A couple things have happened this week which are, in my opinion, if not earth-shattering at least earth shaking.
First, Scott Brown was elected to fill Ted Kennedy – excuse me – the people’s seat, as the junior senator from Massachusetts.
For anyone who has been hiding under a rock for the last couple weeks, this is the first time in 47 that seat in the senate has been seriously contested, and the first time in 68 years that seat hasn’t been held by a Kennedy – oh, and the first time in living memory a republican has had that seat as well.
The Massachusetts special election was notable for a few things.
First it showed once again how impotent our president truly is. Three times now he has attempted to influence the outcome of an election in the last year – all three times he has failed. This time most tellingly. It was really a no-win situation for Obama. If he didn’t go to Massachusetts to help Martha Coakley and she lost it would be his fault, if he went and she lost – which she did – he looked impotent. If he didn’t go and she won, it would appear that he was unneeded. The only acceptable outcome for Obama was a Coakley win which of course, she didn’t.
Worse, from the Democrat standpoint, brown is now the 41st vote against Obamacare. What is interesting in this case to me is that many high-ranking democrats seem to be taking exactly the wrong message from this.
Obama, Pelosi et al. have sworn to fight even harder to pass health care legislation that no one wants. They do not seem to understand that a victory by a Republican in the bluest of blue states in the bluest part of the country represents a sea change. The American people are angry and have had enough of legislators who do not listen.
The election of Scott Brown to the United States Senate is a harbinger of things to come in November if the Democrats don’t wake up and realize the American people have had enough of being talked down to, and patted on the head and told to “go play while the adults talk.”
The other thing which happened last week was a Supreme Court decision.
Nothing particularly unusual in those, they are handed down several times a year and most are fairly important. This one in particular, however is far reaching and will have major consequences.
The court in a 5-4 opinion struck down a 20 year old decision and parts of the McCain-Finegold campaign finance law which restricted corporations and unions from running ads which supported or opposed candidates by name.
Citing the First Amendment, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority wrote, “When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought.”
The court did not, as has been reported in some places, strike down the ban on direct contributions to candidates by corporations, but it did free up corporations to advocate for or against candidates and issues within 60 days of an election.
The law, as written was ambiguous and allowed the Federal Election Commission to decide, after the fact, which speech was protected and which was not — with criminal penalties for any speech they decided they did not like.
Additionally, media companies were exempt from the “electioneering” restrictions but other for profit and nonprofits were not.
The court found you could not constitutionally restrict one form of company without restricting the other.
Now, is this decision going to make elections even messier than they already were?
Is that a bad thing?
Maybe. We’ll see.
In the end, as messy as it is, more speech is always better — even when it’s speech we may not like.
It is the voter’s job to decide what to listen to and what not to.
It is not the government’s job to tell us what we have a right to hear and what we don’t.
Messy as it will be, in the end this is a victory as ground breaking as Scott Brown’s and we should celebrate it.
All IHMO, of course.
Patrick Richardson is the Managing Editor of the Columbus Advocate. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.