We came into the clubhouse after a particularly depressing game of golf. The club pro was standing in front of a television set, visibly angry. We asked why?
“My money’s as good as theirs is,” he sputtered. “And my vote should be, too.”
We were certainly not going to disagree. Especially since during the past few days we had been feeling a little more optimistic about the electoral system here in the US.
Watching the Supreme Court take apart one by one statutes we thought had been upholding the values of our country, we had realized that, if the past was any prologue to the future, we needn’t have worried quite so much.
True enough, Citizens United had opened flood gates of cash to those who could afford to give it to their favorite political operatives, or PACS, with neither limit nor attribution ever after to be discovered. Corporations and unions had been declared “people,” in effect, and the Court would not allow these new entities, human or not, to be discriminated against in any way. In effect, then, money was king, and money as the oil on which political campaigns ran. Without it, no well-meaning citizen could stand forward for office.
The Court had just sold the country to the highest bidder.
But what had happened? It turned out that the average guy in the street, and his missus, weren’t deterred. They still believed enough to want to vote and vote they did. Look at the deep-pocketed Linda McMahon in Connecticut or Carli Fiorino in California. Millions had been spent in vain. There was justice in the world.
Next the Court knocked down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, declaring in effect that discrimination was a thing of the past and that states were no longer subject to the watchful eyes of the Justice Department in arguing for more stringent voter qualifications. States were freed to legislate however they wished…voter i.d., tightened hours for opened polls, and a nearly complete downgrade of the number of days voters could vote or register before the election.
And what happened? Millions voted, waiting in lines lasting hours, determined that their basic right to enfranchisement was not going to be wrenched from them.
We were feeling pretty good about the American people as sentient human beings who could see through all the court-instigated advantages offered the Republicans.
Then finally, and of course, McCutcheon verses the Federal Election Commission arose. Mr. McCutcheon, along with the Republican National Committee, couldn’t for the life of him, understand why, if he wanted to, he couldn’t give unlimited amounts of money to an unlimited number of candidacies around the country. His rights of free speech were being stepped on.
That day after that miserable round of golf was the day during which argument had been heard before the Court, and clearly, the club pro was reading signals given by the Justices correctly. And he was not happy.
“What about the little guy like me?” he asked. “What about the people I want to elect?”
We made an attempt to persuade our teacher that, although we had in the past four years worried ourselves into apoplexy over this exact question, we had been wrong to have done so. The American Public came to our rescue every time. “Votes can beat money,” we said positively, with a broad smile of reassurance.
“You don’t get it, do you?” asked our coach. “Before now, there was always the possibility that you could hold your nose and vote for the least offensive candidate. If the Court does what it sounds like it’s going to , that’s gone now.”
“Why?” we asked.
The pro shook his head sadly. “It’s simple,” he said. “You get one candidate, of either party, running with the unlimited backing of billionaires, buying time on television and Twitter and all that social media stuff, that’s fine. But then the other party has to find its candidate and what’s it going to do? Likely it will find someone equally crooked or easily bought, pour billions into his campaign, and now we have virtually no choice at all between the least honest, least foresighted, least experienced. You’ve got two candidates held up by all the money in the world and no one you can hold your nose and vote for.”
We were stunned.
“Suppose, for example,” the coach went on, “Ted Cruz gets the Republican nomination. He shouldn’t but he could. The Democrats have to fight fire with fire. They have to find someone as self-delusional, mean-spirited and imperialistic in order to combat him. Now, where is your choice?”
We thought, hard. We couldn’t reply.
“The whole damned country’s bought and paid for,” said our favorite golfer. “We can see that even now. But it’s going to get worse. The Court can’t see influence peddling or quid pro quos when they exist. This guy McCutcheon spreads his dough around, say, to fifteen candidates. Man, that’s influence. And influence means pay back. And the Court will just smile and talk about how we’re in a post-racial post-corruptive phase of our development and go off to Aspen or South Carolina for a hunting weekend and think everything’s swell. And we’re left in line trying to vote, trying to figure who’s least bad for the country, and when we get in and register, we find that there isn’t a man, woman or child who’s running who’s not already bought and paid for.”
“So you’re saying we no longer need our noses?”
“Damn right, kid. How’s your eight iron?”
We didn’t say anything then, but we did think that an eight iron could be a pretty good weapon when push came to shove.