That statement is a direct corollaryD to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. As you may recall, in the Citizens United case the Supreme Court decided that corporations and unions have the same political speech rights as individuals under the First Amendment,
One consequence of allowing unlimited spending by one entity is that it allows their voice to drown out the voices of others in cases where media facilities and listener attention spans are limited, and thus the rights of one individual are allowed to squelch the rights of others.
I recently visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda (which, I understand, may have been patterned after the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). A good, but unofficial account on that museum was written by Helen from EnglandA. What amazed me in my visit to the museum was:
- Such a complete reversal of conduct between neighbors could happen so quick; one day Hutu kids and Tutsi kids were playing together in the front yard and the next one family is slaughtering the other.
- This isn’t “ancient” history, as I had imagined the Holocaust was when I was a kid; just over twenty years ago “between 500,000 and one million Rwandans, predominantly Tutsis, were massacred”A. There are rumors that retaliation is still taking place today, so we cannot console or delude ourselves by arguing “Oh, that happened a long, long time ago. Nothing like that could ever happen today.” Apparently hatred and bigotry are timeless values.
- The museum pointed out the crucial role that propaganda played in this event. That shouldn’t have been so surprising; there is a long history of the influence of propaganda being implicated in human atrocities. I am surprised that the Supreme Court wasn’t aware of that connection when they made their decision.
In spite of the Constitution, we have in the past placed limits on free speech and we have placed limits on corporations. Shouting “fire” in crowded theaters may be the most infamous example given for the first, while antitrust laws readily come to mind in the second case – all in the name of fairness. Considering past abuses, reasonable attempts to level the playing field here are entirely consistent with the principles embodied by our founding fathers and the goals of good government. The Citizens United decision, on the other hand, puts us well on our way toward a transition from the “one person, one vote” model that I have come to know and love, to the “one dollar, one vote” model that seems to be in vogue of late. Not everybody would consider that an improvement.