One of the greatest evils ever committed against the survivability of democracy in America came in the guise of a Supreme Court case. Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding campaign finance laws and free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
With one egregious decision, the Supreme Court overturned election spending restrictions that date back more than 100 years, and paved the way for carpetbaggers and grifters to become politicians. Previously, the court had upheld certain spending restrictions, arguing that the government had a role in preventing corruption.
But in Citizens United, a bare majority of the justices (5-4) held that “independent political spending” did not represent a substantive threat of corruption. As long as the spending was not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign, the court maintained, there would be no corruption. I’m not making this up.
In other words, as a result of all this lunacy, corporations can now spend unlimited funds on campaign advertising for their favourite politician if they are not formally “coordinating” with that politician or his or her political party. Wink-wink.
I’ll spare you any further legalese or mumbo jumbo. In other words, the SCOTUS confused free speech with political bribery. Oh, and Citizens United is a conservative organisation dedicated to the idea of using money to ensure America becomes a theocracy. What a surprise.
If five justices of the 2010 SCOTUS actually believed that finding for the disingenuously named “Citizens United” wouldn’t lead to runaway political corruption then they are idiots. Nobody has to explicitly state in writing what they want from a government worker when they give them money. Just ask Clarence Thomas. It’s a bribe, pure and simple, and you can bet your bottom dollar that every candidate understands that. If he or she wants to see any more of that money they had better act accordingly. Just ask the NRA.
After offering prayer as a “solution,” Mike Johnson, the evil little poison troll who is now Speaker of the House of Representatives, had this to say about the latest AR-15 slaughter in Lewiston, Maine: “Everyone wants this to end. And I’ll leave it there.” Yes, he will leave it there. Because there will be absolutely no further action on this ongoing American horror story from this Republican Congress.
There’s an oft-misquoted biblical verse that actually goes, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” While I would dispute that as an all-encompassing axiom — jealousy, envy, greed for power, malice, and so on, are also sources of evil — money accounts for an awful lot of evil. Particularly in politics.
What’s the solution? Get money out of politics. All the way out. There should be no advantage or disadvantage if you’re a billionaire or a pauper when you run for public office. Anyone who has, say, $100 for filing fees and an appropriate number of signatures on a petition, say, 10,000, should be able to run for any public office. Then they should all get free airtime to state their case — paid for by the government.
Taking bribes while serving in public office should be listed as a class A federal felony, punishable by mandatory decades in prison. A special independent commission should be appointed for finding and exposing such corruption anywhere in politics in any branch, including the SCOTUS.
If you take money out of politics you will see a dramatic change in how members of Congress vote. If they no longer have to worry about where their campaign funds are coming from they will suddenly start to represent the majority of their constituents. What choice will they have? They will be answerable to their constituents and no one else. They will no longer have to spend huge parts of their term of office raising money, either.
This is the elephant that is quietly sitting in the room every time some mallet head takes an AR-15 and murders a bunch of people. Republicans offer “thoughts and prayers” or stupid “solutions” like arming teachers or creating stronger doors in schools. Only Lewiston wasn’t a school shooting, so they only offer thoughts and prayers. Democrats impotently bemoan the obstructive behaviour of the Republicans. And nothing gets done about it,
But nobody addresses the underlying evil. Money. Get rid of money in politics and all kinds of wonderful things will start to happen. Gun violence will all but disappear. Without political funding from the fossil fuel industry global warming will become a priority. The good work of the government will become the premier occupation of both parties, because both parties will suddenly need to impress their constituents and not their paymasters. Evil people will stop seeking public office and take their criminal business elsewhere. Or nowhere.
This could all be achieved by codifying the end of political corruption by way of an amendment to the Constitution. And while they’re at it, the amendment could resurrect the Fairness Doctrine, and in a stroke it would eliminate Fox News and other similar organs of MAGA propaganda and lies.
Difficult? You bet it is. But so what? The alternative is death to innocent people by firearms, death to democracy by fascist evangelicals and the death of the planet by the fossil steel industry. Got something better to do?
I’d say we have no choice in the matter because there really is no other solution to the constant assault on democracy by the forces of fascism. There is no other final victory to the root of this great evil. Remove money from politics and only good things will follow. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.