OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, as promised, a special comment on the Supreme Court‘s ruling today in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
On the cold morning of Friday, March 6th, 1857, a very old man who was born just eight months and 13 days after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, a man who was married to the sister of the man who wrote “The Star Spangled Banner,” a man who was enlightened enough to have freed his own slaves and given pensions to the ones who had become too old to work, read aloud, in a reed-thin voice from a very long, handwritten document.
In it, he ruled on a legal case involving a slave brought by his owner to live in a free state yet to remain a slave. The slave sought his freedom and sued. And looking back over legal precedent and the Constitution, and the America in which it was created, this judge ruled that no black man could ever be considered an actual citizen of the United States. “They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order and all together unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations. And so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
The case of course was Dred Scott. The old man was the fifth chief justice of the United States of America, Roger Brooke Taney. The outcome, he believed, would be to remove the burning question of abolition of slavery from the political arena once and for all. The outcome, in fact, was the Civil War.
No American ever made a single bigger misjudgment. No American ever carried the responsibility for the deaths and suffering of more Americans on his shoulders. No American was ever more quickly vilified.
Within four years, Chief Justice Taney‘s rulings were being ignored in the south and the north. Within five, President Lincoln at minimum contemplated arresting him. Within seven, he died in poverty while still chief justice. Within eight, Congress had voted to not place a bust of him alongside those of the other former chief justices.
But good news tonight, Roger B. Taney is off the hook. Today, the Supreme Court of Chief Justice John Roberts, in a decision that might actually have more dire implications than Dred Scott v. Sanford, declared that because of the alchemy of its 19th century predecessors in deciding that corporations had all the rights of people, any restrictions on how these corporate beings spend their money on political advertising are unconstitutional.
In short, the First Amendment, free speech for persons, which went into effect in 1791, applies to corporations, which were not recognized as the equivalents of persons until 1886. In short, there are now no checks on the ability of corporations or unions or other giant aggregations of power to decide our elections. None.
They can spend all the money they want. And if they can spend all the money they want, sooner rather than later, they will implant the legislators of their choice in every office from president to head of the visiting nurse service. And if senators and congressmen and governors and mayors and councilmen and everyone in between are entirely beholden to the corporations for election and reelection to office, soon they will erase whatever checks there might still exist to just slow down the ability of corporations to decide the laws.
It is almost literally true that any political science fiction nightmare you can now dream up, no matter whether you are conservative or a liberal, it is now legal. Because the people who can make it legal can now be entirely bought and sold. No actual citizens required in the campaign fund raising process. And the entirely bought and sold politicians can change any laws. And any legal defense you can structure now can be undone by the politicians who will be bought and sold into office this November, or two years from now. And any legal defense which honest politicians can somehow wedge up against them this November or two years from now, that can be undone by the next even larger set of politicians who will be bought and sold into office in 2014 or 2016 or 2018.
Mentioning Lincoln‘s supposed ruminations about arresting Roger B. Taney, he didn‘t say the original of this, but what the hell. Right now you can prostitute all of the politicians some of the time, and prostitute some of the politicians all of the time, but you cannot prostitute all of the politicians all the time.
Thanks to Chief Justice Roberts, this will now change. Unless this near mortal blow is somehow undone, within ten years, every politician in this country will be a prostitute.
And now let‘s contemplate what the perfectly symmetrical money-driven world of that order might look like. Be prepared first for laws criminalizing or at least neutering unions. In today‘s court decision, they are the weaker of the non-human sisters unfettered by the court. So, as in ancient Rome or medieval England, they will necessarily be strangled by the stronger sibling, the corporations, so that they pose no further threat to the corporations‘ total control of our political system.
Be prepared then for the reduction of taxes for the wealthy, and for the corporations, and the elimination of the social safety nets for everybody else, because money spent on the poor means less money left for the corporations.
Be prepared then for wars sold as the new products, which Andy Card once described them as, year after year, as if they were new Fox reality shows, because military industrial complex corporations are still corporations.
Be prepared then for the ban on same sex marriage and on abortion and on evolution being taught and on separation of church and state. The most politically agitated group of citizens left are the evangelicals. Throw them some red meat to feed their holier than thou rationalizations and they won‘t care what else you do to this corporate nation.
Be prepared then for racial and religious profiling, because you have to blame somebody for all the reductions in spending and civil liberties, just to make sure the agitators against the United corporate States of America are kept unheard.
