Can Democrats Win With Identity Politics?

Since the 2016 election, Mark Lilla and others have been decrying Democrats’ efforts to address the needs of individual groups, such as women, African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, atheists, the LGBTQ community, minimum wage workers, labor unions, teachers, senior citizens, immigrants, environmentalists and others. Such efforts have been decried as “identity politics,” as if that is something negative.

Let’s stop and think about that for a moment.

The aforementioned groups represent some of the most vulnerable parts of our society. Yet, combined, they make up a significant majority of the nation’s population. And all of these groups are constantly under attack by Republican policies.

Republicans want to deny contraception and abortion to women, taking away their rights to control their own bodies and their lives. In addition, the GOP has used a variety of tricks – including gerrymandering, voter ID laws, reducing the number of polling places and early voting hours to suppress black votes. They have passed “show us your papers” laws to harass Latinos. They have passed laws to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people and non-Christians. They have fought increases to the minimum wage. They have fought collective bargaining. They have fought against raises and pensions for teachers. They’ve tried to take away health care from tens of millions of citizens. And they threaten to reduce or eliminate safety nets for the poor and the elderly.

Protecting these groups does NOT mean the Democrats are engaging in identity politics to show preference for some groups over others. It merely shows that they care for others.

Meanwhile, the GOP has engaged in its own brand of identity politics – focusing on protecting the interests of large, greedy corporations, the wealthy, intolerant evangelical “Christians” and white supremacists. Republicans pander to those who view others as commodities to be exploited or as threats to their dominance. In doing so, they foment fear and hate. Yet few political pundits question their strategy because they believe that is why Republicans have won the Oval Office and the majority of seats in Congress, as well as numerous gubernatorial seats and state legislatures.

However, the pundits tend to ignore the structural advantages that have led to those wins. Republicans control more than 90 percent of talk radio shows and numerous Internet “news” sites that shamelessly create false news stories and narratives.

Republicans benefit from a popular cable network that, under the cloak of a news organization, serves as a megaphone for the Republican National Committee. Through Sinclair Broadcast Group, they will soon control the majority of local TV news programming. They control an organization (ALEC) sponsored by large corporations that writes legislation for conservative legislators. They benefit from the Kochtopus, a maze of non-profit organizations that funnel billions into political races to support right-wing candidates. They even benefit from the sensational supermarket tabloids that specialize in stories attacking celebrities and glamorizing Trump.

All of this makes it easy for Republicans to engage in hateful politics that divide us.

Yet, despite these disadvantages, I believe that Democrats can still win, but not by abandoning the vulnerable. To win, the Democratic Party needs to improve its leadership and unify behind the party’s long-held principles of supporting the majority of Americans, especially those who cash paychecks rather than stock dividend checks. Democrats must continue to reach out to Americans who face discrimination, those who struggle to make ends meet, those who have retired, and those who need a helping hand.

The Democratic Party needs to better communicate its principles. It needs to create a brand; a brand that will make it crystal clear that it is unapologetically committed to improving lives and protecting the dignity of ALL Americans regardless of gender, race, religion, age or economic status.

The Democratic Party needs to hold Republicans accountable for trying to turn Americans against one another. It needs to offer hope for a kinder, more prosperous future.

In other words, it needs to explain that it represents “We the People.”

United Corporations Of America.

Now that Congress has been bought by large corporate interests and billionaires, you can clearly see the GOP agenda intended to pay back campaign donors.

Some of the very first bills brought forward by the GOP include a bill demanding that President Obama and the State Department approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The stated goal is to “create jobs.” But given the fact that the pipeline would only create 35-50 permanent jobs (aside from the temporary jobs needed to build it and those who would be needed to try to clean up the toxic leaks), it’s really a blatant payback to the Koch brothers for supporting GOP candidates.

Of course, we’ve seen yet another Repeal Obamacare bill intended to throw red meat to the right wing base.

The GOP-led Congress has also passed bills intended to, once again, deregulate Wall Street and to eliminate the Consumer Protection Agency. Of course, this is a nod to the GOP’s big Wall Street donors and right wing billionaires. If signed into law, the result would be to unshackle too-big-to-fail banks and investment funds to fleece ordinary investors of their IRAs, 401ks and pension funds.

We’ve seen attempts to withhold funds from the Environmental Protection Agency. This, of course, is another bill to pay back the Koch brothers and large corporations, freeing them to extract resources without regard to the environment. And once the resources have been harvested, the public will be left to clean up the corporate mess.

