So while liberals have been throwing hissy fits for years about the Citizen’s United they seem to have come back to this idea with their impending doom in 2014 coming. (Really the creation of Super PACS owes a lot to various relegation and legislative changes and to just Citizens United v. the Federal Election Committee, but Democrats know their base doesn’t do well with complex ideas, so they just pick on Citizens United, and I always try and play in the opposition’s ballpark, so we’ll just refer to Citizens United). But now their hatred for free speech has found a new target, in Harry Reid’s unhinged attack on the Koch brothers and his statement that he will seek a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizen’s United (and the First Amendment) with a Constitutional amendment.
You know personally my first inclination is to slap the little loser Harry Reid and tell him that it will be a cold day in hell that his stupid fascist amendment even gets out of his Senate let alone meeting the requirements in the House and three-quarters of the states. But that would do no good. Harry Reid is simply too stupid to benefit from any attempt of slapping sense into him (although perhaps every member of the Senate should get a baseball bat and try knocking some intelligence into him just to see if it might work…I mean what’s the worst that could happen?)
Now we could get into the minutia of how Democrats are still outspending Republicans, or how the Democrats the biggest beneficiaries of group donations (mainly from unions) but let’s ignore that for just a moment. But let’s ignore the minutia and get to the heart of the matter.
The central liberal argument is that Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee was wrong—that money is not speech and therefore cannot be protected under the First Amendment—that whoever has the most money always wins. The first point is just obviously stupid, but this is an argument from people who don’t get why we have to have the legal fiction of corporate personhood. They also don’t understand that your property rights are sacrosanct and under the theory of natural rights (which is kind of the basis of our entire legal system); that your property, including money, and what you do with it is an extension of your person legally, ergo spending money is speech if you choose it to be. And the minute you separate what you do with your money from free speech there is a very dangerous slippery slope. If you money can be regulated, then so can your time and limits can be placed on how much time you can donate to a campaign. And then you could limit how many organizations you can donate time. And then all the government would have to do is declare this charity or that church function a political issue and soon think about how much of you public life is being regulated. And if your statement through money can be regulated because its of a political nature can you only make a certain number of Facebook, tumblr, and Twitter posts about a candidate or issue? A government with the spying power of the NSA*, the bullying ethics of the IRS and a free hand to limit political speech can do some very frightening things.
But let’s ignore the unspeakable idiocy of the argument that money isn’t speech. Let’s focus on what they’re saying about democracy in a democratic-republic like the US, because that is even more laughable (or frightening).
The argument against Citizens United is based on the argument that who has the most money wins.
Let’s look at this argument.
Certainly if I have half a trillion dollars and my opposition has $10 I will probably win. But seldom in American politics are things so lopsided. And do you really think that if the Klan or the American Nazi Party had a trillion dollars they could actually get any real power in this nation? Logic tells us that at a certain point you can spend all the money you want and if the people hate you, you’re screwed. You just have to look at advertising…Hollywood occasionally spends the GNP of third world nations hyping some piece of crap that almost no one goes to see…if the logic of Citizen’s United opponents were applied then everyone should just follow the hype.
But let’s look at some extremes. On the one side did we forget that a felon in West Virginia and a challenger in Arkansas, both with no money to speak of, gave a sitting president a run for his money in the last presidential election cycle? Or on the other side let’s look at a man like George Soros. Now I don’t have to believe that Soros is some evil mastermind on the level of Lex Luthor or Ernst Stavro Blofeld to admit that (A) his politics are somewhere to left of the current French president’s and (B) through direct contributions and contributions to PACs like Moveon the man has dumped an obscene amount of money into U.S. elections. I don’t buy the conspiracy theories, but the fact is the man is very progressive and very giving of money to causes he believes in. As is his right. But here’s the funny thing…if the people who oppose Citizen’s United were right, then all the money he has spent combined with all the money unions have spent over the years then it should never have even been close in 2000 or 2004, and the country should already be so far left that Obama would look like Reagan right now. Strangely I failed to see the retirement age lowered to 50 or minimum wage raised to $20 an hour, universal public health care, or a 70% tax on income above $100,000 here in Sorosandia.
Money helps. No doubt about that. If you can get your message out it certainly is more effective. However in a day and age of twitter, blogs, and YouTube, it’s not just money that matters. It’s having a message that resonates with people…even if that message is the mentally retarded statements of “Yes we can” and “we are the ones we have been waiting for.”
But there’s a deeper problem than the common sense issue that money can’t buy everything in politics. It’s the implications of human nature.
