It's now official — America is, not just practically but technically, a plutocracy. The Supreme Court's decision yesterday to recognize corporations as individual human beings, with all the rights of individual human beings, opens the door to the full totalitarian control of the United States government by corporations.
It's comparable to that moment in Soviet history when Lenin decided that the central executive of the Bolshevik Party was the supreme and unchallengeable ruling body in Russia. Chief Justice John Roberts (above) is the Lenin of the new totalitarian America. He can now become President if he wants to — all he needs is a few big beneficiaries of his ruling yesterday to purchase the office for him. And why shouldn't they? He has delivered the whole nation into their hands.
The great American experiment in democracy is over. It may not be revived in our lifetimes — it may never be revived. Reviving it will require what Lincoln called, in the midst of the Civil War, a “new birth of freedom” — and probably a cataclysm as great at the Civil War to spark it.
In the 1857 Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott case, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (above), speaking for the majority, wrote that black people have “no rights which the white man is bound to respect.” It was, sad to say, a theoretically justifiable opinion, from a Constitutional point of view. The framers clearly had no intent to grant blacks the rights of American citizenship. Good sense and common decency might have stretched the legal niceties a bit, but that didn't happen. What the decision meant was that the issue of slavery could never be solved except by war, by the shedding of blood.
Ironically, the new Supreme Court decision is a kind of demonic mirror of the Dred Scott decision. In the latter, the insane notion was proposed that blacks were not human beings. In the former, an equally insane notion was proposed — that institutions which embody vast agglomerations of wealth and power are human beings. Neither decision is compatible with a rational, humane society.
But if one is tempted to abject despair, it's a good time to remember what Frederick Douglass wrote after the Dred Scott decision was handed down:
The highest authority has spoken. The voice of the Supreme Court has
gone out over the troubled waves of the National Conscience. But my
hopes were never brighter than now. I have no fear that the National
Conscience will be put to sleep by such an open, glaring, and
scandalous issue of lies.
Can American democracy save itself one more time from the madness that runs so deep in the American soul? Is there another Teddy Roosevelt out there who will fight for real human beings against the great, faceless juggernauts of the “trusts”? (The Supreme Court ruling yesterday overturned a law passed under TR which prohibited political contributions by corporations.)
The time of the temporizers, of the cosmetic progressives like Barack Obama, is over. It is a time for patriots — or slaves. There is no more middle ground.
The choice will be ours, each individually, but being an American in spite of myself I say, with Douglass — my hopes were never brighter than now. The issue has been laid out starkly, for all to see. Only those who accept the condition of slavery for themselves and their children will close their eyes to what's at stake, and if they do, their enslavement (if not the enslavement of their children) will be richly deserved.
These are the times, as another patriot once said, that try men's souls. May those of our generation not be found wanting.