Thursday, August 7, 2014

Freedom of Speech, Revisited

“Well, I don’t think that you have made the case against money as protected speech.  For example, Meg Whitman (former CEO of eBay) and Carly Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett-Packard), not only spent gobs and gobs of money running for governor and senator, respectively, of the great state of California, but they lost, and they lost embarrassingly, Whitman to a Democratic fossil who had been governor when T. Rex's ruled California.  Money did not corrupt the electoral process there, did it?”

Yes, it did.  California voters are not always fools (sometimes they can’t help themselves and they elect as governor an Austrian body-builder who still can’t speak intelligible English and who many mistook for the word-less robotic character he had played in Terminator movies), they don’t always vote for money, and in these cases they rebelled against two ├╝ber-successful women who seemed to be buying their elections.  So, the damage was not done to the electoral opportunities of Jerry Brown (governor) and Barbara Boxer (junior senator) but to the candidacies of third and fourth parties, whose voices no one ever heard.  Are they, too, not entitled to freedom of speech?  Big money drowned out their attempts to speak and be heard.  Damage was done to the people, not to the Democrats.

Another victim of unlimited speech is the democracy itself.  While money may not get the better funded candidate elected – indeed money will chase all major party candidates – it will nonetheless create in the winning candidate an indebtedness to big donors or a fear that the money will be withheld next time or given to an opponent.  The press made much of the fact that Democrats rammed Obamacare down the nation’s throats; what they didn’t make much of was the fact that “Single Payer” (a.k.a. Medicare for All) was hardly ever seriously discussed, the President didn’t support the so-called Public Option longer than he could hold his breath, and the main beneficiaries of the bill were the health-insurance companies who more than anyone else crafted the legislation.  In the end, Democrats did not get what all Democrats wanted, but the Health Care Industry did get what it wanted.

And, as I have said over and over, electing a Democrat candidate does not necessarily buy you Democratic values (same for Republicans, of course).

Addendum: Sunday, 11/08/2015
If "money is speech," if money is protected speech, protected by the 1st amendments's clear protection for speech of all kinds, then the more money you've got, the more speech you are entitled to.  If that sounds to you like an American democracy worth fighting for, well then, Heaven help us!