I’m reminded this morning, listening to Pete Dominick on Sirius 104, that another suicide pact issue is the free speech/campaign finance law conundrum. Maybe it’s not really a conundrum, the rest of the world doesn’t treat it that way, only so-called free speech absolutists, like the Fab 5 on the Supreme Court, who actually find that free-speech is really quite limitable for poor people, just not for rich people.
Constitutional law professor Erich Segal commented, often, that the Citizen’s United decision is a “unique” view of campaign finance limits. Perhaps he also meant that the equation of money and speech itself is unique. It’s all so unique and HORRIBLE FOR DEMOCRACY! The execrable Will Cain was arguing in favor of free speech for all (businesses) with his usual libertarian nonsense (miming a jacking off motion) that takes a theoretical approach to aspects of life that do not require theoretical approaches. We live here in the actual 3D real world – we have long historical experience with money corrupting politics, ALWAYS! We have empirical evidence that the Citizen’s United system is just legalized bribery in which the people with the money to spend on campaigns have all the access to the politicians as well as the means to buy and hijack media. We can study the history of the Copper Kings, the trusts, the selling of Senate seats before the 17th amendment, etc, etc. etc. We don’t need theories.
And it’s so transparent because nobody who advocates for the confluence of money and speech believes that you can shout “fire” in a crowd. They intellectually believe that society has an interest in limiting speech in the case of libel and fraud and other uses of speech that are clearly deleterious to life, limb and especially money. But rich people should not have their “speech” limited by law. They earned it and they know better.
That’s where this really comes from. It’s not at all an effort to defend the 1st amendment from those who would sacrifice it for squishy, granola eating “good government” reasons. It’s a continuation of the old Federalist aristocracy-centered government when people believed that the men with money should have more say about things because they clearly knew more and God had smiled on them.
Because in a real democracy Joe Shmoe with $20,000 in the bank should have as much ability and right to run for office as Thurston Howell III. But as we all know, when Joe Shmoe walks into a party office and they ask him how he would finance his campaign and he says “Well I’ve got $20,000 but people like me and Ill work really hard to shake every hand and kiss every baby” he would have his posterior kicked out of the office right after he said “$20,000”. Meanwhile across town billionaire Thurston, despite being a low grade moron, will have been recruited to run for office so that they can use his check book to win a seat.
To think that the 1st amendment means that we have to just throw our hands up in the air and say “what are you going to do?” and shuffle away from addressing the problems in our democracy is insane. Or as Will Cain said this morning “the answer is always more speech.” Which oddly enough is also the NRA’s answer to violence: more guns!.