Friday, January 22, 2010

A Legal Scholar I Am Not ...

Yesterday was a big news day.

Conan O'Brien was given $45 million for himself and his staff to pack up their things, clearing the way for Jay Leno to return to the "The Tonight Show" on March 1.

Also, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can spend unlimited sums of money in efforts to elect the candidates of their choice which means that corporations can also spend unlimited sums of money in efforts to quash the candidates who are not their choice.

Which story were you and your friends talking about?

This morning, an e-mail from Doreen arrived in which she wrote:"Did you watch Keith's special comment last night? If you have not watched it, save your answer for post-viewing. Question: Is he exaggerating or are we all going to be serfs in 10 years?"

I hadn't watched it last night. But thanks to the Internet, I called it up this morning. You can read the text or watch the video here.

And then I replied to Do:

"I think Keith tends toward the dramatic, so I don't immediately accept the entire doomsday scenario.

But I do think the Supreme Court's ruling, while technically legal, has set us on a dangerous path.

The one saving grace, of course, will be an informed citizenry. It is us, after all, who cast the votes. The corporations can buy the ads and the ads may lie, but that doesn't mean the truth won't be out there.

Maybe now, the country will get off its collective ass and give a shit again.

Or maybe it won't. In which case, we'll get what we deserve for our apathy."

Is yesterday's ruling indeed the second coming of Dred Scott? Olbermann certainly seems to think so. But whereas that decision intended to forever render black citizens not citizens at all, not in the sense intended by our founding (white) fathers, yesterday's decision declared that corporations, having the same rights as individual citizens, must not have their "voices" restricted.

Except that corporations, of course, no matter the legal distinctions, are not the same as citizens. Most corporations have much more money than most citizens. There are exceptions, of course – Oprah, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett – but generally speaking, Joe Q. Public's bank accounts don't look the same as, say, Halliburton's.

Halliburton, of course, can't step into a voting booth. But every employee of Halliburton can. And it can throw millions upon millions of dollars behind its chosen candidate in any given election. Which translates, in our current political system, into buying its candidate of choice. And once a candidate is bought, he or she will be expected to do the bidding of the entity that got them there.

You see the problem.

It can be argued that politicians in Washington (and elsewhere) are already beholden to corporations and special interests, that the system is already broken. Lobbyists hold far more sway than constituents.

But part of that is the constituents' fault. I have friends, Doreen chief among them, who are very engaged in politics. But she is the exception, not the rule, in our society.

The morning of November 4, 2008, was the only time I've ever had to wait to vote, and not just because I arrived at my polling place before it opened.

In every other election in which I've participated, I've always walked right up to a voting machine after signing the voter roll, page after blank page, only a few signatures in a sheaf.

People don't bother to vote. People bitch, of course, about all sorts of situations, but many, and often those who bitch the loudest, don't take the time to get to know the candidates' platforms and then go to their polling places on election day and cast their votes.

L.A. Dave regularly lamented the dearth of voters at his polling place on election day. He always voted. He loved the "I voted!" sticker he'd receive after his ballot was cast. He had more than just a casual interest in politics. He studied it in college.

But everyone needn't be that invested. They just have to care. It's our country, after all. Nature abhors a vacuum. If we're all exercising our right to vote, for whatever and whomever we choose, we have a loud say.

But if we stay home? If we can't be bothered? If we don't think our vote matters? Well, then, we're right.

A vote uncast doesn't matter. Because a vote uncast doesn't count. Literally.


Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

I once heard that "You can't bitch if you don't vote" and thought it was appropriate. Not that that stops people from bitching, but lends credibility to those that do.

You don't have to be in tune with every issue of your candidate. Maybe you like her stand on abortion or that he's a fiscal conservative. Or maybe you just like his hair. Be and independent thinker, don't just vote party lines.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Norwegian Shooter said...

Great post! I especially liked your hook. Keep it up.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People all over the world die every day fighting for freedom and the right to vote. People in this country died so others could win the right to vote. To throw away that opportunity is a sin.

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've heard many lamenting that we are now a "corporatocracy". Somehow that shows a tremendous lack of faith that people can think for themselves and won't simply accept voting for someone because a particular company thinks it's a good idea--even if they work for that particular company. The last I checked, ballots are still secret and the populace doesn't have an overriding faith in companies, especially when many have proven that they are not trustworthy of such faith. They may spend their money, albeit foolishly, but we don't have to listen to them. We can still think for ourselves and vote accordingly.

10:04 PM  

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