Volatility

January 23, 2010

Judicial Abdication

Filed under: Corporatism, Disaster Capitalism, Law, Sovereignty and Constitution — Tags: — Russell Bangs @ 2:19 am

 

The Supreme Court’s decision in FEC vs. Citizens United is an attempt to roll the final stone over the coffin of democracy. It’s the keystone of the anti-democratic arch the courts have been erecting against the longstanding attempts to build some kind of firewall against corporate money drowning our political freedom.
 
Apologists for the court have been saying this won’t change much on a practical level; that corporate money has already almost completely corrupted the system. That’s true, and it’s not surprising that process liberals would emphasize the merely incremental effect on process and not the basic, formal civic abdication which this decision signifies.
 
But what’s pivotal here is that once and for all the “Supreme Court” has abdicated. it has formally declared that it is not the people’s court but the corporate kangaroo court. In a time when corporate tyranny openly extends its grasp on a daily basis wherever our rump institutions are incapable of resisting it, and the banks have even intentionally destroyed the economy in order to generate a pretext for new inroads on looting, for the court to gratuitously declare now to be the time for extreme judicial activism on behalf of corporations and against the people is a extreme statement of abdication.
 
If we didn’t know it before we know it now, as a political fact – this is no longer our supreme court. The constitutional position is vacant.
 
(Always remember, there was no need for this decision whatsoever. Last spring they could have, and were expected to, decide the original case within narrow parameters. They aggressively, in an activist manner, chose to make this case their pretext for a sweeping ruling. I guess the calculation was pure shock doctrine: the people are reeling, fearful, their jobs are disintegrating; now’s the time to deal them this blow as well.
 
Needless to say, there’s nothing even remotely “conservative”, let alone “originalist”, about this decision. It’s a radical extension of corporate anarchism.) 
 
For over a hundred years, since the 1907 Tillman Act, through many decades of legislation and supportive court action, through the post-Watergate upgrades to campaign finance law, and on through to 2002’s McCain-Feingold act, this firewall has been under construction, seeking to put up a barrier against corporate wealth flooding the electoral space. As elections have become a commodity item, they sought to at least put it behind the glass. The country was not supposed to be quite so brazenly for sale.
 
But even before McCain-Feingold, the bribe bagmen and extortionists were already getting help from corrupted and ideologically rogue judges who have been infiltrating and subverting the courts since Reagan. Piece by piece, telling the Big Lie that corporations are “persons” with “rights”, they’ve carved out exception after exception. Now, with this decision, the firewall has been breached completely. Although the nominal ban on direct contributions to candidates is still in place, this is a token regulation. Anyone can now buy any amount of ads which clearly say “vote for X”, and “don’t vote for Y”. All you have to do is not literally say so.
 
(Needless to say, corporations are not people and have no non-economic rights. They have no rights not specified in well-circumscribed charters. This is clearly the way the Constitution wanted it, since otherwise the framers would have been clear in bestowing rights upon them (the issue was already well-known at the time).
 
The notion that corporations are persons is another lie which was never enshrined in constitutional law but was snuck in through the dog door. It was never part of a decision, but only appended as non-authoritative boilerplate preceding one. But since then corporatist judges have pretended it’s the law of the land.)
 
This is the final stage of the death of democracy. For decades corporatism, a totalitarian process, has sought the total liquidation of American political life.
 
* They want to buy elections as directly as possible. That’s the purpose of this decision. Legislators and executives come into office already corrupted and ready to vote how they’re told. This increases the scope for lobbyists to directly write legislation which is then simply rubber-stamped by the “public” system. It’s really just a laundering of dictatorship.
 
In general the flow of money is meant to co-opt all political participation. Non-governmental organizations, “activists”, are assimilated into the system, become mainstreamed. They all tend to become Astroturfs, whether they started out that way or not.
 
* At the basic economic level, the overwhelming sense of fear instilled by job insecurity is the main control mechanism against real political action. This socioeconomic isolation was one of the goals of globalization and union-busting.
 
