More dispatches from the hysterical "Democracy is ruined, just ruined!" response to the Supreme Court's Citizens United campaign finance decision today. The opening paragraph from The New York Times story:
Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.
Take a moment to savor the language here. The "bitterly divided Court" carelessly "sweeps aside" 100 years of "important precedents." Bastards. Note that nowhere do the words "free speech" appear, despite the fact that at least five justices thought that's what this case was really about. (Admittedly, those words do appear in the next graf, but the bold declaration has already been made by then. And most people don't read past the first sentence anyway.)
Institute for Justice lawyer Bert Gall chronicles the shirt-rending in The Daily Caller and offers a tidy response:
Democracy 21, which lobbies for strict restrictions on free speech, warns ominously that the decision "is a disaster for the American people." Common Cause asserts that the decision has created a "political crisis." On its Web page, Public Citizen proclaims, in huge red lettering, that "SUPREME COURT UNDOES DEMOCRACY."
This hyperbole betrays a belief—common among proponents of restrictions on political speech—that Americans, like lemmings, are merely dull creatures who can be easily led off a cliff. Thus, unless the government "protects" us from hearing corporations' speech about politics, we'll always vote in ways that benefit corporations because they will spend lots of money to convince us to do so.
This conclusion is as ridiculous as it is patronizing. If corporations are capable of making the public do their bidding, then why isn't everyone driving their Edsels to Circuit City to purchase Betamax video recorders?
The answer, of course, is that Americans are not imbeciles who mindlessly succumb to corporate advertising campaigns. We are fully capable of evaluating corporate speech on its merits; thus, we do not need "protection" from it.