And let’s not forget the other kind of GOP payback to which we have become so accustomed. The GOP is blocking confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in an attempt to force Democrats to sign a well-intentioned human trafficking bill that has been amended to further restrict a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. This is the same kind of nonsense we’ve seen since President Obama took office in 2009…a period that has thus far seen the GOP block dozens of cabinet and judicial nominees along with 375 bills, including 7 jobs bills and 2 bills for veterans’ benefits. (Indeed, half of the filibusters in US history have come during the Obama administration.)

Yet, instead of replacing the bums with people who might actually represent their constituents, a low voter turnout resulted in the GOPstoppers picking up control of the Senate!

And lest you think that this generation of GOP politicians is particularly disgusting, remember that others in the GOP have done worse. For example, Richard Nixon resorted to treason by undermining President Johnson’s peace talks with the Vietnamese in order to win a close election with Hubert Humphrey. Ronald Reagan intentionally aligned himself with racist Southern Christians (the KKK has long been associated with Christian believers) to defeat Jimmy Carter. And George W. Bush relied on his brother to suppress thousands of votes in Florida in order to steal the presidency from Al Gore.

Although GOP cheating was less obvious in 2004, there is considerable evidence of widespread voter fraud in Ohio, the state that allowed Bush to defeat John Kerry.

More recently, Teapublicans have gerrymandered congressional districts to make it impossible for Democrats to win. They have passed restrictive voter ID laws to prevent minorities, the poor and the elderly from voting. They have cut early voting hours and the number of polls in Democratic-leaning areas to make voting more difficult. They have skirted, or outright ignored, campaign finance laws that forbid cooperation between campaigns and PACs or so-called “education” groups. And their hand-picked conservative Supreme Court Justices have acted to strike down decades of precedent in order to open the floodgates of corporate and special interest money in support of GOP candidates. In doing so, two of those “justices” (Thomas and Scalia) refused to recuse themselves from the cases despite the fact that they personally stood to benefit from their own decision – a breach of ethics that would not be tolerated at any other level of the justice system.

As a result, things are only going to get worse.

The Reality Of Tar Sands Oil.

It’s telling that, among the priorities of the new Teapublican-controlled Congress, several bills came to the forefront. In addition to further attempts to repeal Obamacare, Teapublicans prioritized the Keystone XL pipeline and reduced funding for the Environmental Protection Agency. And who would this legislation benefit? Certainly not the general public. The primary beneficiaries are the Koch brothers whose companies would be able to refine even more of Canadian tar sands oil without interference from those burdensome government regulations.

Perhaps it’s mere coincidence that the Koch brothers and their ideological friends contributed millions to Teapublican congressional and senate campaigns, laundering the money through a complicated network of non-profits in order to disguise the original donors.

The Kochs and their Teapbulican friends would have you believe that the Keystone XL pipeline is a job creator – one that would create thousands of jobs in the US – when, in fact, studies have shown that it would create only a few thousand temporary jobs and fewer than 500 permanent jobs. What they don’t talk about is the fact that, in order to build the pipeline for its Canadian owners, the government would have to use eminent domain to take private land from ordinary Americans who would see no real benefit from the pipeline. Moreover, the pipeline would cross Native American reservations – so-called independent nations – who oppose the pipeline. It would also cross the nation’s largest, and most important, aquifer.

Even more disturbing is the fact that no one yet knows how to clean up the highly toxic tar sands oil after the inevitable pipeline breaks. We have already seen such spills in Michigan and Arkansas and, after months of trying to clean up the spills, the states’ only “remedy” was to allow the oil to sink to the bottom of the waterways where it will take many generations to disintegrate on its own.

And since Koch facilities near Chicago and Detroit have already been refining this gooey muck, we already know the consequences. A by-product of refining tar sands oil is a fine, black powder known as petcoke – sort of a poor man’s coal. Not knowing what to do with the petcoke, and not wanting to dispose of it in an environmentally-safe way, the Koch refineries have created piles of the stuff. Uncovered and exposed to the elements, it is picked up by the slightest breeze and deposited on surrounding neighborhoods where it covers homes, streets, lawns and vehicles. It also invades the lungs of anyone in the area who breathes!

Moreover, scientists tell us the effects of actually burning the planet’s dirtiest oil is “game over” with regard to climate change!

