The US Supreme Court's further elaboration of "money equals speech" in its decision today isn't thoughtfully rendered, except in the sense that it sends democracy to the rendering plant, tossing reasonable campaign regulation right into the tallow bin in favor of billionaire bullhorns.
Light a candle with that tallow, Americans. Mourn your increasingly crappy, trickle-down "democracy." Because this Supreme Court's in-justices are among the many conservatives who don't really think your voice matters or should matter.
An earlier Supreme Court ruled that free speech doesn't give one a right to yell fire in a crowded theater. But the current court just ruled in a way that gives fat-cat campaign donors what amounts to that very privilege. The stampede toward authoritarianism will now continue, with fewer interruptions.
More below, including a mini-essay on how this ruling is just icing on the Republican Party's already well-baked plan to create a unitarian government that's exclusively GOP, a society by the rich and for the rich.
With its usual puerile reasoning the conservative majority on the court struck down federal laws limiting the total amount of money a contributor can spread around to candidates, political parties and political action committees. The sky is now the limit. Well, actually, that's a bad metaphor, since thanks to the court there will be no limits anymore. The American campaign-donation universe is now infinite.
Fat-cat campaign donors will be able to give as much money to as many candidates and political committees as they like, subject to caps on contributions to each individual campaign. But that remaining limit will easily be gotten around by the uber-donors. And candidates gaining the most uber-donations -- i.e., conservatives -- will more readily be able to dominate the airwaves and other advertising media, drowning out lesser-funded opponents. Truth, fact and alternate points of view will influence opinion with far less effectiveness; money, and the noise it creates, will rule with an even harder fist.
Trying to put a justifiable face on the court's context-free reasoning, Chief Justice John Roberts said the aggregate limits that the court has now made infinite are unnecessary because they have not prevented political corruption. Really? In that case, then by the same reasoning, maybe the court also should strike down seat-belt laws. Because, you know, while seat belts may save some lives, they simply don't prevent all car fatalities. If a law isn't 100 percent effective, it's useless! So let the good times roll!
Republicans -- who would already be toast without these kinds of legalistic handouts from the high court and their well-heeled contributors, without gerrymandering, and absent their assault on voting rights -- were ecstatic. The party's national chair, Reince Priebus, said in a statement. "When free speech is allowed to flourish, our
authoritarian, elitist party democracy is stronger."
Even given the unlikelihood of an equal amount of counter-noise, increasingly screechy and fact-free campaigning will fuel a further race to the bottom, driving still more would-be voters away from the polls; when they still persist in voting, the noise machine will slyly steer them toward more simplistic and counter-intuitive choice-making. That's likely because massive advertising works, and Pavlovian bell-ringing (or, in the case of the GOP campaign machine, coded messaging on race and other dividing rhetoric) really, really works. Thus, further eroding of democracy into fantasy-land authoritarianism seems just around the corner.
Plus, as if to rub it in, the Roberts court also effectively decided that if you're a smaller, individual donor with limited financial means, you'll still be far more subject to limits. It will seem like you, too, have total discretion to support candidates with as much of your cash as you like, but the economics say otherwise. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog summarized this effect:
Although the Court did not concede that it was creating constitutional donation opportunities only for the wealthy, the two-year caps as a practical reality probably would never apply to those with more limited financial means.Isn't that cute? Hey, now that we're unstoppable, let's we Republicans elect even more lawmakers who will raise taxes on the poor and cut them for the rich. Seems just about as fair, and of the same kind, as this decision from the Supremes.
Conservatives insist the government should never throw money at problems. But those same conservatives and their reckless enablers on the high court believe that throwing unlimited gobs of private cash at politicians is perfectly fine. The former approach fixes no problems; the latter approach fixes all problems -- at least in the way of Republicans who seek unmatched power to define those problems and the solutions, if they really have any that make sense past their campaigns.
But more than the GOP, which is now just a subsidiary of Crazy, Inc., the big winners are increasingly unaccountable corporations and billionaires with peculiar ideas about how society should function -- peculiar in that they think they should be the unchallenged deciders. So, these allies have, in essence, now won the right to whore themselves out to anyone with the fattest wallet. The more bucks the better! Bitcoin accepted in limited locations.
All this will come out of today's vote by the despicable, illogical but fine-tuned partisans controlling the high court. Because, in rendering this decision, the decision effectively says all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. What could possibly go wrong?
3:36 PM PT: A question for the Supremes, which I'm afraid they'll someday get a chance to answer: If money is equal to speech, then aren't all laws that regulate money a violation of the First Amendment? In which case, if you want to spend your money buying and distributing narcotics, isn't that free speech? If you want to spend your money sending out goons to assault workers of and block entrance to family planning clinics, isn't that your right under the First Amendment? And consider: Even if sanity again prevails and future courts hold that the Second Amendment isn't absolute, that guns can be regulated, then might the present court's ultra-expansive view of free speech and its alternate guise, money, trump any such regulations? Because, hey, maybe you're just expressing your freely protected opinion when you use your money to buy dozens, hundreds or thousands of guns. Finally, what if you're dirt poor and literally have no money, but depend on the social safety net, not because you're pond scum but because you're disabled or a senior citizen or a kid or because there aren't enough jobs to go around? If you have no money, do you literally not qualify to express your opinions under the First Amendment? If money is speech, and you have no money, are you indeed not entitled to speech? Fact of the matter is, some conservatives have already made this kind of claim on a rhetorical though not yet legal level. Lawlessness and the destruction of public reason and comity are frighteningly implicit in today's shark-jump ruling on campaign donations.