The Nine Tailors

The Nine Tailors, as Dorothy Sayers informed me in the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery novel of the same name, are thrice three bells that tell the death of a man.

I wonder how many would tell the death of a nation?

On Wednesday 2 April, one day too late to be counted as an April Fool joke, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down yet another campaign contribution restriction. The majority opinion (5 out of the 9) cited the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, somehow continuing to confuse "money" with "speech."

There is, so far as I can see, only one way in which money actually does equate speech, and that is if someone with a lot of money buys air time for himself and he, himself, uses that airtime to make a statement. Using speech. If, for some reason, she is unable to speak, I would allow for her holding up placards, as long as it is s/he himself who does so. Just so we know who's talking.

The argument that billionaires with tons of money are just like ordinary folks can only be excused with the insanity defense, and anyone making it should be patted on the head, told how cute s/he is, and shuttled off to its room with the nice person in the white coat.

Ditto the argument that unions are in the same boat as the corporations. That would be true only if unions were actually on the yacht instead of bobbing alongside in a leaky dinghy. In this case, corporate money isn't so much speech as it is an assault weapon in the hands of the guys on the yacht taking pot shots at - well, you get the gist.

Money may not be speech, but it has always had a big mouth. We, as a nation, have been through this before, culminating in The Gilded Age, and a Republican President led the charge of reform. Theodore Roosevelt called it "trust busting." Slowly, over the course of the 20th Century, efforts were made, in the individual states as well as at the federal level, to curb the big mouth of money in our national conversation.

Beginning with Citizens United, the Roberts court has invited that big mouth right back into the national salon, where it has all the power of a spoiled two-year-old - loud, demanding, shrill, and threatening - drowning out all other voices, and when that spoiled child gets what it wants, no one can remember anything else that was said.

I'm a little old lady living in a little blue house in Seattle, and all I have is this blog with maybe five readers. If I had a billion dollars, you can bet I'd have a louder voice. My local Democratic Party organization is full of good people, and the 50 to 100 people who come to our monthly meetings hear what they have to say. We have a few thousand dollars in the kitty, I think. If we had a billion, the country as a whole might hear from us. I'm sure there are unions with several million to toss around, but I really don't think there exists today a union with a billion dollars in collected dues. The union leaders can stand up and holler and pound their fists on the table, but I'm telling you - a billion dollar fist can smash that table to splinters and billion dollar legs can walk out of the room with billion dollar lips whistling a happy tune.

Money is not speech. Money is nothing more than a big mouth. But five of our nine justices heard it, loud and clear. And their decision promises a future in which all nine - another nine - could happily sound the death knell of the republic in the name of freedom.