Okay folks, here I go again. Spouting out about politics as I don’t enjoy doing, but sometimes feel I must.
The Supreme Court made a ruling this week in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that is a bit of a blow to the average voter and a bit of a victory for well-funded special interest groups as the court determined, contrary to the precedents of many years, that there will be no limit on the amount that unions and corporations can donate to an individual political candidate. The cry of outrage has largely been that it will quickly become the norm that companies can essentially buy the candidate who will represent their interests best and, if they are displeased, will simply overwhelmingly fund the candidate they prefer. If the situation plays out in this manner, we will become, in practice, an oligarchic democracy.
In my book, this is not acceptable, but if it’s likely, I’m not quite ready to lay the blame at the door of large corporations. Unless I grossly misunderstand the system, corporations do not get a vote, as such, and the vote is the ultimate legal process that determines who ends up in office. Although it may be easier to vote based on the large amounts of ads a candidate puts out, or the number of times they make it to a town near you, or which party they belong to, these factors do not obligate anyone to vote for them. All campaign contributions greater than $200 have to be disclosed to the public. And while I don’t love having to go to the hassle of figuring out what big money is behind one candidate or another, that information is not being withheld from me. If we as a nation are too lazy to follow the money and, more importantly, consider the issues when we vote, that’s not really the fault of the big companies.
That being said, I am outraged at this decision. First, money and speech are not synonymous, and to claim this decision as a win for freedom of speech is nothing short of absurd. This decision is transparently an attempt to grab power through exploitation of uninformed voters. Second, allowing more money into the campaign process means more focus on hype and less focus on issues. I’d rather see the money wasted on flashy campaign ads and boatloads of stupid money being redirected to healthcare, education, or any number of socially-beneficial projects and see a limit on the nature of what a campaign consists of.
The bottom line is that this decision is an unpleasant bit of news, but instead of seeing it as the end of a real democracy, I’m choosing to see it as a galvanizing call to action. Friends, countrymen, Americans—let’s get our voting rears in gear.