Remember "checks and balances" from citizenship class? For a democratic republic to succeed, no single group or class can have unlimited power; checks and balances must exist throughout the system.
Unfortunately, thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, politics today has plenty of checks -- but precious little balance.
It is estimated the 2012 Presidential campaign may cost a staggering $2 billion. Perhaps more frightening is the fact that a billionaire could actually contribute that much to the super PAC of his choice. Gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, for example, is worth an estimated $21 billion. He could single-handedly contribute the equivalent of the entire Presidential campaign.
With that possibility of massive (and completely legal) influence, it does not take a crystal ball to predict a financial tsunami of super PAC contributions.
Every electoral office is at risk of being taken by the candidate most acceptable to the wealthy.
In theory, Democrats have equal access to super PACs; common sense says otherwise. Democrats want to raise taxes on the rich; Republicans virulently oppose them: which party is more likely to be supported by the wealthy?
Anyone who thinks Citizens United was not an outright gift to the Republicans should compare super PACs for Republicans versus Democrats. Karl Rove's group American Crossroads has "... projected... at least $240 million... (and) Americans for Prosperity... has reportedly received a $200 million commitment from billionaire oil magnates Charles and David Koch." (Pro Obama Super PAC Raises $2M in February, Trails Pro-GOP Peers, ABC News)
That's half a billion dollars right there, from just those two Republican-pushing groups.
We already have a Republican-controlled Supreme Court, and a radically conservative House of Representatives. The Senate is close to turning red, and a flood of super PAC cash could push it over the edge.
Consider the key race of Virginia, where a moderate Democrat, Jim Webb, is retiring. Running to replace him are two former Governors, Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen. Kaine is a moderate with a reputation of working across party lines; Allen is considered one of Virginia's most partisan officials. They are neck and neck in the polls.
What would it mean to our everyday lives, if the Senate was controlled by folks like George Allen?
For example, my number one issue is stem cells. I have a paralyzed son, Roman Reed; I hope to see him walk again. He is not alone in his disability. With an estimated one hundred million Americans suffering incurable disease or disability, finding cures for our loved ones should be a national priority.
Where do the candidates stand on this issue?
As Governor, Tim Kaine signed a bill permitting stem cell research, but the legislation did not include a provision allowing for embryonic stem cell research. I wrote to ask him his opinion and received the following response.
While I do not support the creation of an embryo solely for research purposes, I would support legislation promoting embryonic stem cell research as long as those cell lines were derived from fertilized eggs left over from IVF procedures, already scheduled to be destroyed, and the donors had given their consent.
That is a reasonable compromise position: not as liberal as a Californian might wish, but still supportive, not an obstacle to cure.
And his Republican opponent?
On stem cell research George Allen has flip-flopped so many times his tongue must have skid marks. He has gone from oppose to support and back to oppose. The conservative American Spectator wrote, "Allen seems more poll-calibrated than principled... " spectator.org/archives/2006/07/18/the-jeffersonian/print
But Romney-izing his beliefs doesn't make George Allen a radical. His stand on "personhood" does that.
Personhood is the bizarre belief that every fertilized human egg (blastocyst) must have full standing in a court of law -- even if it is a dot in a dish of salt water for research, or frozen in an IVF clinic.
Protecting every blastocyst is as ridiculous as demanding that every grain of sand be protected like Mount Rushmore. A married woman may lose just such a fertilized egg in a heavy-flow menstrual cycle -- we are talking about the contents of a tampon!
In addition to banning abortion at any stage, (with no exceptions for rape or incest), personhood would also threaten the In Vitro Fertility (IVF) child birth procedure, prohibit many forms of birth control including "the pill", and would criminalize embryonic stem cell research.
Should a blastocyst smaller than the point of a pin be given preference over the rights of women and the hopes of cure for millions of suffering Americans? George Allen says yes.
"I believe that life begins at conception and support legislation declaring the personhood of every individual life."-- George Allen Campaign Website, 11/19/11
Mr. Allen has pledged to support personhood on the federal level.
His election could give Republicans control of the United States Senate.
Allen vs. Kaine: an election to watch -- with America in the balance.