Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Got the drowning democracy blues

When the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decreed a new doctrine of corporate personhood, “the floodgates,” as Pres. Barack Obama said, were open. And in the wake of the 2010 midterm elections, we can see to what extent corporate spending now threatens to drown American democracy in a torrent of tainted and unaccountable cash.

Swan song for American democracy?

Swan song for American democracy?
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This article lists some of the most powerful corporate-funded organizations that spent heavily to air advertisements touting conservative candidates, ballot measures and dogmas and discrediting (often through well-chosen lies not refuted until too late) moderate, liberal and progressive people and ideas. It also laudably presents a general analysis of what each organization concentrated its money and efforts to achieve and to what extent it succeeded in its aims. (And unfortunately, the outcome was predictably favorable to the essential agenda uniting all such groups: the replacement, with candidates ideologically or opportunistically friendly to industry, of anyone in Congress who stood against the unfettered freedom of corporations to do whatever best bolsters their profits.)

What the article doesn’t cover (and can’t reasonably cover without becoming a tome instead of a page) are the specifics. It didn’t mention the individual Congress members whom the corporate front groups succeeded in ousting, such as campaign-finance reformer Russ Feingold. This entails a chain of consequences, for it is precisely the people who might have demanded accountability, or even have considered pressing for a constitutional amendment stating that corporations are not people, whom this flood of cash drowned and washed to sea. And in turn, this will leave even the Congress members not beholden to such groups intimidated, afraid to act or even to speak forcefully against them after seeing what has happened to their colleagues who dared to fight corporate control.

The conclusion in this article is correct. Accountability is a helpful step in that it would at least allow us to see where the corrupting cascade is coming from, but it will do nothing to stem the spate. For that we will indeed need a constitutional amendment. And, thanks to corporations’ success in the recent election, any campaign for such an amendment will be more quixotic than ever before.

Let’s all take a long last look at American democracy before it goes down for the third time.

Originally published as a review of a People for the American Way article on corporate control of U.S. politics.

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