With good government activists uniting against the flood misleading political spending that is the result of dark money and Citizens United, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia decided to double-down behind the decision, offering a simple solution for people who don’t like the ads: turn off the tv.
Scalia was asked about the infamous decision during a presentation before the South Carolina Bar Association on Saturday. The presentation fell on the second anniversary of the decision. Scalia was joined by Justice Stephen Breyer who joined in the dissent of the 5-4 decision. And the contrast between the justices could not have been more apparent.
Scalia embraced a misguided free-market approach to political speech. “I don’t care who is doing the speech – the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”
Breyer, on the other hand, showed great professionalism in refraining from directly criticizing the decision, instead pivoting to talk about the need for the citizenry to trust in the decisions of the judiciary, which is difficult in a 5-4 decision. By its nature, Bryer noted, that kind of decision means someone got it wrong.
Scalia’s open embrace of as much speech as possible for as many people works well in the vacuum of a political system where corporate power, with consolidated wealth shares power equally with individual citizens in terms of access and accountability of elected officials.
But we all know that is not the case. The result is a perversion of both the electoral system and the marketplace as corporate interests help write legislation that does not reward the healthiest company but instead the company with the greatest amount of lawmaker access. The fact that Justice Scalia cannot see that this is the natural consequence of the decision and his unique brand of constitutional conservatism is a hubris with devastating results.
Photo from US Mission Geneva via flickr.