How Much Free Speech Can You Buy?

The Jim Hightower column in your 12/1/15 issue says that the US Supreme Court “decreed in its 2010 Citizens United ruling that money is a form of ‘free speech’.”

Actually the US Supreme Court had come to that conclusion decades before the Citizens United decision. In 1976 the US Supreme Court ruled in Buckley v. Valeo that government cannot limit the amount of money individuals spend, making independent expenditures talking about candidates for federal office.

The Hightower column also talks about the large amount of money “given” to various Republican presidential candidates. But the large amounts of money the column mentions are not amounts that were “given” to any candidate or campaign. Instead they represent independent spending.

Furthermore, the column does not acknowledge that the beneficiaries of that spending are trailing in the polls for the Republican nomination. Donald Trump has been the beneficiary of almost no independent spending but he has been leading the Republican race, according to polls, for five months now.

If a government told its citizens that they are free to travel overseas if they wish, but they are not permitted to spend any money on that travel, everyone would decry that policy as an attack on the right to travel. By analogy, for a government to say its citizens enjoy free speech, but that citizens are not permitted to spend money transmitting that speech, should obviously be declared an attack on free speech itself.

Richard Winger
San Francisco, Calif.

Bernie’s Welcome in Big Tent

I am very thankful on this Thanksgiving Day for The Progressive Populist. I look forward to its arrival. I write in response to Reba Shimansky’s letter about Bernie Sanders’ credentials as a Democrat.

The Democratic Party exists under a “Big Tent.” We’ve got blue-dog conservatives, moderates and liberals coexisting and agreeing that it’s better to wee wee out rather than in. To a liberal like me, Bernie is much more a Democrat than Mrs. Clinton or Bill, for that matter, will ever be!

Consider that the Clintons ran as Democrats in Arkansas only because the conservative Republican’s there froze them out. Mrs. Clinton served on the board of Walmart at a time when Walmart was “made in USA”; now, after NAFTA and other trade “deals,” everything is from overseas. As soon as she hears from the bankers she’ll switch back to the Trans-Pacifc Partnership. Now we hear that Bill is a hedge fund manager and that Chelsea is a high dollar “contributor” at MSNBC. Millions of dollars in speaking fees and campaign contributions from Wall Street don’t come without strings. Now the corporate blue dogs are lining up at the puppy dish to give their super delegate votes to the insider.

Bernie’s up against it, no doubt! He will have to garner more than just ballot box support. The Democratic delegate system is rigged to favor the establishment candidate. “Super Delegate” votes are given to party officials, state office holders and national representatives. Mrs. Clinton actually had enough super delegates in 2008 to win the nomination. She also knew that black voters would desert the party. Bernie’s supporters will have to attend local caucuses and elect Bernie people to committee positions as well as run for delegates to the National Convention.

Hopefully the national Democrats will contest every congressional seat. If Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) had a goal of retaking the Virginia legislature, he had a funny way of showing it. Koch-backed candidates ran unopposed in Southwest Virginia. Whoever we nominate will need to have coattails and return the House to Democrat control.

Don’t pay too much attention to the polls! Bernie Sanders is stirring a response from young people and dis-affected voters that will make a huge splash in the coming primaries. Hide and watch, Reba!

Bill Bunch
Tazewell, Va.

Vote Progressive

If Reba Shimansky, (Letters, 10/1/15, 11/15/15, and 12-/1/15 TPP), wants to promote Hillary Clinton she’ll need more than simply labeling Bernie Sanders a “toxic spoiler”, especially for the tens of thousands of progressives showing up at Sanders’ rallies.

Progressives understand the toxicity of republican and democratic national, state, and local parties that have done nothing to increase turnout of eligible voters for over a generation. (After Australia imposed a $50 penalty for “Failure to Vote”, residents won universal healthcare). Abysmal turnout is the overwhelming context of every election in the US, yet, today’s journalists dare not question the legitimacy of US representatives that are typically elected by about 12% to 15% of the eligible voters; journalists are keen, however, to question the legitimacy of low-turnout in those “undemocratic rogue states” when they’re parroting official US justifications for bombing 30 nations “into democracy” since WWII.

In 2016, a tiny minority of eligible voters will decide that it’s about time we had a female president, and just like our first black president, Hillary Clinton represents the continuation of a toxic legacy guaranteed to repel voters: She supported the invasion of Iraq, leaving the White House in disagreement over Iran diplomacy and invading Syria; as board member of Walmart, Hillary oversaw the nation’s largest union busting, sex-discriminating retailer. She was silent when Bill Clinton Killed Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Peter Edelman (assistant secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services under Clinton) resigned, stating, “Clinton just reversed 30 years of progress for millions of families.” Hillary said nothing during Bill Clinton’s radical deregulation of Wall Street; a silence continuing with Obama’s appointment of Wall Street CEO’s to top government posts.

