New Campaign Finance Ruling, and a Zizekian approach to the ‘Citizens United’ case?
As many of you probably know, electoral campaign finance laws radically changed in the US in the wake of the 2009 Citizens United Supreme Court Case (I blogged about this before in regard to the notion of evolutionary ‘fitness landscapes’), in which it was deemed unconstitutional to forbid corporations to donate unlimited sums to campaign advocacy groups. While corporations can’t donate directly to campaigns, they can donate during campaigns to groups who advocate for certain issues, ie: anti-gay rights groups, in ways that can massively help candidates in all but name.
The logic behind this was that corporations are people, and they have free speech rights. Damn, I know. And they can do all this anonymously, and don’t have to even be corporations that are owned solely by shareholders in the US. Basically, corporations, including foreign ones, can now buy US elections.
The result of this was plain to see in the 2010 midterm congressional elections, in which Republicans won a massive sweep, largely financed by corporate donations. The Democrats have been left scrambling, either amass (and hence be owned by) corporations just as large, or lose. The Republicans have in tandem tried to limit the degree to which Unions can donate, because these are the only financial backers with the ability to fight back on the Democratic side.
Now a judge has just ruled that, based on the precedent set by Citizens United, it is no longer legal to prohibit corporations from donating DIRECTLY to candidates. This will of course be appealed, and who knows, could end up at the Supreme Court. I have little faith in the Roberts court, stacked by George W. Bush with two very young, very conservative appointees, that they would strike this down. But this is a more extreme step. It is possible that Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote, could change his mind. And perhaps even reverse some of Citizens United, or limit some of its more extreme effects.
There’s an oddly Zizekian strategy here, though I doubt this was the judge’s intent. But the approach would be to take the logic behind Citizens United, namely, that corporations are simply collective people and therefore should have all the rights they do, to its extreme, until there’s really public outcry at where this leads. Public pressure CAN influence the Supreme Court. Therein perhaps lies our only hope, to swing Kennedy’s vote, because most of the rest are locked into place.
Citizens United is an absolute disaster, it’s really the end of what remained of democracy in the US. The playing field is irremediably biased, much more than it ever was before, since this ruling. Anyone who loves democracy needs to be thinking of strategies to repeal this decision and its effects, which will remain the law of the land until the Supreme Court reverses it, or a constitutional amendment is passed, which is all but impossible in today’s political climate.
Perhaps this approach of hyperbolization is one to consider. Of course, the risk, which is massive, is that it will backfire, and the Supreme Court could end up taking this yet even more extreme step. Of course, this could lead to massive voter backlash, and hence complete repeal, but this is still a dangerous path. But democracy has been so messed over by Citizens United, such that while we had a poor shadow of democracy in light of the influence of money on politics before that, that now what we have is really a farce.
And so we really need to be thinking continually of all legal means to have this terrible, terrible decision repealed, limited, or otherwise revoked.