Yesterday, in an astonishing turnabout from its decades-long stance on corporations and campaign financing, the Supreme Court abolished 103 years of settled law and handed the keys to our democracy to multinational corporations. The repercussions of this decision are unthinkable.
In a 5-4 decision split along bitter, partisan lines, Justice Roberts and his colleagues let their free-market, right-wing ideology blur their thinking on the necessities of a democracy, profoundly turning their backs on our founders’ attempts to build a successful and lasting representative form of governance. The founding fathers went to great lengths to protect citizens and the government through creating a Republic designed to prevent both minority and majority tyranny. Yet Justices Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas just sounded the death knell for any semblance we have of a representative democracy, blatantly tilting the playing field in the favor of big business and minority tyranny. In response to this madness, President Obama stated:
"The Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."
What does this mean for the midterm congressional elections next November? It means that come November any politicians who dare to campaign on a platform that threatens the interests of big business -- such as banking regulations and credit card company reforms, health care reform, clean energy or environmental standards -- can look forward to an unstoppable juggernaut of ads designed to smear and defeat newcomers and incumbents alike – anyone who has the gall to refuse to kowtow to corporate agendas.
Furthermore, since multinational corporations do not have to be American "citizens" (just corporate persons endowed with the right to free speech), these conservative Supreme Court justices have just given foreign interests the green light to influence the outcomes of US political campaigns. In the face of this, it's difficult to know whether to feel dumbfounded or terrified.
In this singularly anti-democratic decision, the entire playing field of politics has been transformed. We cannot enter into a game like this, and expect anyone involved to be able to abstain from playing. There is now no limit on the ante that can be set. And only those with billions of dollars in resources can hope to compete at all in an attempt to level the playing field. Given restrictions on how politicians raise funds, they simply will not be able to stand up to the onslaught.
Overnight, the Supreme Court abolished a set of rules designed to help ensure that regular Americans have a say in who their representatives will be, in part through controls on financing. These five men handed the "keys of the kingdom" to multinational corporations. In the process, they’ve given them the power to create the conversation, control the conversation, and shape its outcome. Get ready for a kind of minority, corporate tyranny that has thus far been fettered by at least some attempt at maintaining fairness and access in our democracy.
"The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation,” Justice John Paul Stevens lamented after the decision.
Unfortunately, Justice Stevens’s response is an understatement of the gravity of the situation regular Americans face.
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