Friday, January 22, 2010

With One Malevolent Decision On Campaign Finance, The Roberts Supreme Court Has Set Back Reform For Decades

By Manifesto Joe

Forget about the Massachusetts Senate election. Republican Scott Brown's win in a special election there is a minor setback compared to the Roberts court's 5-4 decision Thursday on campaign finance.

With the reaffirmation of the long-standing fiction of "a corporation is a legal person," the reactionary Roberts court has not only wrecked a century of movement away from that toxic idea. Now you can really forget about health-care reform, re-regulation of banking, and just about any other desperately needed overhaul you may have had in mind. We largely already had a plutocracy for much, if not most, of American history. Now it will be a wide-open auction, with the levers of government for sale to the highest bidders.

With virtually all restraints on the coffers of our corporate masters lifted by the judicial branch, it's all but certain that Republicans will make huge gains in the midterm elections in November, and also likely that Barack Obama will be a one-term president. In this decade we're probably going to see Supply Side 3, with Corporate America and wealthy individuals raking in still more immense gains at the expense of ordinary Americans. And the really sad aspect of it is that the people will largely have no one to blame but themselves, for failing time after time to see who their real friends, and enemies, are.

R.I.P., American republic

It was no mystery during all those years of Reagan, and Bushes I and II, what the intent was with all those right-wingers being appointed to the judiciary. These unelected people have the power to strangle the initiatives of the other two branches of government. And when the courts are stacked with reactionary ideologues, that's precisely what happens.

Labor unions are weaker than they've been for 80 years, so their money will be absolutely no match for what Corporate America will bring to the table. Unless some astonishingly good things happen within the next three years, look for Republicans to again become dominant with the inevitable financial largess, and for Democrats to atrophy once more into a timid centrist "opposition."

Plutocracy is now codified

If it wasn't plain enough after the theft of the 2000 presidential election, the U.S. has long been a plutocracy -- I would say that's been so since the years after World War II, almost uninterrupted, and off and on before then. Now, it's pretty much been made official.

With the corporate monoliths "free" to fund the candidates of their choice without limits, the American people will be saturated with laissez-faire propaganda, resulting in even more of them voting against their own interests, even more than they've already been doing for decades. They don't have to do this. In some locales on Earth, experience has taught common people to have a healthy skepticism about entrenched money and the power that naturally goes with it. Somehow, the American people never got in that habit, and experience has given them plenty of chances. Time after time, they seem to vote gladly to put the fox back in charge of the henhouse, then wonder what the hell happened to the chickens and the eggs.

Money becomes speech

"Rapid changes in technology -- and the creative dynamic inherent in the concept of free expression -- counsel against upholding a law that restricts political speech in certain media or by certain speakers,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "The First Amendment does not permit Congress to make … categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker and the content of the political speech."

The tragedy of this decision lies precisely in "rapid changes in technology." The sheer might of corporate money, when it comes to the purchase of air time, print space, Internet content, etc., is exactly what makes this turn of events so dangerous.

The five right-wing justices who voted for this atrocity cited free-speech rights as the basis of the decision. There could be no greater irony, for this will result in unprecedented stifling of political ideas. "Free speech" will be the domain of those who have the money to buy advertising in assorted for-profit media. The cacophony of "free-market" and perpetual-war rhetoric will quite predictably drown out those who would, in a system of sane restrictions and a public hearing available to all, have a chance to be heard.

In countries where democratic political campaigns are publicly financed, they think we've been crazy to have been allowing big money to dominate our process as much as it already does. But then, people in those same countries also think we're crazy to have a health-care system driven by the profit motive, essentially run by Big Insurance and Big Pharm. For a country generally considered to have resurrected the democratic-republican form of government from antiquity, we now seem to be lagging very far behind the serious practitioners.

Political history tends to run in cycles of reform and reaction. The U.S. seemed to be just emerging from an overlong period of reaction, giving progressives hope that a long period of reform, similar to those of the past, was getting under way.

This decision, it appears, is going to give the forces of reaction the power to drown civic reform in the bathtub long before it gets started this time, if you will pardon my paraphrasing of Grover Norquist.

I honestly don't see much hope after this -- unless the American people, at long last, wise up. I stopped holding my breath on that one a very long time ago.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Marc McDonald said...

This, from the Supreme Court that gave us George W. Bush.
As the Dead Kennedys once noted, it's bedtime for Democracy.

Reas Kroicowl said...

thanks for writing on this, Joe. I'll likely link to it a bit later.

Jack Jodell said...

Democracy is dead thanks to the reactionary Roberts Court. This is the worst decision in our country's history. I cannot support this plutocracy. Call me an American Dissident, because I strongly oppose that which we have now become.