* More directly, corporate money combines with government power to build up the security-industrial complex of surveillance and databases meant to enforce this conformism. If more severe repression measures are needed, we have the commodified militarization of the police and an increasingly fascist attitude toward protest as such.
 
On a broad level the entire economy is being integrated with the military-industrial complex, such that even the most seemingly innocuous consumer goods probably come from a conglomerate intimately tied in with the Pentagon and who sees itself as inextricably linked with the military and police.
 
* The complete prostitution of the mainstream media is an accomplished fact. Both directly, through media consolidation, and indirectly, through captivity to advertisers, the media are by now the stenographers and flacks of neoliberal, neoconservative corporatism in general. In particular they are shills for the Bailout War and the Permanent War (aka the Global War on Terror).
 
* The educational system, especially at the collegiate level, has been similarly captured. Higher education has been liquidated and replaced by a commodity system. The student, just like the citizen, has been degraded to the level of a consumer. And this “consumer” of a degree, just an expensive piece of paper to get one past an artificial barrier to entry, in turn becomes a raw material for the end consumer, the employer.
 
Meanwhile lower level public schools are starved of funds in a campaign to deprive the non-rich of educational opportunities.
 
* In Big Entertainment we see the same things. Consolidation, servitude to advertisers, the blockbuster mentality, the ideologically motivated ratings board, all combine to present a united front which trumpets the corporate line, macho neocon ideology, and escapism, while suppressing all real ideas.
 
* Advertising itself is a “cultural” force. The brand ideology is hard to avoid. The Big Brother of the “logo” is everywhere.
 
* Public spaces are either directly privatized and enclosed or otherwise dominated by the intrusion of advertising and other corporate presence.
 
* The language itself is under assault. They want to destroy the real diversity of language as much as possible, just like in 1984’s Newspeak, but here they seek Brandspeak, Corpspeak. (And at the same time they want to control how such speech is deployed, as we’ve seen with the McLibel case and many other assaults on free speech.)
 
By now in our governance we’ve experienced nothing less than the liquidation of society and politics, and of the two-party system. By now we have a corporate state with a soiled layer of political paint rapidly peeling off. If there were such a thing as the “Banker Party” it would seek and own one-party rule over the state.
 
This is basically a one party state, with two factions who differ minimally on some culture war issues. (The point of culture war issues is to divide the people against one another. No one in the power structure really cares about them.) (And with the Democratic health racket bill’s anti-abortion provisions, it seems like where it comes to even abortion there’s no longer a difference between the parties.)
 
The conscious goal of these parties seems to be conventional tyranny. The real totalitarian processes still seem mostly structural.
 
The Republicans openly declared they seek a “permanent majority”, and under Emanuelism the Democrats seek the same thing. In different ways each has been so incompetent that it seems no matter how tremendous an opportunity party A gives party B, B will then squander it, as if with the intention of giving A another chance.
 
But it’s a moot point anyway. Since the death of politics, neither party any longer has any interest in governing. At every moment, on every issue, the one and only concern is to maximize party revenue. Every action is dictated by the lobbies, either directly (to the point of lobbyists themselves literally writing legislation) or by implication. The corporatists probably prefer the two-party scam, which cosmetically is an improvement over the old Soviet one-party system. But the elections have been almost as rigged.
 
With this court decision the “almost” shall be expunged. There will now be no real limits to buying the election. Every harmful and evil characteristic of the system will be completely enshrined. The only limits to tyranny will now be the limits of the dollar, of oil, and of consumerism itself.
 
It’s anti-legal, anti-democratic, anti-constitutional, anti-American. The is a renegade decision by a renegade court. Senator Feingold, whose crowning legislative achievement is being gutted, went so far as to call it “a lawless decision from the Supreme Court….that means the whole idea of respecting the previous decisions of the Supreme Court won’t mean anything anymore.”
 
Or as I put it in a post on this case, Judicial Activism, from last August:
 

So here we have in prospect every kind of activism. If the court votes to overturn all restrictions on corporate funding, it will be an assault on the wills of Congress, the Court’s precedent, the language of the Constitution, and the will of the people, and this activist decision will have been achieved through activist directives during the argumentation process.