Of course, the Koch brothers and their lapdogs on the right refuse to consider such inconveniences. There is money to be made now. They will reap the profits from refining and selling the oil, all the while denying any responsibility for dealing with the long-term consequences. In other words, they will do what most every other large corporation does: Privatize the profits while socializing the consequences.

Do you still think the few jobs created by the pipeline are worth the damage to our environment? Do you still think the GOP has your best interests in mind?

Democracy Lost.

In recent years, much has been written about growing inequality. It is, indeed, one of the most important issues of our time. And the effects of big money on our democracy have been devastating.

Sure, you may still be able to vote to elect those who are supposed to represent you. But that, alone, does not constitute democracy. Not only are the choices of candidates limited to two individuals – the only two who were able to climb their way up the political ladder in order to receive their parties’ blessings and, more important, their campaign funds. All too often, those who are elected are promised large campaign donations by corporations and industries in exchange for political favors. It is not necessarily quid pro quo, but the expectation for a return on the investment is there. So, too is the pressure.

In reality, such high stakes lobbying has long been a part of politics. But, over the past 35 years, things have gotten even worse.

In the late seventies, large US corporations began to see their hold on the world economy slip. New, lower-priced, high-quality imports – many of them made with robotics – from Japan and Germany began to push aside American-made products. US corporations responded by relocating manufacturing – first to the South, then off-shore – in search of lower-priced labor.

Perhaps, the most destructive response was the move to tie CEO compensation to the value of the companies’ share prices. This ushered in an era of ever-increasing CEO salaries and even more lucrative stock options for CEOs – a legalized form of insider trading. The result was for US corporations to seek ever lower-priced labor in countries where there is no regulation and no employee benefits. At the same time corporate profits have soared, employee salaries and corporate investments in the future have diminished – almost guaranteeing that the future will belong to foreign-based corporations. But why would our CEOs care? They and their money will be long gone before it matters.

Our corporations have used the threat of off-shoring jobs to extort our state and city governments. In exchange for their extortion, those governments have assumed many of the risks of corporate relocation or expansion by paying for needed infrastructure, cutting regulations, and delaying or eliminating corporate taxes.

Now these corporations are attempting to extort the federal government.

Unwilling to pay US income taxes on profits made off-shore, these corporations are stashing cash in foreign banks until the federal government agrees to “repatriate” the money at a greatly reduced tax rate. Of course, they’re justifying the extortion by saying that “repatriation” will lead to greater investments and more jobs in the US – the great “trickle down” fraud.

In reality, the money is more likely to be doled out to CEOs and other executives in the form of bonuses (as a reward for robbing ordinary taxpayers) and stock options.

In the meantime, corporations and billionaires have been working to rig the system. Realizing that buying Congress and our state legislatures is cheaper than paying lobbyists, people like the Koch brothers have stuffed the pockets of candidates willing to do their bidding. To pave the way, they pushed conservatives to stack the Supreme Court with ideologues such as Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas. That inevitably led to favorable court rulings giving corporations the rights of people and all but eliminating limitations on political donations. They got the IRS to change its rules allowing “non-profits” to fund political campaigns. When they won control of legislatures, they gerrymandered congressional districts making it all but impossible for anyone but “their people” to win office. And they introduced Voter ID laws to suppress the votes of minorities and the poor.

In 2014, their efforts finally came to fruition. Having already bought the House in 2010, they now own the Senate. It’s no coincidence that the first bills to reach the House and Senate floors were to repeal “Obamacare” and to build the Koch…er…Keystone XL Pipeline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also made it clear that issues such as raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, unemployment insurance and student loan costs will be pushed aside in favor of gutting regulations on health care and financial services and eviscerating the EPA.

If you’re still worried about the effects of so-called “dark money” on our democracy, don’t. Last year, our democracy officially became an oligarchy.

How Does The Koch Money Look In Your State?

In Arizona, it looks as vile and nasty as the people at the Koch refinery for whom I once worked. And I suspect it looks no different wherever you live.

If you watch the political ads as carefully as I do (I know, I know, that makes me sound like a masochist), you’ll see a disclaimer at the end of the ads showing who paid for them. In Arizona, the disclaimers on the nastiest attack ads tend to read: Paid for by 60 Plus…by American Encore…by Americans For Prosperity, etc. In addition, a large number of ads show they have been paid for by lobbying groups and ideological groups such as the National Realtors Association, the National Rifle Association and the US Chamber of Commerce.