Notice what is implicit in the argument that money is all that matters to democracy. Notice what is says if you believe that the person with the most money, not the better argument, always wins. It means that all people don’t have stupid and shortsighted moments, as I believe it means that people are incapable of rational thought. That they will follow the shiniest piece of polished metal provided by the person with the most money—that there is no rational thought, that no matter how extreme an idea, if it has money backing it, it will win. Ummm…if people are actually that dumb, then why do we have any democratic elements in our government? Democracy is based on the idea that the majority of the people, when put together will more often than not make the right choice, not because they believe the shiniest lie, but because reason will win the day with the majority of people more often than not. It is a premise based on the idea that a human being and human reason has value. If your argument is that money drives everything, then you must state you believe that humans on a whole have no ability to reason. Now is human reason perfect? Hell, no. That’s why we have always been a republic that limits the momentary whims of the masses and forces compromise and slow deliberation.
Now I will admit that human reason is not perfect, but taking money out of the equation will not solve the problem of imperfect reason being a driving force in our elections.
Now if you actually wanted a functioning democratic election, as the critics of Citizen United claim they want, what should they be arguing for?
Well, how about Voter ID check or clearing the voter rolls in every state every two years and making everyone re-register. You know to prevent fraud, and felons, and illegal immigrants from voting in mass numbers and making sure that the democratic principle of one man, one vote was actually allowed. As for making everyone re-register, if going down to the post office or going to a web site to pick up a form and sending it in is too much work for you, then dear God, you are not qualified to be deciding the future of this nation.
Or how about this one I know would never pass, but you would have to admit would get rid of the majority of influence of money in elections…require people to earn a high school diploma before they can vote. Okay liberals, get all the insults out now…I’m a racist, I’m a bigot, I’m closed minded, I don’t know anything about democracy, blah, blah, blah…I teach high school, I have been working in schools for nearly 16 years, and have been working consistently in alternative education with at risk youth for the last nine…do you have any idea how easy it is to get a high school diploma? Or a GED? I’m sorry but you seriously have to try to not pass high school. And I’m sorry given how much the income difference is between a high school diploma and having nothing, you’re an idiot’s idiot to not get a high school diploma. And when you put those two sentences together you realize that high school dropouts are actively trying to be an idiot’s idiot. I can’t imagine why I would want these losers voting. Ever. Under any circustances. I mean who do you think falls most easily for flashy ads, the person with a bare bones education or the person who actively tried to remain ignorant. And if voting is really that important to you, getting a GED is not that difficult—really it’s not. If we were to institute this, you would find pandering by politicians drop quite a bit, and low and behold you might see better legislation.
Or you might go back to what the Founders correctly envisioned for the Senate: State legislatures and governors working together to nominate and elect the most qualified in the state (as opposed to the most popular) to the upper house of Congress. It would completely eliminate money’s influence on Senators themselves…and if people are so worried about SuperPAC money influencing federal elections…right now to influence the Senate you have to influence maybe 40 statewide elections (I figure about 60 seats are safe Republican or safe Democratic seats) going back to pre 17th Amendment republican ideals you would have to influence the same 40 state wide elections but this time for governors, plus influencing one to two houses of the state legislature. Even the most well funded SuperPacs would go bust before being able to make a dent in the long term. But to do that you would actually want to try and take out the influence of money…instead of say, hypocritically just wanting your traditional sources of money to be the only ones that counted.
Or how about this one: Get the government out of the economy. If you placed legitimate restrictions on how far the government can get into the economy, then guess what, all those businesses and business people wouldn’t care about elections. As long as the government has the power to pick winners and losers, you’d be a bit of an idiot to not do everything in your power to make sure you’re not the loser…but if you got the government out of the economy you get rid of the incentive to be so involved in elections…at which point why would business waste their hard earned profits on silly things like elections.
But the people who bitch about Citizens United don’t care about any of that…they’re just unhappy that now other people have a chance to fight their endless union coffers.
One last note on a pragmatic side issue. I’ve heard that nearly a trillion dollars will be spent on the 2012 election (when you count all the elections at all levels). Given how crappy the Obama economy is (and yes it is his fault, if it wasn’t for him we’d be in a full recovery by now) I want you to think how bad it would be if you took out a trillion dollars. Yes that trillion is going to a limited sector in the advertising business…but those people who get the money then spend it on other things and it moves through the economy…I want you to imagine what the economy would look like if you took yet another trillion out of GDP. Just a pragmatic consideration to keep in mind.
*I would like to note that I know of no instances where the NSA has actually used their information against a private citizen, and of all the branches of government I’m actually less worried about them…but only so long as we have the First Amendment in place and the IRS stripped of all it’s powers…so long as those others restrictions are kept in place I have little to fear from the NSA…it is only if the other restrictions are removed that a government becomes fascist.