Our cities are filling with homelessness while millions of families still suffer the economic impacts of the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, the Financial Services Modernization Act, the Collateralized Debt Obligation law, and elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act under Bill Clinton, all continuing with Obama. Hillary said Edward Snowden should be prosecuted but couldn’t trust her government with her own emails! In the 6/15/15 TPP, Hillary is quoted as saying, “We can talk about how they (at-risk youths) ended up that way, but first we must bring America’s super predators to heel.” No, Ms. Clinton, we need vociferous leadership calling for equal commitments to prevention because our prisons for men, women and children are already the most populated per-capita on Earth.

Low voter turnout drives Democrats to co-opt opponent’s issues to confuse just enough voters needed to win. Having lost much of their progressive base, Democrats turn further to the right. Sanders has fought for progressive values throughout his long political career and against the disgraceful legacies of Bush, Clinton, and Obama. (Voters in non-swing states, like California, can support Sanders without aiding the Republican candidate. If you are worried, follow your local Democratic party’s election reporting in the weeks before the election).

We can’t fault Hillary Clinton for attending Donald Trump’s wedding, or for enjoying America’s aristocracy of political and corporate family dynasties. As long as US residents of all classes and professions remain self-censored, afraid and uninvolved, the critical war for public consensus will be lost to an elite club that the late George Carlin exclaimed, “And you ain’t in it”.

George Clark
Eureka, Calif.

Sanders Screaming from the Rooftops

I do not know what planet Wayne O’Leary is living on when he attacks Hillary Clinton for stressing Bernie Sanders’ socialism [“The Flim Flam Candidate,” 12/1/15 TPP]. However it is Bernie Sanders who keeps on stressing that he is a democratic socialist and he’s been screaming it from the rooftops for years. He does not regard himself as a Democrat and for decades he has lumped the Democratic Party with the GOP and has referred to both parties as tweedledum and tweedledee and that is why he is loathed by his Democratic colleagues in the Congress.

Reba Shimansky
New York, N.Y.

Election Fraud is More of a Concern Than Ever

Andrew Dewson [“Kim Davis is my governor now,” 12/1/15 TPP] blames Democratic turnout for Republican Matt Bevin’s victory in Kentucky recently, “despite [that he had trailed] by more than the margin of error in almost all the polls in the run-up to the election.” Bevin’s boorishness notwithstanding, Dewson says, he managed to “[turn] the polls around and [romp] into the governor’s mansion.”

But what if those polls weren’t actually turned around? What if it wasn’t Democratic turnout, but voting machine tampering that gave Bevin the election? That might explain the difference between the polls and the final vote. I mean, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, might it not be a duck?

I haven’t seen much talk about election tampering lately, but it has been a concern of mine since the advent of computers. Various allegations over the years have been hushed quickly, even by Democrats, not heavily pursued in the media. I think we owe it to ourselves to get to the bottom of it, an uphill battle in today’s climate. The most recent information I could find is from 2014: <http://www.democracymovement.us/> which links to this article: <http://www.progressive.org/news/2014/06/187724/national-call-link-arms-democracy>.

Perhaps the Republican establishment fear about a Trump primary victory is that they know how rigged the election will be — that the Republican nominee will automatically be “elected” no matter how many votes are cast for the Democrat. They know already that they cannot control Trump, and they cannot count on a rogue candidate to implement their nefarious agenda.

I’m an utter cynic when it comes to trusting that elections cannot be rigged. I believe the silence is deliberate. It’s up to us to dig this up and make sure our elections are not simply a sham.

Nancy Churchill
Oregon, Ill.

When He Talks Like Hitler

Donald Trump is becoming the new Adolph Hitler. He rails against immigrants (Mexican rapists, murderers, etc.) and refugees (there might be an ISIS sympathizer among them). He ridicules opponents and reporters and anyone else who might disagree with him. He promises to “make America great again.” And he sends out his goons to beat up anyone who shows up at his rallies to disagree with him.

Donald Trump has become our greatest threat to American democracy since Huey Long, Father Coughlin and the others who preached hate and acted like dictators during the Great Depression and up to World War II.

Frank L. Schneider
Chicago, Ill.

From The Progressive Populist, January 1-15, 2016


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