Unfortunately, this outcome is all too plausible. On economic issues, issues of corporate power, this Court and the federal courts in general have long been trending rightward and corporatist. There’s a reason why, for all its sometimes incendiary anti-judge rhetoric, the Right hasn’t made a broad argument for defiance of court decisions. It’s because they expect the courts, by now packed with pro-corporate judges by every president since Reagan, to be one of their last legal bastions of corporatist power, as the politics turn decisively against them. So instead the people’s advocates need to be asking this question.

The Supreme Court has no power. Andrew Jackson – “Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it” – had it right. The power of the court depends upon the goodwill of the executive. Since Jackson the issue has barely come up so starkly, but the power facts remain. Thus the court is in the end reliant upon political factors.

We must go further. Under these class conditions, where the court has been captured by the predatory anti-public interest corporate cabal, it has no authority. We must steel ourselves for the possibility of demanding of state and federal legislatures and executives that they defy court decisions which seek enslavement. We must be ready for anti-court civil disobedience.

I know this sounds unpleasant to those who think of the court as a progressive stalwart in the 50s through the 70s, but this ain’t that court any longer.

This court is waging reactionary war, against the will of the people and against the verdict of history itself on finance capitalism. This is a last-ditch attempt to entrench, and it will fail, but for the time being it can still do lots of damage.

This is a renegade court. Historically, the court usually lags somewhat behind the progressive will of the people. This in itself shows its inherent anti-activist tendency. The great culture war decisions followed in the wake of a higher public consciousness. The court usually waited for the people to lead before it issued what would have been the most controversial decisions, and even where it was ill-inclined it usually followed along anyway. When it comes down to it the court is a political institution.

And where a court was bent on reactionary activism, as with the anti-New Deal 30s court, it had to be jolted into compliance with the will of the people through FDR’s packing threat. Although FDR’s scheme failed, it still achieved its purpose, as the court now became more reasonable in its decisions.

So we see how hard political activism on the part of a court can be countered only with hard political activism against that renegade court.

“Judicial activism” is therefore a form of political activism. It must be seen as such and dealt with as such.

 
At the outset of the First Great Depression, Hoover’s Treasury secretary, arch-corporatist Andrew Mellon, gave this prescription: “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate…purge the rottenness..”
 
This is certainly what we should have done with Wall Street and its toxic assets. It’s still what we’ll have to do in the end anyway.
 
Meanwhile, for everyone except the rich, Mellon’s liquidation is today the program of the Washington system, Democrats and Republicans, Congress and courts, led by Obama. Liquidate the people. Liquidate the future. Liquidate all hopes.
 
We the people must respond with our own imperative. We need a full liquidation of the polity which has been corrupted beyond redemption. Liquidate Washington, liquidate the Democrats, liquidate the Republicans, liquidate the court, liquidate the banks, liquidate the mainstream media.  
 
So we see the prison door of the existing system slamming shut. There’s no way out through that door. Anyone who stands there shaking the bars or puzzling over the lock will get nowhere. Most will end up simply curling up on the floor, whining to be let out, and in the end just happy to be fed a starvation diet.
 
Meanwhile there is another way out. But it’s gonna mean tunneling.

4 Comments

  1. […] Or is the supreme court already a rogue beyond redemption, as I argued in my posts (here and here) on the Citizens United decision? While we need to think more about the implications for civil […]

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  2. […] it independence of the executive and of other forces in the polity. As we know, by now the SCOTUS has been corrupted by corporatism and is a rogue institution. As I briefly discussed in part 1, this isn’t a new development which could be viewed as an […]

    Pingback by Kagan and the Corporate Court (2 of 2) « Volatility — June 4, 2010 @ 1:58 am

  3. […] decision might not seem so arbitrary.)   Corporatist judicial activism has been on a roll since the Citizens United decision. The SCOTUS seems especially keen to smash all attempts to impose any sort of rational limits on […]

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  4. […] at least a momentous as the more recent “innovation” of corporate political speech and the corporation’s “right” to give money to political candidates.   Here too, this holding company power was first combined with complete license and lack of any […]

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