Tuesday, September 09, 2003

A Couple Thoughts On Campaign Finance Reform

Yesterday, the Supreme Court began reviewing the latest legislation on campaign finance reform. All appearances seem to indicate an even split, with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in a familiar role as swing vote. After reading the article this morning, I was struck with two insights.
But attorneys for the political parties said that by banning unlimited "soft money" contributions from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals, the law will starve the parties of needed money. They said it diminishes their ability to carry out their core mission: organizing and turning out their voters in elections.

The first insight comes from this argument, which seems sound, upon initial examination, until you reflect on reality rather than rhetoric. If the core mission of political parties is indeed to "organize and turn out voters", what the heck are they doing with all of the money they are collecting?

To my knowledge, America has the worst turnout for general elections than any other modern democracy. On the other hand, I'm quite sure that our political parties collect orders of magnitude higher amounts of cash than political parties from these other democratic nations. So, with this in mind, aside from the campaign finance reform implications, does this mean that the political parties are failing in their mission? Or, more likely, that they are just lying about their core mission to the Supreme Court justices, when they know full well that their primary purpose is to spend money to influence elections?

The defeatist and shill Antonio Scalia (who yes, I do not like) surely must believe this nonsense, or consider it not to matter (since hopeless, in his opinion, to try stopping the buying and selling of politics), but what would explain the views of the other justices? Will they actually fall for this rhetorical sophistry, which, though valid on its face, and well-spoken, is clearly unsound when an even slight examination of the facts is taken?

The second insight came a bit later in the article, during discussions about limiting corporate and union political activities and speech. What struck me more than anything is the base assumption that these types of collectives, or organizations, should have any "rights" so to speak of at all. Certainly there is nothing in the Constitution that would require it, for the Constitution is concerned with the God-given rights of human beings, as citizens, and is not concerned with these particular fictional entities.

I don't know the history behind it, but I assume that at some point, or points, in history Congress has insitutionalized these protections and rights of fictional entities. In a worse case scenario, in which the Supreme Court decides against legislation drafted to stem the buying and selling of democracy and opinion, then the very protected status of these fictional entities itself should be reviewed. I'm not advocating it right at this moment, but my initial gut feeling on this is that this is a legitimate and legal way to address the issue, and one that libertarians, conservatives, and liberals will not be able to dismiss out-of-hand (except those who are in hock to corporate and union money).

Take a moment with me. Lean in to reality, with open eyes and ears. Look at the number of people who "buy-in" to democracy in America. Look at other democratic nations. See what's different, and what's clearly negligent. See what's wrong, and try to determine how to fix it. We need to expand the political establishment, and enfranchisement. To stem cynicism, and attitudes of meaninglessness. Education needs to be primarily focused on this civic achievement, rather than just being a mill with which to spit out technicians of various kinds. Technical education has its place, in that we are a vibrant capitalist economy in need of labor and innovation, but that's not our American mandate and mission, despite the reactionary residue of the Cold War.

Our mandate and mission is about liberty, justice, and freedom, and taking responsibility for that by being involved, voting, and aware of the day-to-day issues that fuel and challenge our liberalist democratic tradition. The rest, including how we manage our economic activites above and beyond the exercise of liberty, follows in its wake.