These groups claim that their ad campaigns are not coordinated with the candidates (in fact, that would be illegal), but it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell them apart from the candidates’ own ads. The only real differences are that these ads tend to be nastier and they run a lot more often. Indeed, few of the Teapublican ads are actually paid for by the candidates or their committees.

In other words, the Supreme Court decisions that money equals free speech; that corporations have the same rights as people; that there are no limits on political contributions have done exactly what the five conservative justices wanted. Teapublicans no longer have to raise their own money. The corporations, lobbyists and billionaires give them all they need. Teapublican candidates no longer can be held accountable for vile attack ads. They can say, “I had nothing to do with it.” And if voters are so offended by the attack ads that they refuse to vote, Teapublicans benefit because only the most committed ideologues will vote, and they tend to vote Republican.

There are only two ways to fight this: 1 – Vote against Teapublicans. 2 – Keep electing Democratic presidents until conservatives are no longer the majority on the Supreme Court.

You’ve Gotta Hand It To Conservatives.

Following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the GOP employed the Southern Strategy which was designed to employ racism in order to gain votes from long-time southern Democrats. It worked. As a result of the strategy, Republicans were able to win the White House in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988.

It took Southerners to break the GOP hold in 1976 and in 1992.

But after the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, the GOP lost Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. Seeing that demographics were aligning against them, conservatives employed an equally disturbing strategy. Sure, they continued to appeal to racists after Democrats elected the nation’s first black president. But they based their new strategy on six pillars:

1 – Government obstruction
2 – Corporate political donations
3 – Erasing limits on political donations
4 – Voter suppression
5 – “Model” legislation designed to implement right wing ideology at the state and local levels
6 – The use of conservative-dominated radio and cable TV to relentlessly attack Democrats

These strategies are now almost fully in place. Since 2009, Teapublicans in the Senate have blocked nearly 400 bills and dozens of appointments. The Teapublican-controlled House attempted to shut down the government. The conservative-dominated Supreme Court ignored decades of precedent to rule that money equals free speech; that corporations are people and therefore entitled to contribute to political campaigns; that the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed; and that individuals and corporations should be allowed to spend unlimited amounts on politics.

Concurrently, conservatives realized that it is easier to sneak bills through state legislatures than through Congress. So they began an all-out attack on groups that traditionally fund Democrats, such as labor unions. They have also pushed ideological legislation through ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and similar groups that gave us such ideological bills as Arizona’s racist SB 1070 and legalized discrimination laws such as Arizona’s SB 1062.

As a result of these efforts, corporations now have more power and influence on government (at all levels) than ever before. There has been an avalanche of corporate money from the Koch brothers and others financing political advertising disguised as “issue” ads. There are virtually untraceable millions of in political spending to influence elections. And tens of thousands, if not millions, of minorities, the elderly and the poor will be denied their right to vote in this and future elections.

The tactics have even succeeded in pushing aside dozens of moderate Republican politicians. To make matters worse, Democrats seem to have no real strategy to combat these strategies. And, with few exceptions, Democratic candidates seem to think the best way to be elected is to run away from their party’s principles and pretend they’re Republicans.

Destroying Our Country To “Save” It.

Former Congressman Ron Paul has long been the darling of the so-called Tea Party “Patriots.” Like all of his ilk, he waves the flag and spouts quotes from the Founding Fathers in an attempt to claim the high ground of patriotism. Yet, Paul recently told the National Journal ” that he was “real pleased…and a bit surprised” when he learned there is a growing number of Americans who favor secession.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 24 percent of Americans polled between Aug. 23 and Sept. 16 of this year said they support the idea of their state breaking away from the country. And a majority (53 percent) of those who identify with the Tea Party favor secession. Interestingly, many of these people live in states that receive more from the federal government than they pay in taxes. They call themselves “true patriots.” They tend to run around waving a copy of the Constitution in one hand and the Bible in the other. Yet they’ve read neither.

In other words, Paul and his followers are so in love with our country they want to destroy it. They are so enamored by the Founders they want to divide the nation they created.

The truth is, like the Koch brothers who have funded the Tea Party movement from its inception following the election of the nation’s first black president, Paul and his followers claim to favor small government. But what they really want is no government. Indeed, Charles Koch has said, “government should be like a night watchman whose only responsibility is to protect private property rights and to preserve the laws of supply and demand.”

