come to its senses.
In May, Mark Walsh, founding CEO of Air America and a Democratic media strategist, accepted Grow the Hope's invitation to speak to the community about messaging and media. Many of the people in attendance had rallied behind Obama on his presidential campaign. Their work is not over, however. As David Hart, the founder of Grow the Hope (GTH), would say:
"Electing a smart and moral man as our President was an important step, but it's not enough... The challenges we face are far too massive for any one person to solve alone. The task is not his alone, it is ours together."
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Sonia Sotomayor will start on Monday, and the Republicans still haven't figured out a strategy.
It seems pretty apparent that unless something shocking happens, Judge Sotomayor will become Justice Sotomayor. So the hearings are really going to be about bloodying Barack Obama. My prediction, based on nothing more precise than the reading of tea leaves, is that the Republicans are going to focus on the recent Ricci v. DeStefano case -- where the Second Circuit, including Sotomayor, voted against white firefighters who were alleging reverse discrimination, and the Supreme Court, 5-4, reversed the Second Circuit -- to persuade whites that Obama's nominee, and therefore Obama, wants to throw whites out of work in the middle of a bad economy. What put Obama over the top in 2008, and what keeps him with good approval ratings in 2009, is the support of an unusual number of whites -- including middle class and lower middle class whites -- and the Republicans' great hope is that they can use the Sotomayor nomination to break white voters away from the Obama coalition. If they can do that, then 2010 looks less bleak for them.
In keeping with the entire hyperkinetic tradition of President Obama's first 100 days it is just more of the same to see that he now must select a nominee for the US Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David Souter. Already-anxious constituencies are circling the landing field, boldly presuming to tell the President what or whom to consider, and opponents who have as yet no target of opportunity are trying out a few pre-snarls, like Senator Orrin Hatch who announced he was sure "the other side" would appoint some liberal who was in favor of abortion. Grrr!
Blue Commonwealth is a community forum for the discussion of political issues of interest to Virginians.
The opinions expressed by users of this website do not necessarily reflect the views of Blue Commonwealth or its editors.