Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Observations on the 2012 Election 10.3

Tonight is the first of three debates between Willard and President Obama as the Presidential election campaign enters its final phase. No matter what the talking heads on both sides say I have to wonder just how important this phase is. Early voting has already begun in seven states, the latest being the all important Ohio where it began yesterday. Still a committed political geek can't help but be excited if just for the debate's entertainment value. The entertainment started early when poor Willard couldn't even get his campaign through debate prep without messing up. It was leaked by his handlers that during debate prep Willard had been given a bag full of 'zingers' to use on the President. This is nothing new, unless they are literally talking about twinkies, but you aren't supposed to announce it ahead of time. It's supposed to at least seem like the candidate came up with them on his own.

Something sure to be debated after the election is the effect that the billions of dollars poured into the campaigns by corporations had. This is the first Presidential election since the United States Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case in 2010. The Court, in a 5-4 decision, said that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations or, as Willard himself put it, corporations are people my friend. It just doesn't seem to be having the effect the Repubes and wingnuts wanted but it still needs to be overturned, something that should be high on any list of possible legislation for an Obama second term.

The dissenting opinion was written by Justice John Stevens who showed how strongly he felt by actually reading a large part of it from the bench. Stevens than retired as the third longest serving justice in the history of the court. Below are a pair of excerpts from that opinion, if you are brave, bored, or just a total political fool like me you can read the complete opinion here.

"In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races....

At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

If you got this far thanks for reading and that concludes today's lesson. Don't forget, the circus begins tonight at 9 PM Eastern.

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