For decades, if not for a century or more, we in the United States have been proud to believe that our Supreme Court has made decisions, for the most part, without the influence of partisan politics, public pressure, or historical tradition. No political party, no group of protestors or no matter the number of years a situation had been in place would divert them from the fairness of their judgment.
But is that still true? Or has the Supreme Court of the United States, the last line of defense for the average citizen, been taken over by reactionary forces fueled by conservative corporate power and corruptive religious influence?
In 1954 and 1955, in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court, in an era when segregations was coming to an end and violence dissention was an everyday part of the lives of many Americans, as African-Americans finally stood up for their equal rights, the Supreme Court made a statement about equality in life and education.
In 1963, in Gideon v. Wainwright the Supreme Court decided that those accused of a crime have the right to legal counsel.
In 1966, Miranda v. Arizona said that it could not be assumed that an accused knows that self-incrimination is not mandatory and must be advised of the right to remain silent.
In 1973, Roe v Wade said that a woman has the right to abort a fetus unless it can survive outside the womb, even if that requires artificial assistance. In other words, the decision of whether or not to abort a fetus is not that of the state but of the woman, under the prescribed circumstances. Prior to this in almost all states, abortion for any reason was a crime.
In 1978, in Buckley v.Valeo, the Supreme Court said that there can be limits on campaign contributions but that in general, spending money to influence elections is a form of free speech. .
In all these decisions, which, in some respects made up for the bad decisions of earlier centuries, like the Dred Scott decision, that some human beings could be considered property of others, the Supreme Court seemed to moving forward with society as people became more egalitarian and more socially conscious. But, are they still?
Today, equality of races, sexual preferences and social conduct are totally accepted. They are accepted because we live in a society whose Constitution guarantees these personal freedoms so long as they do not impinge upon the rights of others. But there are segments of society who still believe that we should not be governed by the will of the People, but by the will of God, as they interpret it.
In the last several years, under the George W. Bush Administration, the Republicans added two very Right Wing, devout Catholic, semi-fanatical religious leaders to the Supreme Court. Both Samuel Alito and John Roberts are highly conservative Roman Catholics who believe that in matters of faith, which would include such things as abortion, marriage, divorce, homosexuality and apparently everything but priest pedophilia, the Pope has the infallible answer, one that they are obliged to follow. At the same time, however, they maintain the image to the American people of impartiality. The evidence that they are anything but impartial is evident to anyone who examines their decisions.
In the recent question of whether the Constitution declares that a corporation is, first of all, an individual, and second, has the individual’s right to give money to directly influence the election of a government official, they side with the corporations. The corporations maintain that it is their right to act as any other individual would act and give whatever amount of money that they can afford to a candidate.
In 2003, in McConnell v Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decided that Corporations could be restrained according to the Federal election laws that created certain restrictions upon the influence of corporations and unions. In order to exercise free speech, certain time limitations were put on large organizations, and the direct influence—the one-to-one equation of a dollar going directly to a campaign or to an ad directly influencing a campaign about that specific candidate, was controlled.
In other words, in 2003, there were restraints on how hugely powerful influences could interfere in elections. This most recent judicial opinion of January 2010, now says that these large corporations and large unions, and perhaps other large groups may directly intervene with any amount of money necessary to defeat a candidate who does not adopt their position. In fact, who knows whether the Catholic Church itself may not be able to run ads against individual candidates of any religion who do not follow the Pope’s lead?
Certainly Halliburton, the recipient of multi-billions of dollars as a government military contractor, will be able, from their headquarters in Dubai and in conjunction with Arab leaders, to use some of those billions to insure that another George W. Bush is elected and another Richard Cheney who will again give them the ten to twelve billion dollars in non-competitive contracts that they received from 2001-2008.
The oil companies currently run ads daily reminding us that we must drill, baby, drill. If a candidate now decides that we must rid ourselves of foreign oil and says that we need to examine other methods than drilling off the coast of Miami Beach or Laguna Beach of South Padre Island, the oil companies will attack. Not “may” attack. They will attack.
The oil companies like Koch (who founded and endow the Cato Institute) and EXXON can simply create the kinds of monstrous lies, similar to those that they sponsor on Rush Limbaugh every day. They will run these commercials…thanks to Justice Roberts and Justice Alito and Justice Thomas and Justice Kennedy and Justice Scalia. They will run them until bury that candidate in so much untruth and filth that he or she will be unable to recover. That is how money will now pervade politics.
The Republicans and Senator McConnell want to say that it is about “free speech” for corporations. Is it? Do you, as a stockholder, have a decision in whether a large corporation will bury the local House of Representative candidate? That House member may be voting to keep them from drilling in your town square and they may decide to take him out with a huge television campaign. How does that affect your free speech as a stockholder of that corporation? Has not your right to determine the free speech of that corporation been used against you?
This is about more than free speech in campaigns. It is about whether we may have come to the point where our political system has failed. With five members of the court, all Roman Catholic and conservative voting, clearly against the rest of society and for huge corporations and the reactionary forces of government, we must wonder about our ability to create an impartial Supreme Court, the final fail-safe segment of our Democracy.