puny change means nothing
by Jerome Armstrong, Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 10:32:33 PM EST
Last week in a post against Corporate Personhood, it also contained Lawrence Lessig's criticism (with mine) of the Democratic proposal in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United. Larry Tribe replied yesterday with a post over at the Huffington Post in favor of realism:
I'd be the first to concede that each such response would be merely incremental. And I'd concede that, even together, the responses I favor wouldn't undo all the damage the Court has done over the years by essentially equating money with speech, by increasingly treating corporations as mere "associations" of individuals, and by equating for-profit business corporations with corporations whose very purpose is political advocacy. But this isn't an area where we can afford to let the perfect remain the enemy of the good. It makes great copy to claim that nothing short of reform too radical to be attainable need be taken seriously. But the problems presented by the Citizens United ruling are too important for those who lament that decision to let things get worse in the comforting but misleading hope that, if we just let things get bad enough, the people will arise from their slumber and join hands to effect radical improvement.
This Court has become an angry old dog which has now bitten four times in a row. (The government is 0 for 4 in its defense of campaign finance regulations)... And I don't think you have to be a complete cynic about the Supreme Court to read their decisions to signal that this revolution is not yet over... the Court has launched itself on a radical remaking of First Amendment law in the context of campaign finance regulation.
There's a minor quibble between the two about whether the majority of the court will find foreign political expenditures (ie, corporations that are foreign-owned) protected as speech (of course they will unless they are coherently consistent), but Lessig, who has broke away from the Democratic Party, has a bigger target:
But here I have to get off the bus. For if it is realism that we need, how about this for "realism": Fifteen months ago, America elected the most compellingly progressive president in fifty years. It also elected the largest Democratic majority in the House and Senate in more than a generation. Yet practically every major reform that this young president has promised is now stalled in Congress. Health care languishes. Global warming legislation is no longer even discussed. The financial services sector has yet to be re-regulated (Congress is taking a break from that while they shuttle back and forth to Wall Street fundraisers). The bold effort to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency has died the death of a thousand cuts, as exception after exception has been inserted into this the mother of Swiss cheese reform.
All true. And like Lessing, I find the notion that Republicans are to blame the worst sort of wimpy-realism-- the sort of noxious claim that will result in democrats surely losing this opportunity of majority leadership. Likewise, the claim by some Democrats (especially the Bayh types) that things are ungovernable is a sure way to convince the populace that you can't govern.
The reason is simple. Our Democrats haven't stood united for anything big in the way of reform. More Lessig:
Somehow this Administration forgot to "take up that fight." Somehow it has allowed the enemy to become the second largest political party in America (Republicans) rather than the single most vilified profession (lobbyists, just below lawyers and used car dealers). Somehow Obama has been convinced that his promise of bold leadership was a mistake. Somehow he has come to believe that realistic if puny ideas are the ways of transformational presidents like Reagan and FDR.
Yet somehow we have got to get this president to recognize that it was the "realism" of 2009 that was his mistake. What American democracy needs right now is leadership. It needs a President who shows us a way to restore our democracy. It needs the anger and impatience of the Republican Roosevelt (Teddy), railing against the corrupting influence of money in politics. It needs the strategic brilliance of the Democratic Roosevelt (Franklin), architecting the long and difficult campaign to, as Arnold Hiatt put it, "convince a reluctant nation to wage war to save democracy."
...And thus the frustration of those of us whose support for this President is baked into our DNA: It is possible that he is the only political figure in America today who could convince this Nation to this essential change. Yet he has been convinced to be "realistic." And with this "realism" dies any hope of real reform.
Now, I think there's a chance that the overall dynamic could change (I don't think CFR will happen until we have 5 justices that don't equate corporate speech with speech by people). I've believed since a few months ago that the HRC would go by way of reconciliation, and probably even get better than the Senate version (hopefully with the addition of a public option). I'm probably being way to optimistic, but I also think that by late summer, the Democrats will have begun to turn around the disaster in the making of '10 that everyone is now predicting. It's not like the nation is ready to turn to the Republicans again-- everyone knows they won't govern. There's a chance that Democrats finally start, and it would begin with putting HCR into reconciliation.
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