Stewart’s Sanity Speech, Citizens United, & The Mid-Term Elections

Jon Stewart lays down the predicate for his Restore Sanity speech

Criticisms of Jon Stewart’s closing speech at his and Stephen Colbert’s Restore Sanity and/or Fear Rally in D.C. last Saturday are varied.

One has it  that he didn’t encourage people to just simply vote. As far as I saw, watching the whole thing on my teevee, the only person on stage who did was Tony Bennett as he was walking away from the mic after singing God Bless America.

Another is that Stewart perpetrated a false equivalency between Fux News and MSNBC. (KO, after an initial angry tweet, announced that he is suspending his signature Worst Person In the World segment.)

My take is that the speech was a continuation of Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire on Oct 15, 2004 where he told its hosts, Tucker the Fucker Carlson and Paul the Beguiler Begala, to:

Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.

Less than three months after Stewart’s appearance, Tucker was without a job (which, sadly, resulted in his abandonment of his signature bow tie). Six months after that, Crossfire, which had enjoyed a successful 13 year long run, was itself canceled.

Picking up at the point of the speech that Terry noted in his on the scene reporting…

But we live now in hard times, not end times.

…Stewart went on to say:

And we can have animus and not be enemies. Unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24-hour politico pundit panic conflict-onator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems and illuminate problems heretofore unseen, or it can use its magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous-flaming-ant epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and tea partiers, or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rich Sanchez is an insult — not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put forth the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish between terrorists and Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything we eventually get sicker. And perhaps eczema.

Not to mention fascism. Which is where we’ve been headed for awhile due to the corrupting influence that private money has had on our whole political system.

When the US Supreme Court ruled early this year in the Citizens United case that corporations can write checks straight from their corporate treasuries to buy as many politicians as they can afford, the Supremes effectively destroyed the vision our Founders had for a one man, one vote system of democracy.

The five conservative Rethug justices who made fascism fashionable rationalized their decision by equating money with speech and corporations with personhood. “Don’t worry’, they said in effect. ‘Everyone will know who was backing whom and for what purpose.’  As Justice Kennedy explained:

With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.

But as the Los Angeles Times explained a few days ago in a front page article titled:

Corporate campaign ads haven’t followed Supreme Court’s prediction

… Kennedy and the high court majority were wrong. Because of loopholes in tax laws and a weak enforcement policy at the Federal Election Commission, corporations and wealthy donors have been able to spend huge sums on campaign ads, confident the public will not know who they are, election law experts say.

Corporate donors have been able to hide their contributions despite the opposition of shareholders and customers — the very groups cited by Kennedy…

“The biggest change this year is that it is no longer possible to identify the individuals who are responsible for funding election communications,” said Karl J. Sandstrom, a former FEC commissioner who advises Democrats on election law.

He called Kennedy’s opinion naive and said it reflected a “very uninformed view of how disclosure works.”

The high court ruling also has helped fuel the rise of several nonprofit political action groups, such as Republican strategist Karl Rove‘s Crossroads GPS, that have poured millions into an election season that is quickly reaching exorbitant spending levels.

Business groups, unions and interest groups had spent $266 million as of Tuesday, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, including at least $128 million by groups that are not required to publicly disclose their donors. Some have said outside spending by conservative groups alone could reach $400 million this year.

I wonder how the Democratic senators who approved George W. Bush‘s appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Court are feeling today as the wreckage of the mid-term election piles up around them.

Heckuva job, Chuckie.

(Don’t expect Senator Charles Schumer to suffer politically  from promoting those corporate infiltrators to the bench if  Harry Reid goes down in flames tonight and Schumer, as is expected,  tries to take his place as the Dems’ Senate leader. His likely challenger is the much more progressive Dick Durbin.)

While I give credit to Stewart and Colbert (and President Obama) for trying to find common ground with the Rethugs to solve America’s urgent, manifold problems, I have to confess that at an earlier stage of my political life when I described myself as an incurable optimist, I would now have to diagnose myself as ‘cured.’

Prove you're human: leave a comment.