Saturday, January 23, 2010

for a higher quality of political commons

Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court majority decision favoring unlimited corporate freedom to fund political marketing is depressing.

Saturday, 1/23

(AP)….At the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the head of its office that monitors democratic practices—an international human rights organization—says that the ruling…“threatens to further marginalize candidates without strong financial backing or extensive personal resources.”

Saturday, 1/23 “Obama says court ruling a blow to democracy”

(Reuters)….The Supreme Court ruling dealt a powerful blow to efforts to rein in corporate influence and could even allow foreign corporations to “get into the act,” Obama said.

“It will make it more difficult to pass common-sense laws to promote energy independence because even foreign entities would be allowed to mix in our elections,” Obama said.

Friday, 1/22 — 7:20 pm

It’s not a constitutional issue that so much of the public (the time-crunched, less-educated, and passive-consumerist citizen) is so susceptible to high volume emotion-laden rhetoric in political marketing, such that interest groups with unlimited access to corporate treasuries can dominate media space. Of course, it’s not the fault of tribal capital directly that so much of the public is gullible to emotion-laden appeals. It’s due to a lack of sophistication in enough of the public that intensive political marketing can swing elections. The U.S. Supreme Court majority says that’s constitutional. I disagree: Corporations are not political persons (the Bill of Rights is about political persons); and money, like fuel, is not speech.

In any case, if a corporation has no limit on its freedom to fund a saturation of a market with a candidate-favoring message (or any political position), then that marketing power (drawing on stock-funded and product-funded treasuries) can be used, through lobbyists’ threats to buy a different candidate, to control politicians whose work affects a corporation’s profits. David Brooks, NY Times, on the PBS News Hour today, notes that corporations with strong lobbying resources could use their limitless clout to compel new regulatory hurdles that put smaller-scale competitors out of business. Also, corporately-favored candidates can see marketing agencies limitlessly used to shadow-coordinate their campaigns with interest group campaigns favoring the candidate without seeming to have coordination between the politician and the interest group.

The more highly educated (or sophisticated) that a voter becomes, the less that marketing can invalidly prevail in an election; and the less that the threat of marketing can be used to control politicians. But that’s a very long road requiring widely better public education (via media, as well as school-acquired cognitive sophistication), looking decades ahead.

The corporate party that celebrates unlimited corporate access to the political market has also been the party that, for over a decade, acts cooly toward funding educational excellence for the developing voter. Tribal capital doesn’t need an educated consumer, just a receptive one, and education doesn’t tend to promote unquestioning acceptance. Reducing citizenship to consumerism and politics to marketing is a no-brainer for tribal capital. “Let no child be left behind to want shopping” (but include an adequate margin in the price of desired products, to cover advertising cost that creates desire for the product, i.e., the consumer also buys the desire that is satisfied by the desired product). Make politics the same!: “Isn’t opinion formation just like shopping?” Who needs substance when candidate charisma or voter fears can make choice a no-brainer?

My reveries on the meaning of life are far from such a context of life. But concern for the quality of life at the individual level is relevant to the citizen point in a pointillism of community life, cultural life, and political life. My Project (blogs and Website altogether) is too elaborate to capsulate easily, but my interest in artistic themes presumes the value of a healthy market of ideas in healthy public life. I’ve done much to stand for progressive political values. I don’t leave that behind by loving conceptual prospects.

I hope for a world more generally oriented to genuine meaningfulness. I hope that our quality of lives minimizes passive entertainment and the effectiveness of emotion-based marketing.

Reading requires intiative, interest—and time. I hope for more lives’ valuing of quality time. Let’s do more with each other than sharing passive leisure.

I hope for consumer education in the form of increased critical discernment of marketing tactics, that causes withdrawal from unhealthy aspects of our economies. I hope for more democratic controls on elections. I hope for more political education in the form of capability to recognize fallacious reasoning in political marketing. I hope for more citizen use of available non-partisan resources online directed at assessing fairness in campaign advertising.

I hope for more intelligence on the commons, putting more of the market of ideas in voters’ lives. I hope for more appreciation of life as lifelong learning and democracies as learning societies.

Saturday, 1/23 — 6:02 am PST

(Reuters) ….Obama said he had instructed his administration to work immediately with Congress to develop a forceful, bipartisan response to the ruling.

“We have begun that work, and it will be a priority for us until we repair the damage that has been done,” he said.