Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Yes, ‘Big Money’ in Politics Fosters Ideological Debate—and That’s a Good Thing

New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist John Farmer attacked Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that overturned limits on campaign spending by independent groups, in a novel (to me) way. Farmer’s declared, Thanks to Citizens United ruling, we have toxic big money tainting our electoral process.

In what way does big money taint our electoral process? Farmer explains:

[T]he [political] process was tainted even in the era of the sainted Founding Fathers. But what has made it more toxic to our democracy in today's high-cost, technology-driven era is ... you guessed it ... moolah, jack, simoleons, shekels, the green stuff.

Money. Big money, as ushered in by the five-man conservative Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision.

The court opened the flood gates for unlimited campaign cash when it equated money to speech in Citizens United and endowed corporations with standing in law as persons. (Where in the Constitution did these self-styled strict constructionists find that one?)

Let's say, for argument sake, that money is speech. If that's true then there can be no political equality in this country. For while those with mountains of cash for politics - giant corporations and individual billionaires (a.k.a. the Koch brothers) - have a megaphone, the rest of us are, by comparison, mute.

Yes, mute! I’ve addressed that ridiculous, commonly advanced claim in detail. But Farmer doesn’t stop there. He goes on:

The new cash crop has also helped fuel something else relatively new in American politics - the growth of ideological fever.

Ideology - an issue or cause-based politics independent of parties or old political alliances - was a European thing that included communism, fascism, Nazism, and radicalism of many stripes. Sure, we've had a form of socialism here, but a mild inoffensive strain. Mostly, we've been spared the kind of ideological excess that plagued Europe.

Today, however, a kind of radicalism exists beneath the surface of both major parties - a no-limits liberalism among Democrats that brooks no restraint on social spending and a cranky, constipated conservatism in the GOP that sees only villainy in the federal government, a "great Satan," you might say.

The emphasis is mine. I left these comments:

Let me translate this column: “Fresh, unregulated cash” feeds public discussion of ideas, often fundamental ideas. Fundamental ideas leads to “ideology,” which only means “communism, fascism, Nazism, and radicalism of many stripes.” Ideology only supports totalitarianism. There is no ideology to support a free society.

And that is complete hogwash.

Ideology—a coherent set of fundamental ideas and principles—is not the enemy. Bad ideology is the enemy, and the only defense against bad ideology is good ideology. Without an antidote to bad ideology, we are at the mercy of it. Fortunately, there is such an antidote. This country was Founded on a radical set of fundamental ideas, or ideology; individual rights, a government of the people constitutionally limited to protecting those rights, and by logical extension a democratic process that limits the power of the majority. For the first time, the individual as sovereign over his own life, and government as his servant. That is the antidote to communism, fascism, Nazism, and any other ideology that holds that the individual is subordinate to the state—including today’s Leftist brand of state supremacist ideology, which holds that anything the government does is good, as long as a majority votes for it.

So who is really threatened by “fresh, unregulated cash?” Leftist politicians who govern according to bad ideology—that is, statism, the antithesis of the good ideology this country and a free society depends on. Protecting the power of statist politicians is the real motive of anyone who preaches that money in campaign politics is the enemy of “democracy.” The worst ideology is the one that smears all ideology as bad.

Money is not speech. It is a means to speech, and it requires lots of money to reach a mass audience. When those with the means bring ideas to a mass audience, they don’t “mute” anybody. Far from it. They empower those with lesser means, because they speak for all that agree with the message. They expose their ideas to rebuttal from those who disagree. They foster public debate in coffee houses, around kitchen tables, in social media, in online debate forums, in newspaper letters sections—anywhere ordinary people gather to chat. Big money doesn’t “taint our electoral process”: It fosters a more dynamic, informed, idea-filled process.

There is, however, a cabal for whom big money is toxic—the political class and their backers in the media and university intelligentsia. It is this free flow of ideas that the anti-money crowd wants to mute, so the statists can have a freer path to legislate, tax, control, and regulate without having to answer to those pesky constituents. They smear all ideology as bad in order to stop good ideology—and the “big money” that helps spread it—from getting in their way. I would call this crowd the anti-ideology ideologues.


Farmer’s argument amounts to: Free speech leads to totalitarianism. Therefor, the First Amendment’s absolute ban on Congress’s abridgement of free speech must be repealed, thus taking the first step toward totalitarianism.

Farmer evades or ignores the fact that behind the “mild inoffensive strain” of socialism that has been eating away, termite-like, at the foundations of American liberty for several generations is the drip-drip-drip of the same radical socialist ideology that led Europe down the path to communism, fascism, Nazism—or that the only antidote to this inexorable drift is radical capitalist ideology.

Related Reading:

Extremists vs. the Moderates: Why the Left Keeps Winning, and the Right has been Powerless to Stop It

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