Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling coupled with their recent decisions to pretty much put political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal on a fast track to death and to disallow cameras in the historic same-sex marriage hearings in San Francisco, underscore what I have long noted about electoral politics.
Say what you will about the Presidency and whether he’s living up to all his promises, whoever sits in that chair gets to appoint justices to the Supreme Court and a bunch of judges in the lower Federal Courts. Throughout our history, many of our victories in the areas of Civil Rights have come via court decisions or through the President signing into a law after being pressured by the people. Unless you have an army or some sort of paramilitary outfit thats equipped to go the long haul and stage some sort of coup, many of the things we say we want and need in today’s society is going to come via political decision. This means we have to bone up on our political awareness. Know the key players, vulnerable touch points and play to win.
Having long-winded conversations about conspiracies, and the so-called elite and how small victories were won once upon a time before many of us were born is just plain foolish, at least in 2010. The decision made by the Supreme Court to allow corporations unlimited free speech is part of the Bush Sr legacy of court appointments he did over 20 years ago. I recall many of my activist colleagues back then talking the same stuff as now. ‘Voting doesn’t matter’, ‘don’t support evil‘, ‘the lesser of two evils is still evil’..blah blah blah.. We’ve heard this talk forever..and now its come back to haunt us..
20+ years ago many sat out the election when George Bush Sr took on Michael Dukakis and one of the end results was Bush Sr winning and then appointing Clarence Thomas to fill the seat vacated by Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Courts first and then only African-American Supreme Court justice. Since then Thomas has been that crucial ultra conservative vote on an ideologically divided court where a variety of important Civil Rights and social justice issues have been defeated or overturned in 5-4 decisions. Thomas’s decisions for the most part have been direct smacks in the face of the Civil Rights legacy of Marshall.
Sadly Thomas is just one of several super conservatives sitting on the Supreme Court. Back in 1986, many talked a good game about how voting didn’t matter when Ronald Regan won a second term and promptly appointed Anthony Scalia who is considered the leader of the court’s conservative wing.
20 years later we are still haunted by the appointment of Clarence Thomas
Fast forward 10-15 years to the start of George W Bush-era. First, we saw first hand how those appointments from 20 years ago came back to haunt us when the Supreme Court handed “W’ the White House seat over Al Gore in that historic hotly contested 2000 election, where Florida, hanging chads and accusations of suppressed votes took center stage. That alone should’ve been an eye opener. But it then again maybe it wasn’t, because Bush won a second term and appointed Justice John G Roberts who led the charge and wrote the majority opinion that took away any sort of constraints or corporations to speak and advocate during an election. We have yet to see what sort of unthinkable damage that can potentially do…
We already have enough challenges than to have to worry about multinational corporations jumping in the fray with no restraints. As we still have these long drawn out discussions about whether or not we should or should not vote or Obama and anyone else, I suggest folks take along hard look at who is sitting on those courts and start stepping up our game to make sure new appointees are not as conservative as their predecessors. The lesser of two evils may be all the difference in the world on who sits on the bench. We’ve seen judges decide on everything from Sean Bell’s police killers being get to go free to yesterday’s landmark Supreme Court decision. We know that the judge presiding over the Oscar Grant trial in California Robert Perry was appointed by conservative Governor Pete Wilson and of course we now know how Roberts showed lots of love and leniency to the corrupt officers involved in the Rampart scandal. You really can’t go take it to the streets and get meaningful change when it comes to judges.
It was a decision by San Antonio District Judge David Berchelmann that allowed fellow Judge Sharon ‘Killer’ Keller to get off for her horrific actions of closing her doors before a 5 o’clock deadline thus deny a death row appeal. This resulted in a man being put to death. But of course we have some who will say politics matters not.
We have to give voters in Houston/Harris county who obviously understood the importance of this and in 2008 swept out all but 4 judgeships. More of that needs to happen as a crucial step toward change
During the hey day of the Civil Rights struggle, the Federal courts were our friends..Today they are the institutions that are haunting us 10, 15 and 20 years down the line…What’s even more problematic is that nowadays those who have an ultra conservative agenda are moving in a direction where they are pushing to take their fight out of the legislative arenas and into the court system stacked with conservative judges…
I suggest people to take a look at Supreme Court rulings and than multiply them by 10 as you look at rulings made in lower courts and then you decide if you can afford to ignore politics..
Supreme Court’s ‘Radical and Destructive’ Decision Hands Over Democracy to the Corporations
By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted January 21, 2010.
“The Supreme Court has just predicted the winners of the next November election,” Sen. Chuck Schumer announced this morning. “It won’t be Republicans. It won’t be Democrats. It will be Corporate America.”
Indeed, in a momentous 5 to 4 decision the New York Times calleda “doctrinal earthquake,” the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an unprecedented ruling today that gives new significance to the phrase “corporate personhood.” In it, the Roberts court overturned the federal ban on corporate contributions to political campaigns, ruling that forbidding corporations from spending money to support or undermine political candidates amounts to censorship. Corporations, the court ruled, should enjoy the same First Amendment rights as individuals.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Supreme Court rejects “the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently under the First Amendment simply because such associations are not ‘natural persons.'”
In other words, as Stephen Colbert put it last year, “Corporations are people too.”
On a conference call with reporters following the decision, critics could not overemphasize the enormity of the ruling, whose implications will be visible as early as the upcoming midterm elections. Bob Edgar, head of the watchdog group Common Cause, called it “the Superbowl of really bad decisions.” Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign called it an “immoral decision” that will make an already untenable mix of money and politics even worse.
“This is the most radical and destructive campaign finance decision in the history of the Supreme Court,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21. “With a stroke of the pen, five justices wiped out a century of American history devoted to preventing corporate corruption of our democracy.”
Writing about the ruling, Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy described it as “a revolution in the law,” one that has been in the works for years thanks to conservative activism.
“Today’s decision is a huge gift to corporations from a Supreme Court that has been radicalized by right-wing ideology, whose political agenda was made obvious in the Bush v. Gore case and whose very political decision today only makes things worse.”
Of course, corporate cash has long had a corrupting influence on our politics, but never before has it been seen as some sort of fundamental freedom.
“This court has said it’s the constitutional right of a corporation to spend as much money as it wants to influence an election,” said Wertheimer.
The potential “fear factor” for politicians when it comes to the way they vote is huge. Members of Congress, who already spend a disproportionate amount of time fundraising to stay in office, now have reason to worry that their re-election chances will be derailed by corporations whose limitless funds can be aggressively used to protect their interests.
Writing for AlterNet last month, Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, argued that President Obama might never have been electedwith these new rules on the books:
Candidate Barack Obama was one sharp speaker, but he would not have been heard, and certainly would not have won, without the astonishing outpouring of donations from two million Americans. It was an unprecedented uprising-by-PayPal, overwhelming the old fat-cat sources of funding.
Well, kiss that small-donor revolution goodbye. If the Supreme Court votes as expected, progressive list serves won’t stand a chance against the resources of new ‘citizens’ such as CNOOC, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. Maybe UBS (United Bank of Switzerland), which faces U.S. criminal prosecution and a billion-dollar fine for fraud, might be tempted to invest in a few Senate seats.”
The case before the court, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, centered around a rabidly anti-Hillary Clinton documentary produced by the right-wing group Citizens United. In a statement, Citizens United called the ruling “a tremendous victory, not only for Citizens United but for every American who desires to participate in the political process.”
Meanwhile, President Obama, whose critics on the left have accused him of being beholden to Wall Street, has called upon Congress to “develop a forceful response to this decision.”
“With its ruling today,” he said, “the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for Big Oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”
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