Its my 70th birthday. I get to say whatever I want…flat out. I’m too old a dog to worry.
America is on the leash…in the collar of Big Money.
Free speech is a basic right in America. But some of us are freer than others. Because the Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech. Some of us have lots of it. Most of us have a buck or two to support candidates for public office.
Montanans once referred to “the copper collar” worn by elected officials (federal, state and local), policy-makers, newspaper publishers and editors, journalists, business people, asnd relgious leaders. The copper collar kept them on the leash of the state’s largest employer and wealthiest campaign contributor, Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Montana was one big company town.
Step in a direction Anaconda didn’t like, and you’d feel a quick tug on the leash – a phone call, a note, a pink slip, or worse. Want to run for office? Here’s the money. Money for things the average Montanan cannot buy, money for the “free” speech few can afford. Money for professional pollsters to learn voter attitudes and what scares them. Money for advertizing agencies that turn the polling data into ads that flood the airwaves, the internet, roadside billboards, and the print media.Money puts candidates and political parties in the collar. On the leash. Candidates who start to sniff to the side of the path on their morning walks feel a yank on the collar, a reminder that the dog isn’t walking on its own. It’s walking on a leash. The “free” speech of candidates who stray or bite the hand that feeds them soon disappear. It was paid for by the owner.
The American colonies revolted against the ideas of a king and colonial rule. The political idea of royalty appalls us. We think of ourselves as the home of the brave and the land of the free. But aversion to kings and queens doesn’t mean we can’t be fooled into hoping that any one of us can climb to the top. We gripe about the wealth yet we aspire to it, and we think in personal terms we can understand more easily than the complicated matters of economics and arrangements between private and public institutions. The royalty and colonial privilege we love to hate find a way to disguise themselves as just another citizen with freedom of speech.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that corporations are “persons” with the same rights as a voter with “free speech” campaign contributions has put the collar on every candidate for public office. When candidates wear a collar, freedom of speech is a fiction, and the country we love becomes one big corporate town, the colonial town of the new kings and queens.
America is fast becoming a corporate town. We can bark. We can whine. We can vote. But the speech that matters isn’t free. It’s paid for. Democracy and freedom are on the leash…wearing the copper collar.
For a closer work at how it works, click “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult,” an insider’s look at what’s happening to America. Or click “Confronting Ethical Emptiness of Wall Street” for a powerful piece, including the picture below of the raging bull.
Every day four or five emails arrive asking for a campaign contribution to fight Big Money. Just a $3 or $5 contribution will make a hug difference, say the appeals. But I know that once I give $3, the next one will be for $50 and then $100, and then…. Makes me feel real small…facing the bull.
But…if I don’t give….
The next time I watch a campaign ad, I’m going to read the small print to see who’s holding the leash to the collar.
You’ll make an old dog happy on his birthday by leaving a comment to promote some discussion.