On Jan. 21, the United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the government may not prohibit political spending by corporations in candidate elections. The majority expressed that this ruling was a vindication of the First Amendment.
While it may be true that the ruling does indeed expand rights to political free speech, it is ultimately detrimental to our democratic system of government.The Court's decision is not without good intentions. Our Constitution protects our right to free speech, especially political free speech. This is one of the fundamental rights at the very cornerstone of our system of government.
A democratic republic cannot function properly if the people cannot freely express their opinions.Eliminating free speech is one step away from indoctrination, thought control and Orwellian entrenchment of government power. Given that, it is clearly imperative that the right to free speech be protected at all times, for if it crumbles, so crumbles our republic.
There are reasons, however, to temper this right when it comes to corporations and campaigns. First, this decision - which revokes many of the regulations in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold Act - allows companies and corporations (and labor unions, since the logic applies fairly clearly to them as well, even if the decision does not directly deal with them) to create and run political advertisements and contribute funds to campaigns without government regulation.This means that interest groups, which have more money - traditionally, big business - will have more of a say in candidate elections at all levels of government.
This can have particularly strong effects on local and state elections in which a million dollars can make a huge difference. The last thing we need right now, in a time when party politicians seem to be more and more entrenched in political ideology and less willing to work together to accomplish even the most common-sense tasks, is more corporate money in politics.
The result is a game in which the goal is to be (re-)elected, meaning politicians are more likely to say and do the things that major contributors want, instead of what the population needs.Second, free speech is a great idea when it comes to the literal content of one's speech or the essence of one's decisions. But when how one spends their money is interpreted as "speech," a problem arises.
Some people and entities have more money than others. This means that they actually have a greater capacity to carry out this form of free speech than others. If the amount of money one can contribute to a campaign (his/her speech) is unlimited, and company A has millions and company B has $120,000 to its name, then company A's speech matters more than company B's.
That is fundamentally antithetical to the ideals of democracy.It is now on the shoulders of lawmakers to find a way to limit the role of money in politics so that the common American's voice matters again. Let's hope, for the sake of democracy, that they get the job done. There's a model already in place across the pond in Britain where shareholders have to authorize how corporations spend political dollars, if anyone is looking for ideas.