The McCain/Feingold campaign finance law has been a democratic disaster--leading to an increase in the percentage of incumbents winning re-election. The Supreme Court's incorrect decision on January 21, 2010, CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, therefore, won't make much difference in the manner that elections are influenced. Corporations control nearly all of the information that we consume anyway.
Perhaps the Supreme Court decision was a shot across the bow of the Tea Party movement, the organization with the most chance of successfully breaking the corporate strangle-hold on government. The Tea Parties constitute a glimmer of hope amid the corporate fog, along with the few and the brave unbeholden news reporting services such as Democracy Now, Bill Moyers, and TruthDig.com. They don't have to completely shut up the independent movements and thinkers; they can just drown them out.
Albert Einstein said in 1949 that
under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
Do you suspect that it's any better 61 years later?
One of the best arguments against the inane and hopefully incendiary ruling by the Court was stated by Kermit Roosevelt of the University of Pennsylvania. Corporations are made up of people, but it is wrong to see corporations themselves as people.
The decision is a bad thing for democracy. It reflects a misunderstanding of the First Amendment. Corporations are not people and do not have constitutional rights, properly speaking, so a justification for applying the First Amendment here must rest on the listeners. The interests that corporate speech promotes could be promoted by actual people -- typically, the shareholders or employees of a corporation -- so there is no compelling reason to give the corporation rights to promote it. And given the ability of corporations to drown out real people, there are good reasons not to.Corporations are not people. People are. We should be allowed to speak for ourselves. We don't need our corporate overlords to do it for us and then tell us to shut up.
In his book Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges writes that
Power lies with the corporations. These corporations, not we, pick who runs for president, for Congress, for judgeships, and for most state legislatures. You cannot, in most instances, be a viable candidate without their blessing and money. These corporations, including the Commission on Presidential Debates (a private and corporately controlled organization), determine who gets to speak and what issues candidates can or cannot challenge -- from universal, not-for-profit, single-payer health care to Wall Street bailouts, to NAFTA. If you do not follow the corporate script, you will certainly become as marginal and invisible as Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, or Cynthia McKinney.
It was that way before the Citizens United decision. The Court's decision was a travesty, but it won't change anything. It will merely cement the wrongs of McCain/Feingold. Americans, once proud of their individual initiative, now cow before our fascist state. Hedges writes
Individualism is touted as the core value of American culture, yet most of us meekly submit to the tyranny of the corporate state. We define ourselves as democracy, and meanwhile voting rates in national elections are tepid, and voting on local issues is often in the single digits. We are blinded, enchanted, and finally enslaved by illusion.
Empire of Illusion, p. 182
Corporations are not people, although legally in America they are now considered as such, except that they don't need to suffer the risks (i.e. consequences) that real people experience.
Corporations won't rule the world someday; they already do.