It’s a day before the presidential election and you settle in to watch Monday Night Football when a commercial comes on. It’s a classic fast food commercial- friendly service, great looking food and wait- who is that getting ready to devour a hamburger? Why, it’s a presidential candidate being the main role in a commercial that not only sells fast food, but is also an advertisement for his campaign, fully funded and shown on prime-time television by a major corporation.
Does this sound like some far off future in the same vein as the movie “Idiocracy”? Well, that drastic example may be extreme, but the foundations of this becoming a reality are currently being debated in the Supreme Court, where they are examining the wording in the McCain-Feingold law.
This law, passed in 2002, bans the broadcast, cable or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations in the 30 days before a presidential primary and 60 days before the general election.
Debate over the ruling has been re-opened due to outcry over the Citizens United funded documentary called “Hillary: The Movie” which some say led directly to Clinton’s 2008 defeat in the Democratic primaries. The question is over the legality of the movie being released to the public shortly before the primary election took place, but justices are broadening the issue and debating whether it should eliminate restrictions of political speech on corporations.
Let me go ahead and answer that question for the honorable justices- no!
There is no telling what a reversal of this sort could do to change the process of election campaigning. Not only could this eliminate an effective grass roots campaign from ever becoming a viable threat to the presidency, but it could completely change the way presidents act once they are in office.
Say you have a rather large multi-billion dollar corporation directly contributing large amounts of money to campaigns while also producing commercials for the candidate. Effectively using the wealth of this corporation could deliver a candidate an election. But it could also give the presidency to a man who owed these large corporations a great deal of consideration and gratitude whenever a critical decision is made.
It’s hard to look at this decision as being anything but critical. An extreme look at what could happen down the line if this is reversed showcases just what sort of climate can be created in the American political system. If the decision is passed it won’t be an overnight change, where corporations are running the government- dictating what the American people see, hear and do. Rather, slowly and deliberately this decision will affect the campaign process to the point were one day corporations are truly making all the choices for our presidents.