By Michael Haughey, Updated: January 21, 2010
We no longer have a fight to save our democracy. We now have a long struggle to restore it. In the interest of accuracy, we might acknowledge that we never really had a democracy. Thom Hartmann likes to describe it as (and this is my recollection, not a direct quote) a constitutionally protected, democratically elected, representative republic. Whatever we call it, it is near the end.
Thom Hartmann is the author of “Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights”, in which he says that the 1886 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (118 U.S. 394) did not actually grant corporate personhood, and that the supposed granting of corporate personhood derives from a mistaken interpretation of a Supreme Court clerk’s notes.
It now seems certain that conditions in the United States, for most people, will get far worse long before we see any improvement. The landmark case of “Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission”, in a 5-4 decision on January 21, 2010 split between the Reactionary Right-Wing judges and the Conservative Judges, overturned long-standing precedents in deciding that corporations have the same right to use their own money to fund campaign ads as individuals. It also overturned portions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. As laws are challenged and overturned based on this mis-interpretation of the U. S. Constitution, corporations will be able to spend unlimited general funds on elections. That includes multi-national mega-corporations and foreign corporations that have a “presence” in the United States. In essence, corporations, including foreign corporations, will be able to buy elections in the United States. The power this represents is immense and it seems unlikely that what remains of democracy in the United States will be able to withstand the assault that is coming. Corporations have been buying elections and politicians for quite some time to a large but limited degree. They have also succeeded in having much of our commons privatized. All of that will now accelerate. While we will be saying that we can fight this and win, in reality our chances are bleak. This merging of corporate power and the government is the underlying force of Fascism. Now we are essentially there. To learn what lies in our future, we can look at lessons from the past. The Roman Empire, Nazi Germany, and Mussolini’s Italy all come to mind.
This path has been paved over a long time. Two important landmarks along that journey were the judicial errors that corporations are persons and the more recent decision that money equals free speech. That set the stage for this declaration that money cannot be limited in elections because it is free speech, and that corporations can exercise that kind of free speech without financial limitations.
Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that “the Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.” Therein lies the miniscule opportunity to do something about this. The disclaimers can be like the warnings in the advertisements for your favorite pharmaceutical on TV. Those seem to be mostly ignored. The disclosures may end up requiring identification of those responsible for the ad; however over time their immense power will get those rules eliminated as well.
In all likelihood, the democratic experiment in the United States is all but over. The final descent has begun. What will likely follow is collapse of the United States itself. After that who knows. Given the immense military power of the United States, the end could be brutal. What, indeed, will survive? What power will rise to the top of that primordial soup?
Sugested additional reading:
“Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights” by Thom Hartmann
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