About a week ago America was treated to what should have been such a humiliation for the participants that had they any pride they would have called it out for what it was. In Las Vegas potential Republican presidential candidates had any pride and any ethical standards they had stripped from them in broad daylight as they pranced and curtsied to money. The money they wanted this time was to come from Sheldon Adelson, wealthy casino owner and noted man of questionable morals. This was probably a tune up for future such pageants.
Mr. Adelson is in a buying mood. What he is buying is a piece of horse flesh that will be running for president that will take his best interests into the job no matter whether those interests are good for the country or not. So Mr. Adelson declared a pageant for the prospective candidates and had them come in to parade before him. First of course he had their teeth checked and had them weighed, measured at the withers and checked their hooves for problems. If the candidate passed he was allowed to present his ideology to Mr. Adelson.
Thus these men who are running for president and thus should be among the best and most ethical that our country has produced danced and pranced like a horse at auction before the highest bidder. Once again America is treated to a garish, bizarre vision of what our country has become since the Supreme Court authored the 5 – 4 decision in Citizen’s United v. the FEC only a couple of years ago. Wednesday morning they announced part 2 of their dismantling of real democracy when McCutcheon v. the FEC was handed down. Another brick out of the foundation.
McCutcheon took limits off the amount one individual can donate to candidates in total. Thus one individual could potentially donate up to $3+ million per election on a federal level – there is still a limit on a per candidate donation and only so many candidates. In a concurring opinion, Justice Thomas, who mostly sleeps through arguments, said what Republicans love to hear. He said take all limits off all contributions. There will no doubt be a case brought to the Court to make that happen before one of the 5 Republican judges leaves the Court.
The crux of the arguments was that money in politics is free speech. Legislation to curb abuses in political donations began following the Watergate scandal of the early ’70s. If you remember Watergate, you can understand why most of the public wanted to help our politicians remain free from the temptation. Such legislation has been under fire ever since. For the most part the Court said that election business was the business of Congress.
However, elections have consequences. Even though George W. Bush actually lost the 2000 election, he was made president by a Court that had mostly been appointed by Republican presidents. Bush was able then to replace “conservative” justices with even more right wing justices. The Court now had a very right wing lean and a bent to actively change what they felt was wrong law. With John Roberts as Chief Justice, the Court has never been more activist, especially in the area of elections.
Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion. He claimed there was no more “quid pro quo” than before. Not sure what world he lives in but the very wealthy have been getting 34 years of plenty of quo for the quid they have laid out. And when they lay out more quid, I am sure they will expect more. Reality is that since Reagan, the rich have gotten much, much richer with laws that are greatly favor their class. In the words of Warren Buffet “we had a class war and my class won.” But they want more.
An unspoken concern in all this is the power of the media, particularly television, but also the coming power of the internet. Ever wonder why eliminating net neutrality is such a major issue for the wealthy? If they can control what you can see and read and hear, just like on cable TV, they can control the discourse in this country. Remember what the run up to the Iraq invasion was like?
Which brings us to the bottom line which is that most political campaigns today depend on the media, especially television. This has caused the price of running for office at almost any level to skyrocket. When one side has essentially an unlimited amount of funds they can use it to drive the cost of advertising minutes on TV to jump out of sight. Can the other party afford to sit idly by while all the public hears is the opposition? Thus the McCutcheon decision – decided by Republican appointees – drastically favors the wealthy and shunts true democratic principles aside.
There is only one way to reverse this trend. An informed public that makes government its business.Get involved and at a minimum vote.