Some months ago, the Supreme Court of these United States interpreted the definition of “individual” to include corporations. One of the huge changes this brought about was in the way Corporations could donate to political candidates, and through their donations, the amount of influence their dollars could buy. It struck me as wrong then, and continues to bother me when it comes to mind. Finally I have realized what there is about this interpretation of the law that has resonated so deeply in me.
It is simply this: That pronouncement by the Supremes has put us one step closer to a situation where we will no longer be able to honestly claim status as a Republic that functions at the will of its people. I purposely do not use the word Democracy because it was never the intent of the Founding Fathers that we be a true Democracy. The United States of America was set up to be a Republic. It could make some claim to being a Democracy because power through election of representatives did reside with the people. The problem was that the vote was only available to certain well-born citizens. One had to be male. One had to be Caucasian and of European ancestry. One had to own land. One had to be of means. Women, Native Americans, non-whites, share-croppers… none of these need show themselves at the polling places. So, unless a resident of this new land fit the criteria established for voting, he or she had very little influence on the government and thus on how that government effected his or her life.
From those early days until now there was at least an attempt to widen the number of those who might vote. Restrictions were eliminated and amendments to the Constitution were passed so that every citizen who reached the required age and had met the minimal requirements for registration could then take part in the process, and participate in the election of those who would lead their country. Color barriers came down, woman’s suffrage succeeded and poll taxes were declared illegal and done away with. Unions strengthened the position of the workers, bringing about the election of politicians who seemed to respect the aims and aspirations of the “common” man and woman.
Slowly, ever so slowly the melting pot was stirred. The great migrations that brought immigrants here also added to the strengths of the country itself. People came. People came and went to work in the sweat shops and factories because they believed in the American Dream, and their belief was without reservation. They worked and saved, spilled their blood and pushed their children toward an education that would elevate them on the ladder of success. Even if it was one wrung at a time and per generation, people believed their children would do better and their grandchildren even better still. They believed it and to many, it happened. Poor people aspired to “middle Class,” and the Middle Class could aspire, if not to huge wealth, at least to reaching a status of comfort that was essentially free of day-to-day financial worries.
The American Society advanced. Any boy could have been elected president, or so the saying went. That was then, many believed the dream. But times change.
The last “everyman” president was Harry S Truman. Since that time, all of our Presidents have been people of wealth. Most people who reach national or even state-wide office are people of wealth. People without a great deal of money are generally frozen out. Millionaires, even billionaires, are buying their way into office by staging media blitzes that the average man or woman can never, ever equal. The wealthy, as never before are in a position to wag the tail of Government.
Soon, very soon we will see the results of the Supreme Court’s ruling that because Corporations are now being seen as individuals, they can donate to candidates with no greater restrictions than those imposed on any individual. The wealth of those at the top of the financial heap can now be used to buy unprecedented television, radio, newspapers and internet advertising, presenting a barrage to the perspective voter and truth is not always the prime motivator.
The prime motivator is power. Corporations will donate to candidates and buy media time for them for reasons that are simple enough. They wish to increase their power and preserve their financial status. Proof of that was seen when the Corporation behind the Target Department Store chain donated $150,000.00 to a virulently anti-gay Conservative Republican candidate in the State where the corporate office is located. They explained to their employees that they did this because through this candidate they could most likely secure a more favorable tax break. So, it amounted to an attitude that says, “To hell with our gay patrons, we need to feed our already profitable bottom line!” This is but one example of the wave of the future.
People of wealth will continue to interfere with and out-right buy elections. People who will not benefit from the election of these individuals will continue to vote for them because they believe the lie. They believe that the influence of their vote makes them an equal partner in the process, when all the while the influence they might have had is shrinking away just as the Middle Class itself is being bled dry and also shrinking away. The people are becoming angry with government. Much of their anger is directed at the President because they too believe the myth that “the buck stops here.” The fact is, this President, as likely no other before him, is at the mercy of a group of corporate influenced types who would not back an absolute cure for cancer if this president was behind it. Those at the opposite end of the Political spectrum have as much as said that this President must not succeed.
Yet people back these obstructionists. They back them with their votes and in so doing they vote against their own best-interests. By doing so, these people who swear to love the country, are greasing the slide that hurtles us toward the day when there will be no real influence in this country except that meted out by the very wealthy and the corporate “individuals.” The Middle Class will not be preserved as the slide toward poverty continues. The poor will become poorer. The wealth of this country will continue to be owned by the top two or three percent of its citizens and Congress will continue to pass laws to their benefit. Those at the top of the heap will reign as the Oligarchs of this New Age. This Republic that aspired to be a true Democracy will continue to degenerate into the Oligarchy it is rapidly becoming.