Wednesday, October 27, 2010
John Robert's America
So, how are you enjoying the continuous outflow of noxious political ads coming non-stop from every broadcast channel on television? You say you're sick of it? Maybe even disgusted? Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Welcome to John Roberts' America. Thanks to the Supreme Court's 5-4 partisan ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporations were granted individual citizenship, including all First Amendment rights to speech. The majority's decision said that limiting corporate spending in an election is "governmental regulation of political speech." It's a reach rivaling that of Nixon's secretary Rosemary Woods to equate "political speech" with giant wads of cash. In 2009, The Federal Campaign Finance Law restricted an individual's political contributions to $2,400 per federal candidate, and $30,400 annually to a party's national committee. By what logic, legal or otherwise, is it suddenly permissible for international conglomerates to pump billions of dollars into TV advertising to influence our elections, while a typical citizen is legally forbidden to exceed a gift of two large to his congressman? What makes the decision reek even more of plutocracy and cronyism is that the producers of these televised grotesqueries, which look like Halloween Spooktaculars, don't even have to disclose where the money comes from. If you watch these ads with the sound off, you couldn't be blamed for believing that we were being invaded by space aliens.
The Roberts' court decision overturned the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act, which was about the last piece of useful bi-partisan legislation we've seen lately. But acting to make the system better is not the court's agenda, and they have started a financial hurricane that has topped our nation's faulty levees and flooded the landscape with bilge water masquerading as political speech. Any group, from the Klan to the Heaven's Gate Cult, could be paying for these spots, or stains, and the Court says you are no longer entitled to know that information. How did this happen? When George W. Bush had to withdraw the name of his hausfrau Harriet Miers from consideration, he cast his myopic eye on Sam Alito. But when Justice William Rehnquist suddenly died, Bush hastily elevated Rehnquist law clerk, John Roberts, to the position of Chief Justice. His cherubic look and photogenic family can't hide an ugly agenda. Roberts is a corporatist, and every court decision concerning business regulation or tax relief has gone the way of the company store, just as the Bush neocons intended. This nastiest of elections is but a harbinger of things to come. The stakes in 2012 will be much higher.
Conservatives counter that the Democrats brag about their record fundraising efforts during the Obama presidential campaign and that billionaire donors like George Soros regularly finance progressive causes and campaigns. The flaw in the logic is that Obama raised a huge war chest from online donors giving an average of $35 per individual. He had plenty of corporate help as well, but this was before the Citizens United ruling, and thus within established law. Credit Obama's fundraising success to a savvy tech crew who tapped the Internet's potential for seeking individual contributors, especially young voters. While the Republicans' big benefactors are readily identifiable; Murdoch, Koch, Coors, Forbes, Bechtel, and others whose splinter groups have financed the Tea Party movement, the conservatives always point to George Soros as if he were a sinister operative from the Elders of Zion. In actuality, most of the people who throw around Soros' name as some sort of international puppeteer wouldn't recognize him if he walked into the room, and before 2004, they never even heard of him. Soros was involved in currency speculation and philanthropic projects until he entered politics in 2004, with the specific intention of denying George W. Bush a second term. If the Hungarian Holocaust survivor has such Machiavellian influence, how come he couldn't pull that one off? Now you hear conservatives drop Soros' name like Karl Marx and the Rothschild's. Saul Alinsky is another right-wing whipping boy constantly on the lips of the propagandized, though I'd bet my house that the majority of Fox viewers who consider Alinsky a modern socialist menace don't even know that he's been dead for 38 years. And Soros just donated $1 million to California's Proposition 19 to legalise marijuana.
bottom is Nevada's Sharron Angle accusing Harry Reid of helping sex offenders and child molesters get free government Viagra. But in Memphis, we get the ads from North Mississippi and Eastern Arkansas as well. Our Senate seats aren't in play, but the Tennessee Governor's race has become such a joke that I plan to abstain from voting for either man. If you believed the allegations made about candidates in the surrounding counties, you'd insist that they be immediately arrested. And the Mississippi Republicans, through their anonymous surrogates, make an issue of running against Nancy Pelosi. As many problems as our neighbors currently face, I doubt that Nancy Pelosi is high on anyone's list of concerns in the Magnolia State other than possibly Haley Barbour. One bluedog Mississippi Democrat runs ads boasting of the over 260 times he voted against Pelosi. If people hated politicians before, this relentless barrage of putrid visuals will create disgust and loathing beyond measure. People watch TV to relax, not to be repulsed. The only people pleased about this money tsunami are the ad agencies and your local TV station. They are "On your side."
The Guardian UK reports that over $3.7 billion dollars will be spent in this election, the country's most expensive ever. What's frightening is that the political parties and special interest cabals are just testing the water on the Roberts ruling. With only a short time left in this election cycle, the mega-corporations have to be high-fiving each other in their disbelief that the referees have really left the field. They not only escaped accountability, something that companies like Target had to face in the recent past for their funding of anti-gay candidates, they don't even have to prove what their ads say is true. The Supreme Court has granted them anonymity and the big corporations have reacted like every kid who grew up in the 50s just had his fondest dream come true; They're like Superman now, they're invisible. It's a short step from running greasy ads smearing a rural candidate's character to hiring Hollywood directors to film cinema verite tearjerkers for some corporation's choice for public office in 2012. The flip side, however, is the Tarantino-like expose of a candidate's secret perversions with soundtrack from the 1970s. 2012 looks to be the Superbowl of elections. People who don't care about the game will tune in just for the commercials and the halftime pop stars like Jon Voight and Lady GaGa. With unlimited corporate funds to spend, it could get spectacularly ugly, maybe even in 3-D. Just like they got Al Capone for income tax evasion, maybe we could temper corporate expenses for political advertising with fines for air pollution. The Supreme Court, with the most overt political act since Bush v. Gore, has succeeded in polluting the airwaves as surely as BP bespoiled the Gulf of Mexico.