The Universal Notebook: Democracy for sale

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In the two years since the conservative ideologues on the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Citizens United that corporations should be free to spend as much money as they want on U.S. elections, we have seen the predicted flood of ill-gotten gain pour into our democracy like Sandy into Jersey.

Just imagine what we could have done with the estimated $6 billion to $8 billion wasted on political pornography in 2012.

The good news is that the filthy lucre of the U.S. Chamber and Super PACs generally did not sway the outcome of elections. Close to $11 million was spent on Maine’s U.S. Senate race, for instance, and the numbers at the polls were the same as they were when the candidates announced – Angus King by a landslide, Charlie Summers with the hardcore GOP 30 percent and Cynthia Dill in the teens. We were all, however, forced to endure crass lies, distortions and hyperbole for several months while corporate fat cats tried to buy our votes.

Justice Samuel Alito recently defended the highly controversial Idiots United decision on the grounds that, unless all corporations were free to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, only media corporations would have free speech. Leave it to a conservative to argue that allowing big corporations to buy American elections is the American way.

For most of my life, from 1949 to 1987, the U.S. had the Fairness Doctrine in place, requiring that holders of broadcast licenses present all sides of issues in a fair, honest and balanced way. There is still an Equal Time provision for political candidates. We used to know how to regulate the political marketplace.

Now the quintet of court clowns who decided Citizens United, overturning more than a century of precedents, insist that money is free speech. Money is not speech and it certainly isn’t free speech. They also held that corporations are people. Only corporate stooges believe that. Never in a million years would the Founding Fathers, who conservatives are so fond of embracing (and misunderstanding), have contemplated granting the same rights to a legal entity that apply to human beings.

The Roberts Court is so wrong in so many ways, not the least of which being the American people’s complete loss of faith in the Supreme Court, that there are now several movements afoot to seek a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United.

Personally, I could support Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Saving American Democracy Amendment, which would amend the U.S. Constitution to make it clear that “1) Corporations are not persons with constitutional rights equal to real people, 2) Corporations are subject to regulation by the people, 3) Corporations may not make campaign contributions or any election expenditures, and 4) Congress and states have the power to regulate campaign finances.”

This makes so much common sense that there is no way it is ever going to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. The more likely scenario is that Obama-appointed justices will eventually reverse Citizens United. Neither corporations nor unions should be allowed to contribute to candidates or elections.

In the meantime, we have to put up with shadowy cabals pumping obscene amounts of money into state and national elections and delusional conservatives suppressing the vote and seeing phantom Black voters appear out of nowhere. It seems they just can’t believe that they couldn’t buy this election. Sorry, Mitt, but the truth is free and far more powerful than an expensive lie.

If we are not going to enact meaningful campaign finance reform however, maybe it is time to put democracy up for sale. Republicans want to privatize everything anyway, so why not elections?

Instead of corporate profits (made by exploiting workers, consumers and the environment) enriching television, radio and newspaper corporations with millions and billions in political advertising, maybe we should skip the middle men and let the money go straight to voters.

My Selling American Democracy Amendment would state that 1) registered voters are free to sell their votes to the highest bidder and 2) whoever buys the most votes wins. At least that way there would be no pretense of democratic purity, and the American people would get the benefit of the corrupt dollars, not the very media outlets that should be exposing the financial rot at the heart of the American political system.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.