This is the Supreme Court decision the President criticized in his State of the Union, saying, ““With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.” Facing him, Justice Alito famously mouthed “not true.” But was it? Sheldon Adelson just dashed off his first of what are likely to be a lot of $10 million checks to be sure Romney becomes President (governing with a Republican Congress and set to swing the Court further toward the interests of the Koch brothers, who have pledged $400 million to help confuse the electorate) . . . and on Sunday’s Meet the Press, John McCain — no Obama supporter — called Citizens United the “worst decision of the Supreme Court in the Twenty-First Century: uninformed, arrogant, naive.”
I don’t know, but I suspect that Senator McCain meant to include in that the Twentieth Century as well. (Otherwise, it’s a bit like calling a movie you review in February, “one of the best of the year!”) Of course, it’s not clear whether Bush v. Gore — also a terrible decision — was even worse, or, for that matter, to which Century it should be ascribed. Technically, the Twentieth-First Century began in 2001. So actually, we need not choose between them. We can simply say, rephrasing Senator McCain but sticking with his assessment, that Citizens United was the worst decision of the millennium. That, perhaps, gives it the rhetorical weight it deserves without having to think too hard about all the cases from 1901-2001.
I make light of this, because it’s unhealthy to be dour all the time; but the consequences of this decision — which allow any billionaire to influence almost any Senate or House vote without spending a dime (just threaten key committee members to dump $10 million in negative ads against him or her next time out) — are horrifying.
And don’t give me this stuff about “the unions.” Let alone ACORN. Yes, there is some similarity in the way unions can use money. But leaving aside the fact that the unions have far less money than the billionaires or the corporations — no small fact to leave aside — the unions don’t represent just two brothers or one casino mogul; they represent, still, millions of workers and their families . . . and, by extension — because so many of the reforms and benefits they negotiate (like, “weekends”) become standard even for non-union employees, or at least raise the bar somewhat — arguably, tens of millions of families.
I mean, after 30 years of growing inequality and imbalance, did the Court really need to award the billionaires more control over our alleged “one man, one vote” democracy? (Where the Republicans are working hard to disenfranchise as many Democratic voters as possible? And where the Court previously stopped the Florida vote count that would have given Gore, the popular vote winner, the Electoral College vote as well?)
So while Alito was mouthing “not true,” four of his colleagues were mentally mouthing “true!” in line with their vigorous dissents — as have been an awful lot of other people, like John McCain.
But not everyone. And not all of my readers. So in the interest of balance:
Paul deLespinasse: “Please ease up on the Citizens United harping. Citizens United was not an unreasonable decision, and any bad effects supposedly produced could be eliminated without overturning the decision and without any new legislation, as I pointed out recently in this op-ed. It might give you some ideas to think about and some possible opportunities for the Democratic Party.”
SEE THE DIFFERENCE?
On a related note: Some people are saying well, sure, the Romney side will have a lot more money than the Obama side, but so what? Obama had a lot more money than McCain — turnabout is fair play. It’s worth noting that on the Obama side in 2008 and again now in 2012, the loot came and now again comes from literally millions of contributors. The bulk of the Romney money will be coming from a few dozen.
Quote of the Day
I don't understand a goddam thing about insurance, except that I don't want to have any.~ex-Harvard Treasurer Paul Cabot
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