Be prepared for those poor, dumb, manipulated bastards, the Tea Partiers, to have a glorious few years as the front men, as the corporations that bank roll them slowly unroll their total control of our political system. And then be prepared to watch them be banished, maybe outlawed, when a few of the brighter ones suddenly realize that the corporations have made them merely the Judas Goats of American freedom.
Be prepared then for the bank reforms that President Obama has just this day vowed to enable to be rolled back by his successor, purchased by the banks, with the money President Bush gave them, his successor, presumably President Palin, because if you need a friendly face of fascism, you might as well get one that can wink. And if you need a tool of whichever large industries buy her first, you might as well get somebody who lives up to that word “tool.”
Be prepared for the little changes, too. If there are any small towns left to take over, Wal-Mart can now soften them up with carpet advertising for their Wal-Mart town council candidates brought to you by Wal-Mart.
Be prepared for the Richard Mellon Scaifes to drop such inefficiencies as vanity newspapers and simply buy and install their own city governments in the Pittsburghs.
Be prepared for the personally wealthy men like John Kerry to become the paupers of the Senate, or the ones like Mike Bloomberg not even surviving the primary against Halliburton‘s choice for mayor of New York City.
Be prepared for the end of what you‘re watching now. I don‘t just mean me or this program or this network. I mean all the independent news organizations and the propagandists like Fox, for that matter, because Fox inflames people against the state. And after today‘s ruling, the corporations will only need a few more years of inflaming people before the message suddenly shifts to everything‘s great.
Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh don‘t even realize it. Today, John Roberts just cut their throats, too. So with critics silenced and bought off and even the town assessor who lives next door to you elected to office with campaign funds 99.9 percent drawn from corporations coffers, what are you going to do about it? The Internet.
The Internet. Ask them about the Internet in China. Kiss net neutrality good-bye. Kiss whatever right to privacy on the net you think you currently have good-bye. And anyway, what are you going to complain about if you don‘t even know it happened?
In the new world unveiled this morning by John Roberts, who stops Rupert Murdoch from buying the Associated Press? This decision, which in mythology would rank somewhere between the bottomless pit and the opening of Pandora‘s Box, got next to no coverage in the right wing media today. Almost nothing in the middle and a lot less than necessary on the left.
The right wing won‘t even tell their constituents that they are being sold into bondage alongside the rest of us. Why should they? For them, the start of this will be wonderful. The Republicans, the conservatives, the Joe Liebermans, the Tea Partiers are in the front aisle at the political prostitution store. They are especially discounted old favorites for their corporate masters. Like the first years of irreversible climate change, for the conservatives, the previously cold winter will grow delightfully warm.
Only later will it be hot, then unbearable, then flames. Then the conservatives will burn with the rest of us and never know what happened.
What are you going to do about it? Turn to free speech advocates? These were the free speech advocates. The lawyer for that homunculus, one who filed this suit, David Bossie—the lawyer is Floyd Abrahams, Floyd Abrahams, who has spent his life defending American freedoms, especially freedom of speech. Apparently, his life was spent this way to guarantee that when it really counted he could help the corporations destroy free speech.
His argument, translated from self-satisfied legal jargon, is that as a function of the first amendment, you must allow for the raping and pillaging of the first amendment by people who can buy the first amendment. He will go down in the history books as the quisling of freedom of speech in this country. That is if the corporations who now buy the school boards which decide which history books get printed approve, if there are still history books.
So what are you going to do about it? Russ Feingold told me today there might yet be ways to work around this, to restrict corporate governance and how corporations make and spend their money. I pointed out that any such legislation, even if it somehow sneaked past this the last US Senate not funded by a generous gift from the chub group, would eventually wind up in front of a Supreme Court, and whether or not John Roberts was still at its head would be irrelevant. The next nine men and women on the Supreme Court will get there not because of their judgment nor even their politics. They will get there because they were appointed by purchased presidents and confirmed by purchased senators.
This is what John Roberts did today. This is a Supreme Court sanctioned murder of what little actual democracy is left in this democracy. It is government of the people, by the corporations, for the corporations. It is the dark ages. It is our Dred Scott.
I would suggest a revolution, but a revolution against the corporations? The corporations that make all the guns and the bullets?
Maybe it won‘t be this bad. Maybe the corporations, legally defined as human beings but without the pesky occasional human attributes of compassion and conscience, maybe when handed the only keys to the electoral machine, they will simply not redesign America in their own corporate image.Let me leave you with this final question: after today, who is going to stop them? Good night and good luck.