America: the time has come to roll back liberalism.
This was the best week for conservatism in modern memory. On Tuesday, Scott Brown won a tremendous victory for the Republican Party in his Massachusetts Senate race. On Thursday, the Supreme Court handed down a decision more important to the Constitution than any it has handed down in decades.
The case, entitled Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, dealt with Citizens United's "Hillary: The Movie," a 2008 documentary highly critical of the then-Democratic presidential candidate. The Federal Election Commission saw the documentary as a political advertisement in violation of the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act (BCRA), and shut down Citizen United's publicity efforts. Citizens United sued. And on Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations no less than individuals have a right to political speech.
The significance of the ruling is clear: It recognizes that freedom of the press and freedom of speech apply to all people, whether or not those people choose to organize legally as a PAC, a 527, a 501(c)(4) or a corporation. The unspoken rationale behind campaign finance reform has always been the equalization of access to political influence; many leftists feel that a poor man's speech is not truly "free" unless it counts as much as a rich man's in the public square. In this view, free speech is a commodity to be parceled out by the government in the name of equality, not an opportunity or a restriction on government interference in political action.
Because this rationale is not palatable to most Americans -- we don't want the government rationing our speech -- the campaign finance reform gurus have cloaked themselves in the guise of "anti-corruption." In Citizens United, however, the Supreme Court came out foursquare against that flimsy facade. "[T]he First Amendment," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, surprisingly lucid for once, "does not allow political speech restrictions based on a speaker's corporate identity."
The Citizens United decision demonstrates more than renewed allegiance to free speech principles, however. It demonstrates that perversions of the Constitution are not entrenched forever; Reagan-esque "rollback" is possible, even at the Supreme Court. Citizens United overtly states that the hallowed -- and foolish -- principle of stare decisis cannot be the final word for conservatives.
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