Thursday, January 21, 2010

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep in a Corporate State

I woke up on Thursday morning in a Republic based on the principles of democracy and capitalism. Tonight I go to sleep in a corporate state and wondering if my vote will ever matter again.

It's very hard to find the words to express how I feel about the Supreme Court ruling giving corporations unlimited influence in elections. No words can describe the sense of foreboding.

In response to the Court's ruling in the case of Citizen's United v. Federal Election Commission, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold issued the following statement:

"It is important to note that the decision does not affect McCain-Feingold’s soft money ban, which will continue to prevent corporate contributions to the political parties from corrupting the political process. But this decision was a terrible mistake.

Presented with a relatively narrow legal issue, the Supreme Court chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns.

Just six years ago, the Court said that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was ‘firmly embedded in our law.’ Yet this Court has just upended that prohibition, and a century's worth of campaign finance law designed to stem corruption in government.

The American people will pay dearly for this decision when, more than ever, their voices are drowned out by corporate spending in our federal elections. In the coming weeks, I will work with my colleagues to pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible."

While the tea partiers and birthers were busy disrupting town hall meetings, denying the President's citizenship, lying about "death panels" and generally trying to scare people with term Socialism, Wall Street and K Street were laughing all the way to the bank and conducting a coup.

Am I totally surprised by the Supreme Court decision?

After eight years of Bush/Cheney/Gonzales, very little surprises me. If you recall, author Naomi Wolf tried to warn us in her book "The End of America", to be aware of the 10 steps to closing down a democracy.

Did the Supreme Court think that the world was so distracted by the crisis in Haiti that they wouldn't notice this decision? Did they think that the conservatives would be so giddy, or liberals so dismayed, over the Senate race in Massachusetts that this decision would just fly in under the radar? Author Naomi Klein certainly tried to warn us of the many ways that governments use "shock strategies" to implement pro-corporate policies.

So no, I'm not totally surprised by this decision.

What does catch me completely off guard is the timing. i thought surely something like this could happen in 2012 or 2016 but not now. How could something like this happen in the middle of the term of a President elected with a mandate for change, in the middle of a populist up-rising. Just when President Obama is ready to stop playing nice with Wall Street and try to reign in corporate greed with regulatory measures, the conservative Supreme Court which Wall Street helped seat says, "We'll show you just how powerful we are."

And friends, they are powerful.

As he often does, Keith Olbermann summed up what so many of us are thinking in his special comment.

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Tonight as I lay me down to sleep I, and millions of Americans who care about democracy, know exactly how Dred Scott felt.


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