The Supreme Court is finally discovering forms of free speech it considers “corrupting.” Pornographers and flag-burners don’t corrupt our politics and culture; “sham issue ads” do. Mapplethorpe-style exhibits don’t corrupt the public square. No, what erodes it are nativity scenes.
Basically the only form of speech the Supreme Court considers dangerous is the very political and religious speech the constitutional framers designed the First Amendment to protect. The more vital the speech is to the preservation of a republic, the more likely the justices are to ban it from public life. The more worthless the speech and destructive to a republic, the more likely the justices will carve out a precious constitutional public space for it.
“Who could have imagined that the same Court which, within the past four years, has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon such inconsequential forms of expression as virtual child pornography, tobacco advertising, dissemination of illegally intercepted communications and sexually explicit cable programming would smile with favor upon a law that cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize government,” writes Antonin Scalia in his dissent from the Court’s ruling on “campaign finance reform.”
The Court can so casually contradict itself because it has no principles. No ruling at this point bears any relation to the Constitution. The justices simply identify the Constitution with their will. What they consider “troubling to a functioning democracy” — the phrase used in the ruling — is unconstitutional, even if it wouldn’t have troubled the constitutional framers one whit. Issue ads trouble the O’Connors. So ipso facto they are unconstitutional. No good can come from them apparently. But virtual child pornography? Well, the Court can find some value in that. In other words, the NRAs frighten the tiny minds on the Court more than virtual child pornographers do.
The Court is doing more to corrupt the country than any amount of “soft money” possibly could. John Paul Stevens has been a battering ram for the corrupt elite. His ruling is a gift to corrupt incumbents. Never examined in his fatuous ruling is that the corrupt incumbents, not issue ads, are corrupting politics. Money doesn’t corrupt pols unless they are already corrupt.
We do need to get money out of politics — the taxpayer’s money these hucksters collect to finance their pork. That all of the “campaign finance reform” talk is fraudulent is clear from the fact that the reformers have no intention of reforming their own spending habits. What drives the campaign contributions is the enormous size of the federal government.
If there is too much influence-peddling money in politics, that’s because these pols have too much influence. If the so-called reformers lessened their influence — which is to say, stayed within the lines of limited government, focusing only on indisputable functions of the federal government — influence-peddling money would decrease correspondingly. But “campaign finance reform” has nothing to do with the pols’ handling of the people’s money, and guarantees that the challengers to prodigal incumbents will have little money to dislodge them from power.
Pictured in the newspapers beaming with pride at eliminating “money from politics” were some of the most rapacious pork-spenders in Washington. Just a few days ago these incumbents so proud of themselves for reforming politics with a pat on the head from the Supreme Court passed a comically bloated omnibus bill.
The House approved a $328 billion bill overflowing with pork. (This on top of course of all the other outrageous departmental spending deemed non-pork, though it is just as inessential as pork, such as paying the salaries of teachers who don’t teach at the Department of Education.)
Our vaunted campaign finance reformers, according to the Washington Post, found room in the bill for $50 million “to help build an educational facility in Iowa housing an indoor rain forest and several million dollars to help young people learn to play golf.” Tots will get to slice balls at The First Tee Program in St. Augustine, Florida, on the taxpayer dime.
Citizens Against Government Waste found $270,000 in it for a potato storage plant in Madison, Wisconsin, $1.8 million for an Appalachian fruit laboratory, $447,000 for halibut data collection in Alaska, $75,000 for a YMCA in North Hollywood, and $150,000 for a Summer Arts Festival in Fairbanks, Alaska, among other pork projects.
By all means, let’s get money out of politics — this money. It belongs in the hands of taxpayers. But the incumbents aren’t worried about the money they rip off from taxpayers and use corruptly. Nor does the campaign money stuffed in their own pockets worry them. No, their dubious money and demagogic speech are safe, thanks to a Supreme Court determined to advance democracy not by the people but by a corrupt elite.
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