In other words, like all Tea Party parasites, Koch and Paul are of the “I’ve got mine, you can’t have yours” frame of mind. They don’t want to contribute to helping others climb out of poverty. They don’t want to contribute to the nation’s infrastructure. They don’t want to pay taxes. They don’t want to conserve resources or be stewards of our environment.

To support their positions, they quote the Articles of Confederation, which were so imperfect that they provided no way of repaying the loans needed to win the Revolutionary War; no provisions for a standing army, a federal bank or a federal currency. It was because of these flaws that the Founders convened the Constitutional Convention, creating a structure for our government with only a few absolutes (the Bill of Rights) and guidelines that have allowed our nation to grow and prosper for more than 200 years. It is a nation that is so resilient that it has survived attacks from abroad and within. It has survived more than 200 years of perpetual wars, including a bloody civil war. It has survived the Great Depression and the Great Recession. It has survived the slavery of Africans, the genocide of Native Americans and the greed of corporate “Robber Barons”… calamities that have destroyed many other nations.

In fact, the only thing likely to destroy our nation is the growth of political groups such as the Tea Party led by people like Ron Paul, Ted Cruz, Steve King, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Rand Paul who are promoted by Fox News and financed by the Koch brothers.

IRS Did Not Unfairly Target Tea Party.

In 2013, it was alleged that the IRS had subjected Tea Party groups that applied for nonprofit status to extra scrutiny. Led by Fox News, hate radio and Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Oversight committee, the right howled with indignity. The IRS Director was removed from office. IRS agent, Lois Lerner was vilified. There were even charges that President Obama ordered the IRS to deny right wing groups nonprofit status.

It made for a sensational story. Unfortunately, it was based on a lie.

Recently, ThinkProgress offered proof. The organization reviewed IRS documents it received as a result of the Freedom of Information Act. The documents requested are lists of words that would trigger IRS agents to give extra scrutiny to organizations that requested 501(c)(3) charitable status. According to Josh Israel, the author of a ThinkProgress report, “The 22 ‘Be On the Look Out’ key words list distributed to staff reviewing applications between August 12, 2010 and April 19, 2013, included more explicit references to progressive groups, ACORN successors, and medical marijuana organizations than to Tea Party entities.” You can read the entire report by clicking here.

Nevertheless, the real problem isn’t whether nonprofit groups representing one side of our political spectrum are targeted more than others. The real problem is that 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofits are allowed to engage in politics at all. By applying for nonprofit status, these groups purport to be primarily charitable or educational in nature (the language of the IRS rule governing nonprofits was changed from “exclusively” to “primarily” in 1959.) Yet one nonprofit after another has been found to spend most of its time and money sponsoring political ads targeting specific candidates than educating the public.

No one has abused nonprofit status more than the Koch brothers. The “Kochtopus” of non-profits used to influence elections is both extensive and unprecedented. In 2012 alone, they spent $383 million to help conservative candidates. And they were just getting organized. Since then, they have expanded their complex network of nonprofit “social welfare” groups and trade associations to allow them to spend even more money to influence elections.

They rely on nonprofits in order to take advantage of tax loopholes that allow them to hide the list of donors.

More recently, they have embraced the use of “disregarded entities” – Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) that are “owned” by nonprofit organizations and considered part of them for tax purposes. So far, this is a political tactic used exclusively by the Kochs to disguise their political spending. Unlike their more famous shill groups such as Americans for Prosperity and 60 Plus, the names of these groups are often just a jumble of letters such as PRDIST, RION, TOHE, ORRA, TRGN, SLAH, POFN, RGSN, TDNA, DAS MGR, and STN. Although these organizations are prohibited from engaging in politics, that is clearly their primary focus. And the amount of money spent by these groups is staggering.

The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal and the Sunlight Foundation studied the spending of such groups since January 2013. Contrary to IRS rules, these groups spent at least $24.6 million on ads that named specific candidates. And that was in an off year for elections! Koch-funded groups have even spent money to influence local elections, such as school board elections.

Clearly, billionaires are trying to subvert our democracy. But they can be stopped. We don’t even need a constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court ruling to stop them. All we need is for the IRS to act; to change its rules prohibiting nonprofits from engaging in politics – even political “education.”

Conservative Death Wish?

