Saturday, February 27, 2010

Article from the Independent

In case you've missed it, you can find my article from the here.

The article, is part of a point counter-point, the second article can be found here.

The article seems to counter-point argues that the decision will likely have little effect on our democracy, and that any changes made by the decision are greatly oversold, and that in any case, it doesn't benefit one party more than the other. I don't think there's anything wrong with this conclusion, as far as it goes, it merely seems to me far from the beating heart of the matter. In my editorial, despite its hysterical title (for which I am not responsible), I write:
President Obama quickly moved to condemn the decision. “This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy,” he said in a statement issued soon after the decision. “It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way – or to punish those who don’t.”

This is only partially true. The floodgates were already open, the decision just opens them a crack wider. The decision FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life already allowed corporations to run attack ads about candidates. The only thing that this recent decision changes is it allows these ads to explicitly endorse a candidate. Concern that corporate money will now flow into the system is overblown; it already could. The president is right, however, to be worried about this decision, which will only exacerbate the situation.

Indeed, I am cautiously optimistic about the result of the decision. It both changes very little about existing law and brings attention to absurd ideological justification for money in politics (corporations are people and money is speech, it all follows from that). Very few people believe that existing campaign financing laws (ie McCain-Feingold) have been successful in restricting the influence of corporations in politics, this decision is a wake-up call for limiting corporate influence.

The other article concludes:
There are certainly valid reasons to question the decision—primarily, whether corporate personhood entails the right to free speech. Some take issue with the idea of corporate personhood in general. I don’t intend to in any way undermine the importance of these issues, but I don’t think these are the primary issues for most people. If those are the real issues, and not politics, why is this so polarizing? If Citizens United is actually eroding the very foundation of our democracy and will inevitably lead to the collapse of our entire civilization, then this is not a political issue. But this very obviously is a political issue, which seems to indicate that the doctrinal issues are not on the forefront of people’s minds. If the partisan divide of the donations remains the same, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t continue to fluctuate with the political cycles as it has in the past ten years, no party stands to benefit from this decision any more than any other party.

It has has certainly not been the impression I've received, either from the people I've talked to or the articles I've read, that must people are worried about the decision because they believe that most contributions will go toward Republican candidates. Perhaps all of the what I have heard from editorial writers, friends and politicians worrying about untoward corporate influence is simply a Machiavellain smoke-screen for concern about Democratic politicians, but there is little reason to think this. It is wrong to point to the fact that their is a partisan divide on this issue as showing that it is an issue primarily because of how it effects the two parties. There are similarly partisan divides about abortion, gun-control, climate-change and healthcare but simply because beliefs about these issues tend to break down along partisan lines doesn't mean that liberals some how think gun-control will lead to more more votes for a Democratic candidates, or that Republicans oppose abortion because they think future Republican voters are being aborted. Similarly, to suggest that the partisan divide on this issue is due to worry about who gets more contribution (a worry that the article has already shown to be largely invalid) is to completely write-off the genuine ideological difference between liberals and conservatives on issues like this one.