The Citizens United decision to allow unlimited funding of political candidates by corporations and other entities has led to charges of profligate spending on both the Left and the Right. But it’s all just a new flare-up of the perpetual question of campaign funding. (Remember when a much earlier version of John McCain actually had his name on a campaign finance reform bill?)
Here’s my problem with the whole debate: The mantra of the armies of the Right (I include in this broad category Republicans, Tea Partiers, and Libertarians) has to do with individual responsibility. They assert that individuals can make better decisions about what’s good for them than the government can. That implies that people generally think for themselves. But do they?
The fortunes spent on political advertising imply the opposite. No one would spend these huge sums of money if it didn’t work. Politicians and the groups who support them obviously believe that simplified, magnified messages do influence voters, regardless of whether they’re true or even make sense, and specifically will sway the legion of Independents in the US electorate (those who went for Obama two years ago but are trending Right this year). In other words, people are sheep, susceptible to the most blatant, lowest-common-denominator propaganda that the political message-masters and ad agencies can come up with.
If, on the one hand, people are so easily influenced by simplistic messages (“Yes We Can,” anyone?), yet, on the other, we believe they ought to think for themselves, shouldn’t all political advertising be banned?
But that would be anti-Libertarian! Or at least anti-free market. So I don’t see anyone on the Right bewailing Citizens United. They’re perfectly happy to extol the independent judgment of the citizenry, while accepting unlimited funds to saturate the media with lies and third-grade-level insults—funds, by the way, from corporations whose employees have no say in where the profits they help earn are going. Only those on the Left—who themselves receive large contributions from unions, and are engaging in the same low tactics to a lesser degree—seem to have a problem with the Supreme Court’s bizarre decision to treat corporations and groups as if they were citizens.
Isn’t there a fundamental logical fallacy here? Are people sheep? Or are they their own best shepherds? Can the Right have it both ways?