Where to begin?
There is so much hare-brained and just plain false about what Nancy Pelosi said this past week in support of a movement to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United — the case that restored the rights of groups of individuals to form coalitions and exercise free speech through corporations and unions.
“Our Founders had an idea,” an Investor’s Business Daily editorial today quotes Pelosi as saying. “It was called democracy. It said elections are determined by the people, the voice and the vote of the people, not by the bankrolls of the privileged few. This Supreme Court decision flies in the face of our Founders’ vision, and we want to reverse it.”
Someone should remind Ms. Pelosi that the Founders’ vision also did not include elections determined by the bankrolls of political parties. Most thought political parties anathema to a republic, which would put the will of the people ahead of political factions and special interests.
Thomas Jefferson said in 1789, before becoming the titular head of the Republican Party, which led to his election to the presidency in 1800, “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”
I assume Pelosi holds no such animosity toward the privileged few bankrolling her political party.
IBD pointedly notes that Pelosi was one of those who stood and applauded when the president scolded a captive audience of Supreme Court justices on national television during a State of the Union address for “having reversed a century of law.” Justice Samuel Alito mouthed, “Not true,” perhaps referring to two centuries of First Amendment principles regarding abridgement of speech.
It is downright ironic that America’s first black president appealed for support and enforcement of a century-old law.
Someone should remind Obama that the century-old law was sponsored by Democratic Sen. “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman of South Carolina — the leader of a lynch mob known as the “Red Shirts,” the man who declared, “The Negro must remain subordinated or be exterminated” in order to “keep the white race at the top of the heap.”
Tillman pressed the ban on corporate free speech because he feared the rise of blacks employed by Northern companies. It was a way to squelch speech he feared and was intended to keep power from the “Negroes.”
Justice Clarence Thomas — whom Harry Reid called an “embarrassment” and said his opinions were “poorly written” — pointed this out in remarks delivered during a speech at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., shortly after Obama’s State of the Union speech, which Thomas refused to attend — on principle, not politics.
A student asked Justice Thomas about Obama’s public chiding of the court by saying: “With all due deference to the separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests.” The foreign corporations part was utterly false.
“First of all, remember most of the regulation of corporations started with the Tillman Act. Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation to regulate corporations. … Tillman was from South Carolina, and, as I hear the story, he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks.
“And he felt that there was a need to regulate them. So we don’t raise this to the plane of some sort of beatific action.
“But that aside, I’ve taken the position that the court adopted with respect to how we associate. If 10 of you got together and decided to speak just as a group, you say you have a First Amendment right to speak and a First Amendment right of association …
“I find it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company, who were exempted by statute. So then it becomes a statutory right, not a constitutional right.”
At a whim, Congress can revoke a statutory right. Are the Times and Post willing to depend on the whim of a fickle Congress for their free press rights instead of the Constitution?
Pelosi, Obama, the Times and the Post would like to pick and choose which groups of people get to coalesce and spend their money to advance their ideas and principles. It doesn’t work that way. Free speech belongs to all and to all groups — political parties, corporations, unions, clubs, factions, sects, bridge clubs, newspapers and quilting bees.
It is the first recourse of scoundrels who fear their loss of power to attempt to gag others.
Someone should remind Harry Reid, too.