Supreme Court creates billionaire’s democracy

Kevin Crittenden

A tiny slice of Americans just tightened their stranglehold on our crippled democracy.

Earlier this month, a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court paved the way for private dollars
to tip the scales of justice in favor of the uber-rich.

The decision eliminates aggregate limits on individual contributions to politicians.
This means that now, more than ever, money runs politics.

Most people don’t have fat stacks of cash to hand over to their favorite candidates.
In fact, less than one percent of the population gives more than $200 per election cycle to candidates, political action committees and political parties, according to

For a democracy, which is meant to reflect the will of its people, the impact of this ruling is devastating.

Part of the problem with the ruling majority’s thinking on this issue involves equating freedom of speech with the right to give money to fund political parties.

Senator John Roberts, who voted in favor of doing away with limits, wrote, “If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests and Nazi parades… it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”

The hyperexclusive ability to inject millions of dollars into politics is an obscene interpretation of the First Amendment.

Such thinking offers control of our government to the highest of the high bidders. People who flinch at the idea of dropping millions on a game of political roulette don’t make it to the table at all.

With income and wealth inequality at a historical high, this is a step explicitly designed to hand over the reigns to people like the Koch brothers — old money muckety-mucks whose loose billions cast a dubious shadow over the nation.

Of course money will always play a role in the political process, but we need to level the playing field.

Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Harvard, suggests the use of democracy vouchers to solve the problem of money rigged politics. I think this could help restore some balance in the system.

The basic idea is that a small amount of tax money is allocated to each citizen to distribute to the political party or candidate who they wish to support.

In this way, the artificially swollen impact of special interest groups or particularly wealthy individuals may be mitigated.

There’s already enough apathy, distrust of the government and political cynicism to stifle interest in the possibility of a responsible democracy.

In order for people to be willing to engage as actively democratic citizens, the government should at least bear the appearance of fairness.

Right now it doesn’t.

A campaign system financed by the one percent silences the voices of everyone else.

Kevin Crittenden can be reached at [email protected] or @kevlodius on Twitter.