The End of Democracy, or Maybe Not

Jan 31, 2010

A big headline in the news during the past week has been the recent Citizens United vs. the Federal Electoral Committee decision. I haven't really seen anyone celebrating the decision. Or at least I haven't seen anyone celebrating in person; I have seen pundits arguing about the case on national television. The response of the politically activists I know seems to be of disbelief and anger. The response of everyone else seems to be indifference. Although a lot of people will scoff at this as just another example of the poor state of society today, I'm not sure that indifference is an irresponsible response in this case.

I am not a fan of the decision that limiting campaign contributions is unconstitutional, and am certainly not pleased by the thought of corporations being able to effectively buy politicians through huge contributions, but I wonder wether huge money on campaign adds will actually put an election in the bag. More expensive doesn't necessarily mean better, and if both sides of an election are getting and spending huge amounts of cash, the winner will be the one that uses the money most effectively.

Another thing that a lot of people are forgetting about is that although restrictions are not allowed now, disclosures are still constitutionally safe. If drastic campaign contribution disclosure law is enacted, ads will have to read “paid for by the Monsanto Corporation.” Although the American electorate may not be the most observant in the world, I think this will be a very effective tool in limiting the power corporations have over the vote.

I think this decision will only make the deals between politicians and corporations more visible, because of the reaction to it. For example, this was just introduced to the House last week:

The Shareholder Protection Act, H.R. 4537, would:

* Ensure that shareholders' political interests are accurately represented by their corporation.
* Require an authorizing vote of a majority of shareholders before general treasury funds can be spent on political activities.
* Require quarterly notification to all shareholders on corporations' contributions or expenditures for political activities.” Source

People could become more discerning about where their vote is going by seeing who gives to politicians.


Dear Griffin, Great post.

Submitted by max_L on Mon, 2010-02-01 01:27.

Dear Griffin,

Great post. This is an important issue that, as you said, many people aren't interested in now, but which will have a huge effect on the future. It also seems like the many components of the decision are extremely complicatd, so we'll definitely see some interesting changes with time. But as it stands now, the implications are enormous.

While inaction isn't normally encouraged with respect to the political system, I can see where you're coming from when you say "Although a lot of people will scoff at this as just another example of the poor state of society today, I'm not sure that indifference is an irresponsible response in this case." The campaign laws are so complex and beyond the concerns of most individuals in society that there is not much any person or even moderatly sized group could do to change them. In addition to this, I agree with your assesment that more money won't hand one politician an election. Effective use will continue to be the most important criteria, especially with the highly touted power of the internet and social networking.

The big thing we should be concerned about is the chances of third parties and the opinions they represent. If they had no chance in the system before, then in my opinon, they definitely don't have one now. They may not even be able to sway elections anymore, such as Nader did in 2000, if they are effectively drounded out by the increasingly large campaings of main party candidates. But with corporations wanting to gain as much influence as possible, they will contribute to the well known candidates that voters will recognize. Third party members just won't be able to keep up.

I'm also interested to hear your thoughts on the idea of considering corporations as individuals. I can see how this would be necessary in regards to some issues for the sake of simplicity, but in this case it seems somewhat objectionable. Most individuals don't have huge budgets to spend for political influnce, but many corporations do. Keep up the good posts!


nice. Thats is so cool.

Submitted by rhahminah on Thu, 2010-02-04 10:37.

nice. Thats is so cool. THanks for posting this up. your smart