If you had all the money in the world, which candidate or race would you spend it on?
Personally, I’d give an enormous chunk to Elizabeth Warren to launch her Presidential Campaign for 2016. I’d also give sizeable amounts to state and local women candidates of diverse heritages because, well, we have a white man problem. No offense to individual white men, of course, but even you gotta admit the stale, pale, male formula has become decrepit.
Of course, the recipients of my wealth would all be people who reflect my beliefs in an egalitarian society driven by compassion and scientific reason. Education would focus on the arts, culture and philosophy to mitigate the dehumanizing effects of modern technology. Above all, environmental preservation would be central to all decision making.
But me and my kind don’t have buckets of money to dole out to our wünder-candidates. And in our corporatist, finance-based, economic system, anyone with enormous wealth could only have gained it in ill-begotten ways that have exploited the environment and worsened social inequalities. Despite what Carnegie, Soros, Gates, et. al. want us to believe, their liberal fantasy of saving the world with money gained from wreaking havoc on it is rather idiotic and inefficient.
Since the Supreme Court decided in Citizens United that corporations can spend unlimited amounts on PACs because money is equivalent to speech, it was only a matter of time before someone extended that same logic to the rights of individuals to unlimited political campaign spending.
Which brings us to McCutcheon v FEC. SCOTUS heard arguments last fall, and any day now they are expected to announce their decision in the case. Deciding in favor of McCutcheon – that his First Amendment Rights were violated by limiting the amount he could personally, directly spend on elections and candidates – would so completely upend campaign finance that yes, if I were Oprah rich, I could buy me a city council, school board or soil and water commission, possibly an Elizabeth Warren Presidency.
If SCOTUS maintains its absurd notion that money is speech, then yes, I agree, McCutcheon’s rights are being violated by any limitations on how he can spend it to talk to fellow voters. And he, like me, would spend it on supporting those who reflect his personal belief system.
But money is not speech, and corporations are not people. Money is a plastic concept reflecting power attribution, and corporations are its body. Money once was a piece of paper, or a chunk of metal in exchange for labor or stuff. But more likely these days, the concept of money is just data tracked by a computer, updated daily as markets – another ephemeral concept – ebb and flow in response to other data tracked by the computers.
If SCOTUS decides in favor of McCutcheon, then we will be living in the most cynical society that ever existed on the planet. The great Irish poet Oscar Wilde defined a cycnic with these words, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Money has become so central to politics that people are misremembering how to evaluate a candidate on his or her own belief system anymore. They vote emotionally, based on the intensity of fear broadcast by the money-bought campaign ads.
Which is why it is so important for you, if you still, perhaps naively, believe that democracy is worth fighting for, need to come out on the day the McCutcheon decision is announced.
In Iowa, events are already planned for:
Des Moines: West Steps of the State Capitol
Cedar Rapids: Federal Building, 111 7th Ave., SE
Iowa City: Clinton and Iowa Avenue, east of the Old Capitol building;
Davenport: Federal Building, 131 E 4th St
Visit this website to sign up or learn more about these and other events across the nation: moneyout-votersin.org/
Or find an event by zip code here: action.citizen.org
For a quick but pat explanation of McCutcheon: washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/supreme-court-takes-up-the-sequel-to-citizens-united/