When Progressives Embrace Corporate Speech

From Business Insider: “When the Supreme Court in 2010 handed down its ruling on Citizens United v. FEC, Democrats were scandalized. Then-President Barack Obama warned it would ‘open the floodgates’ to corporations influencing politics by diminishing restrictions on corporate speech.

“But now, as Disney v. DeSantis has become an actual legal battle—with the Walt Disney Corporation suing the Florida governor for retaliating against it after CEO Bob Iger criticized DeSantis’ policies—the political roles have reversed. Liberals remain scandalized (albeit for different reasons) but now seek the protections the Citizens United ruling offers.”

Arguably the best meme about progressive hypocrisy

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) was a landmark case that involved the constitutionality of political spending by corporations and unions. The case centered around a political advocacy group called Citizens United, which sought to air a documentary critical of Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. The FEC had prohibited the group from airing the film because it was funded by corporate donations, which were banned under federal election law. However, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United, holding that the First Amendment of the US Constitution protects the right of corporations and unions to engage in unlimited independent political expenditures, thereby effectively invalidating portions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold), which restricted the ability of corporations and unions to engage in political spending.

The Citizens United decision was controversial and drew criticism from those who believed it would give wealthy special interests an outsized influence in elections. Some have argued that the decision has led to a proliferation of so-called “dark money” in politics, as corporations and wealthy individuals can now spend unlimited amounts on political advertisements without having to disclose the sources of their funding. Others have defended the decision as protecting free speech rights under the First Amendment, a defense that rests in part on corporate personhood.

Corporate personhood is a legal concept that grants corporations the same legal rights and protections as individual persons under the law. This includes the ability to enter into contracts, buy, own, and sell property, and sue or be sued, among other rights. In the United States, the concept of corporate personhood has been affirmed by several Supreme Court decisions, including the landmark case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886). Critics argue that it grants corporations too much power and influence, as it allows them to make political donations and engage in other forms of political speech as if they were individual persons. Some activists have called for the abolition of corporate personhood, arguing that it undermines democracy by giving corporations undue influence over the political process.

As some of my readers will know, I was highly critical of the Citizens United v. FEC decision and have long been hostile towards corporate personhood generally. I am a dedicated small “d” democratic—a populist. I believe governments should have the power to control corporations—not the other way around. (See Richard Grossman on Corporate Law and Lore.) Watch now as progressives take the side of Disney because the value the message.

What is the message? Disney aggressively queers its programming for children. It also pushes the anti-racism line (see Disney Says, “Slaves Built This Country.” Did They? See also The LGBTQ Lobby Sues Florida). Democrats were all worked up when corporate power interfered with their electoral ambitions. Now that one of the main pushers of gender ideology is facing people power in the shape of Ron DeSantis, Democrats can’t allow democracy to happen. For Democrats, what does democracy look like today? Corporate governance and power. Also remember, when you hear Democrats raise the alarm over threats to democracy, what they are really raising the alarm about is threats to the corporate state and the project to change mass conscious.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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