For nearly two decades, conservatives have denied…no, scoffed at…climate change. The Koch brothers paid scientists to create reports showing that climate change was a fraud. Republicans first created, then voted against, the idea of Cap and Trade. The Tea Party pushed the Agenda 21 conspiracy saying that a UN plan for global sustainability was a blatant attempt to create a one-world government. As a result, climate change is not only continuing. It’s accelerating at a pace faster than the worst case scenario climate scientists predicted some 20 years ago.

The glaciers on Greenland are melting at the rate of more than 27 feet every year. The Arctic ice pack is melting. Even the ice shelves and glaciers on Antarctica are melting, prompting climate scientists to predict truly catastrophic results.

It’s estimated that just the melting of Greenland’s glaciers alone will result in a sea level rise of roughly 21 feet, flooding 80 of the world’s 100 largest cities! Such a rise will displace approximately one-third of the world’s population and flood many of America’s largest cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and more. And that’s just from the ice on Greenland!

Far from being frightened by that prospect, many conservative Christians actually welcome the news. They view the crisis as Armageddon…the return of Christ. They even hope to speed the event and the resulting “rapture.” Traditional Republicans fail to recognize the crisis because they believe that acting to prevent climate change would cause harm to the economy and the large, multinational corporations that contribute to their campaigns. More extreme Republicans can’t accept the possibility that Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was an undeniable truth. Tea Party Parasites simply don’t believe in science. And far too many others simply don’t know and don’t care.

All of this might be humorous if the consequences of climate change weren’t so severe.

Addressing the problem would not only stave off disaster. It could re-energize our economy. In order to decrease the burning of fossil fuels, we could be building a robust alternative energy industry that would create tens of thousands of US jobs and lead to the export of goods and technology overseas. Restructuring our cities to replace automobile traffic with modern, efficient mass transit would make our cities cleaner, more liveable and create additional jobs. Rebuilding our cross-country rail system to replace long distance trucking would lower transportation costs, reduce traffic on our highways and reduce pollutants in our air. Re-fitting diesel trucks to burn cleaner LP gas would not only reduce CO2 emissions, it would help reduce chronic diseases such as asthma. Certainly, some industries will suffer. But those industries would eventually fail anyway and they’ll be replaced by new, more sustainabile industries.

The cost to do all of this will be many, many times less than the cost of moving or rebuilding just one of our major cities faced with rising sea levels. In all likelihood, the cost could be offset by a single catastrophic hurricane caused by climate change and a couple of seasons of fighting the growing number of wildfires caused by global warming.

We can do this! We can actually fight climate change and profit at the same time. Just because conservatives have a death wish, that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to go along with them.

Supreme Injustice.

The Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon et al v Federal Election Commission is the next step in our march from democracy to plutocracy allowing the rich to dominate our political system even more than they already have. In a series of 5-4 decisions with “conservatives” in the majority, the Court has ruled that money equals free speech; that corporations are people (at least with regard to political contributions); and that there can be no limits on the amount of money the ruling class can spend on elections.

For many years, wealthy individuals and large corporations have enjoyed greater influence and access to elected representatives than ordinary citizens. With this ruling, the wealthy will be able to literally buy them. The Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelman are already spending billions through a complex network of Political Action Committees and Super PACs in order to sway our elections. Now they and other billionaires will be unleashed to spend monumental sums to elect candidates that will allow them to control Congress.

It’s fitting that this Supreme Court ruling comes on the heels of the death of Charles Keating, Jr. A financier and developer who was a friend of Ronald Reagan, Keating was indicted in the savings and loan scandal that cost the federal government billions. Prior to the failure of his Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, he contributed $1.3 million to the election campaigns of five US Senators in order to buy their influence to help fend off federal regulators. After Lincoln eventually failed, Keating was charged and convicted of 73 counts of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy. Although his conviction was later overturned, he eventually admitted to four counts of wire and bankruptcy fraud.

Given this latest Supreme Court ruling, there are likely to be many more Charles Keatings – those who will use their money to control tax laws; to fend off federal regulators; to eliminate regulations altogether; to scam the government and ordinary people; and to buy their way out of any legal challenges.

It has often been said that elections have consequences. It’s true. I think it’s no exaggeration to say that our democracy is now suffering the consequences of a Supreme Court majority hell-bent on unraveling our Constitution and placing us at the mercy of a government run by a privileged few…a majority given lifetime appointments by Republican presidents.