Thursday, February 4, 2010

Republic Saved by 5-4 Vote

In my March 2009 post Trial Balloon of the Century, I discussed the crucial importance of the Citizens United case against the FEC in reaffirming the First Amendment right to free speech in America. The case involved a challenge to the campaign finance laws prohibition on the financing of political speech by corporate entities in a period of time leading up to an election. Among the various trial balloons floated by opponents of free speech, the campaign finance laws represent among the most egregious and potentially lethal violations of free speech since they grant the government the power to directly regulate political speech.

I argued that "if freedom of speech were to be abrogated in the United States, it would be the final straw for advocates of freedom and should lead to an all out revolution. This is because without the freedom to think, all other rights are meaningless." In other words, because reason, reality, and morality are on the side of advocates of freedom and limited government, we still have a chance as long as we are free to speak out. Alternatively, we have no chance if we are not free to speak.

It was therefore extremely gratifying to see the U.S. Supreme Court
strike down this provision in a 5-4 decision. Further, it was amazing that some members of the court appeared to actually take a principled stand on the issue. This NY Times article discusses "expansive remarks" made recently by Justice Thomas regarding the case.

Justice Thomas said the First Amendment’s protections applied regardless of how people chose to assemble to participate in the political process.

“If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association,” he said. “If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association.”

“But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?” Justice Thomas asked, suggesting that the answer must be the same.


Quoting the decision:

Premised on mistrust of governmental power, the First Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subjects or viewpoints or to distinguish among different speakers, which may be means to control content. The government may also commit a constitutional wrong when by law it identifies certain preferred speakers. There is no basis for the proposition that, in the political speech context, the Government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers. Both history and logic, lead to this conclusion.
I am no expert on Constitutional law, and I am sure there remain problematic aspects of this ruling, but this counts as a step in the right direction. It was also not surprising that Obama, in unprecedented fashion, used the state of the union to chastise the court for its ruling. The chilling spectacle of the POTUS and the jeering Democratic members of Congress deriding a ruling, which only affirms and protects our cherished First Amendment, was a moment that no one should ever forget or tolerate. Also, in case there was any doubt, that moment must officially mark the end of any pretense that liberals are defenders of free speech.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Doug,

The socalists have taken over one of the vestiges of our once great symbols. Keep up the good work.

Mexican Coke Shark

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/20100211/ts_ynews/ynews_ts1129

Doug Reich said...

MCS,

I read that linked article. Tragedy but not surprising. Thanks