The Democrats cannot hope to capture the House in the future unless they undo work the Republicans started after Nixon's fall. In a concerted assault on the American electoral process Republicans under the banner of the religious right set out to realign the playing field for electing people to the House. Sending their people into organizations as basic as PTAs and standing for election to town councils and county clerks they built up a base in the election bureaucracy and began to take over state legislatures and governors so they could redraw congressional districts in their favor. A second line of work was to vote against all Democrat judges. This was two fold, one to make sure that the new districts would not be judged as unconstitutional and second to be able to act against social change as in marriage and adoptions. A third wing of this onslaught was to capture control of media, newspapers, radio and TV. In deals with the Democrats they arrived at a means of accomplishing local and nationwide organizing and propaganda by dismantling the Fairness Doctrine that had upheld access to media by the average citizen and to cancel the effects of big money on the airways by requiring both sides of a political argument be presented. The Democrats gave away fairness under the guise of free market protections.
Fairness Doctrine can Cancel "Citizen's United"
If the Democrats brought back the Fairness Doctrine it could go far to neutralize the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision by requiring equal time protections, especially in cases of outright lies as we have see in the past election cycle. Gaining back the House, however, will require an organized approach where freedom loving Americans will have to come together and retake state legislatures and vote out every single Republican judge across the country. This can only be accomplished if there is a Fairness Doctrine as the Republicans will use every penny at their disposal to stay in power. They have achieved an illegal seizure of the House and they will not give up without a fight. I say "illegal" as they have subverted the rights of Democrats in the gerrymandered districts they have created, thus their intent was to deprive people of their rights which is a violation of the Constitution and federal election laws.
Recently former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has joined a nation-wide movement to have states change judge confirmations by voters to independent board confirmation (http://www.nytimes.com/...). While the underlying idea, to stop the GOP's efforts to recall judges that corporations do not like, and end the Christian right's defamation of the legal system by similar efforts (see:http://www.associatedcontent.com/...) , the result would be ill advised. One can imagine what would have happened if medical malpractice would have been left to doctors to deal with instead of the legal system (http://courses.missouristate.edu/....) The removal of doctors licenses over the past 50 years by medical boards does not suggest a fair self-governance. But neither does the effectiveness of boards to protect the public from lawyers' malpractice. These boards and commissions are typically made up of doctors and lawyers whose interests are not always enlightened by the public good.
While O'Connor's efforts are laudable, the GOP and rightwing Christian groups are cleansing our courts of liberals and unbiased judges, replacing them with the most conservative and partisan they can find. How should an informed and civic minded person respond to this situation? The result of the GOP's and rightwing groups' actions is to essentially disenfranchise liberal and middle of the road moderate voters. In some recent elections voters were urged to vote against all Democratic judges. Should Democrats vote against all Republican judges? The decisions of judges have as profound an effect on the daily lives of people as all the legislation that is passed, as they determine its real meaning to the average person. All the states have some mechanism for removing judges for cause, but in the past 15 years only 2 judges have been so removed http://www.ajs.org/.... that is either good news or bad depending on how you see each case that was brought before the appropriate investigators.
But if the GOP is used by corporations and fundamentalists to strip the judiciary of moderates and liberals what is the appropriate response of the average citizen? In California the GOP fringe unseated Justice Rose Bird in 1986. She was the state's first female justice and the first state chief justice to ever be removed from office (http://en.wikipedia.org/...). Fox News has been calling for judicial removals of liberal judges for 5 years http://www.foxnews.com/.... This last election in California there was only one Democrat on the State Supreme Court running for confirmation. Those lawyers who might make excellent judges must think twice before considering such a course as their lives could become the target of GOP and fundmentalist terror. This cannot be tolerated, it will destroy our free society.
Is O'Connor's path the only responsible one, even though it is unlikely to succeed? Is there another path we should take?
Fairness Doctrine's History
The single most important element is the Fairness Doctrine, without it America will continue to descend into political chaos and lies. The Fairness Doctrine originated in the Communications Act of 1934 (with amendments http://www.fcc.gov/.... which attempted to deal with the rising power of the radio and the potential power of monopoly in communications on the electorate. It was adopted as a policy by the FCC in 1949 and incorporated into FCC regulations in 1967. It required equal opportunity to opinions of a political nature and the Equal Time Rule which extended protection to all legally qualified political candidates running for office. In 1974 the Federal Communications Commission asserted that Congress had delegated it the power to mandate a system of "access, either free or paid, for person or groups wishing to express a viewpoint on a controversial public issue..." but that it had not yet exercised that power because licensed broadcasters had voluntarily complied with the spirit of the doctrine. It warned that "should future experience indicate that the doctrine [of voluntary compliance] is inadequate, either in its expectations or in its results, the Commission will have the opportunity—and the responsibility—for such further reassessment and action as would be mandated." In 1969 the U.S. Supreme Court validated the Fairness Doctrine basing its decision on a 1959 Senate report. This came after numerous challenges to the Doctrine after it had been extended in 1967 requiring a "political editorial rule" holding that a TV or radio station must provide air time for a candidate if it editorialized on him in a campaign.
By the 1980s with increased consolidation of the broadcasting industry and rising pressure by the fundamentalist right, the Fairness Doctrine fell into the sights of the Reagan Revolution. Calling it a violation of Free Speech the Doctrine came before the Reagan FCC suspended the Fairness Doctrine in August of 1987 arguing it had never been enacted by a specific act of Congress. Congress passed a law enacting the Fairness Act in 1987 but Reagan vetoed it. Congress again passed a new law of authorization in 1991 and Bush Sr. vetoed it.
Two modifications remained in force by the FCC, one on personal attacks that required a station to notify a person or group that had been attacked or vilified on the air, provide them with transcripts and air time to respond. This was revoked in 2000. Two efforts to revive the Fairness act were made in 2005 and both failed. At present no one in Congress is planning to present a bill to restore the Doctrine. One must ask, why is everyone afraid of fairness? Why are the Democrats afraid to press for equal time?
In a certain viewpoint the argument seems to be that the internet has taken the bite out of hate radio, but one cannot believe this especially with the experience of the last election and the present power of hate mongers like Limbaugh. If anything has taken place with the advent of cable it is an intensification of propaganda and one-sided views being broadcast to American audiences. It is time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. Perhaps then we can have reasonable debate instead of treasonous charges like those of Limbaugh.
Jeff Stone, a professor of law at U. of Chicago, believes we can achieve fairness through another Obama appointment to the Supreme Court (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...). In 1960 this resulted in partial state redistricting, I am not so sure this would happen today. Better we go the sure route the Republicans took.