Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Shame, Guilt, or Satisfaction?

You will recall the Supreme Court decision that declared corporations were persons, and that money represents speech. You may also recall that President Obama in his State of the Union address a year ago pointed out this would open the floodgates of private money overwhelming the democratic process, and Justice Alito shaking his head no. This decision, almost certainly the worst and most harmful since the horrible Dred Scott decision of 1857, has proven to be every bit as bad as Obama predicted it would be. You could easily argue it spelled the end even of the pretense we had of democracy up to that time. How demonstrably bad this decision is/was can be seen at the moment with unidentified corporate and private money pouring in to the election process and having a profound effect on it. It is not out of line to point out that a very few billionaires are having an unprecedented influence in the election process. The Superpacs behind Romney, for example, have effectively blown Gingrich out of the race and will no doubt do the same to Santorum. This threat to our democracy is so great that Obama, who was opposed to it, has now had to appeal for Superpacs of his own to counter the Rove/corporate fortunes they have pledged against him. Now, as Robert Reich has said, we will have billionaires on the right opposing billionaires on the left to determine the outcome of the election. Reich believes Obama should have resisted asking for Superpac support on the grounds he could have done just as well by refusing to participate in this development and would therefore have garnered even more small donation support. I agree with this in theory but I also believe it would be thoroughly impractical in reality. I think Obama has no other choice. I wonder, however, if there are enough billionaires on the left to counter all those on the right. However this plays out during this current electoral process, if allowed to continue over time, it will surely spell the end of even any pretense of democracy here in the United States. I believe it is fundamentally absurd to argue that corporations are persons and that money represents speech.

What I really wonder about is that now the extremely deleterious effects of this awful decision are becoming apparent, now that it is demonstrably corrupting our electoral process, what do the Supreme Court Justices truly feel about it. It is obvious they made a terrible mistake, and equally obvious (I think) it was a political decision that should never have been made by what is supposed to be a nonpolitical entity. Now that it has become visible in all its absurdity, and exposed for what it is, do they feel any shame in having been exposed? Shame, of course, is not something experienced in a vacuum, it has to be public, external. If they do not feel shame for what they have done, perhaps they feel guilty. Guilt is something you can experience privately, you can feel guilt over something even if no one else is aware of what you have done. Guilt, unlike shame, is internal, private, unless perhaps confessed at some point. I wonder if any of our current Justices will ever admit to either shame or guilt. If they can ignore public shame over their disgraceful decision, and if they do not feel guilt over it, perhaps they are satisfied. After all, it would appear their decision to aid the development of fascism in America, is working. As I do not believe they are stupid I can only believe this was their intention. Unless something is done quickly to reverse this shameful decision it will do irreparable damage to our nation.

Here again I think one of the major shortcomings of our (presumed) democracy is apparent. It is often just too slow a process to effectively compete against more dictatorial regimes (I am not suggesting we should aspire to a more dictatorial regime). In this case the deed has been done, the Court has spoken, what has been done cannot be undone without a Constitutional amendment, an amendment that can take years to accomplish, while in the meantime the corporate fingers around our throats will just get stronger. It also reveals, at least to me, the problems with the Supreme Court itself, not the least of which is that they have too much power. Being lifetime appointments it is virtually impossible to replace one of the Justices no matter how egregiously they abuse their powers (how often has a Justice ever been impeached). There is no retirement age for members of the Court, they can continue on no matter how out of touch with recent developments or how senile they become. They should not be allowed to decide themselves whether or not they should have to be recused from cases in which they have obvious conflicts of interest. The Supreme Court is supreme only in the sense there is no other court above them. To have faith and confidence in the Court it has to be assumed they are honorable men and women, scrupulously objective, dedicated to justice and fairness to all. I don’t know if the Court historically has ever been completely what it should have been, but it is clear to me the current one is certainly open to question. After all, they have made some terrible decisions that would appear to have been purely political in intent, when they intervened in Florida, for example, and proclaimed Bush the winner, a decision so bad even they said at the time it could not serve as a precedent in the future. And now their ridiculous decision about corporate personhood that seems to me to be also purely political. The Roberts Court has disgraced itself and undermined their credibility, instead of being fair and balanced they have become unconstitutionally and illegally partisan. Imagine how much worse it could become if a Republican were now elected to the Presidency.

What power has law where only money rules.

Gaius Petronius

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