If money is speech and speech is freedom, then it follows that those who have more money will have more freedom.
This includes the freedom to determine who gets to vote, the freedom to dictate how much workers are paid, and the freedom to impose their agenda regardless of public opinion.
It also follows that those with less money will have less freedom, less speech, and less representation.
These are the basic tautologies in logic that Conservatives refuse to address. By equating freedom with money, the Party That Loves Liberty and Freedom is actually reducing the liberty and freedom of the vast majority of Americans. Yet when the majority of Senators tried to correct this problem, obstructionist Senate Republicans killed the proposal with a filibuster. Conservatives accused the Democrats who supported the proposal of trying "to radically shrink First Amendment protection of political speech."
Constitutional guarantees of free speech, it turns out, are only available for those who can afford to pay.
Bloviating pundits notwithstanding, speech is not an infinite resource. There are only so many radio and television ads that can be sold; only so many prime time hours; only so many websites. Perhaps the most finite of all resources is the attention span of voters. Once these resources have reached their full capacity, there is no room left. Other voices and ideas are simply unheard, no matter how brilliant, valuable, or vote-worthy they might be. Television stations cannot squeeze in one more commercial. Voters will not sit through another political ad.
In the war of voter attrition, the Koch brothers are winning.
The problem is exacerbated by judges that believe that political ads are not required to tell the truth. Politicians and the PACs that suppport them have the freedom to create a lie and to overpower any opposition to it, including opposing views that are based on actual facts. It's a perfect propaganda machine.
Voter fatigue translates into skewed election results. Once in office, politicians rewrite election laws, gerrymander Congressional districts, and take other actions to ensure that their donors are rewarded and that they and their party remain in power. Laws that can't be changed through legislation are manipulated through the budget process. New ideas are allowed to die despite having strong public approval. 92 percent of Americans think that requiring a background check before someone can buy a gun is a good idea. 72 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage. Yet these and other popular ideas are routinely killed by a minority of Senators who represent a minority of voters.
Let's be honest. Citizens United and the closely related McCutcheon were not about increasing freedom of speech. Both were 5-4 decisions from a Conservative majority and are about ensuring political control in the face of changing voter preferences. Both cases are about drowning out any opposition.
Which brings us to Net Neutrality. If money equals freedom, then startup companies and small businesses that have less money will have less freedom. This means, among other things, less freedom for innovation, less freedom for commerce, and less freedom of speech. The end of the Net Neutrality means a decline in the quality of service for everyone who uses the Internet. Ultimately, it is one step closer to the end of discussion, debate, and democracy.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web portion of the Internet, envisioned and still supports an open and inclusive web. Conservatives are on record as opposing this freedom. Instead, they prefer a "free market approach" that will do to the Internet what Citizens United has done to political campaigns. American media is already dominated by an oligarchy of just six companies. Independent media outlets and commentators already face enormous challenges as they struggle to be heard. Banishing these websites to the slow lane of the Internet would mean less freedom, not more.
Free speech cannot exist when those without money are shut out of the conversation. Democracy, in political ads and on media websites, requires a diversity of legitimate ideas, not simply the repetition of the same biases and misinformation.
Instead of asking why Democrats oppose unchallenged speech for a few, the better question is to ask why so many in Washington seem to oppose freedom for all.
Bob Seay is the Editor of NewsPrism.com