It is possible that the U.S. Supreme Court may have inadvertently improved political campaigning in this country.
The court did what we heretofore assumed was the work of the Almighty. Out of nothing, the court breathed life into corporations and declared them to be living souls. In creating these new beings, corporations were invested with certain inalienable rights. Corporations are vested with free speech rights.
Unlimited corporate funds (actually funds belonging to shareholders who have no role in determining the content of political ads) may be spent to support causes and candidates. Corporations may spend unlimited amounts as a disembodied entity because the court in its wisdom did not demand that each ad must identify who actually funds the propaganda. Labor unions may do likewise in the same sense that both billionaires and the homeless may sleep under a bridge if they so desire.
So how has the Supreme Court improved things? It means that voters must now ignore all political ads. Ignoring all ads is bound to improve the political climate. Prudent buyers never rely on ads when making an important purchase; instead, they turn to competent evaluations given by disinterested experts.
Since January 1961, I have owned an automobile and I never have bought one in response to an ad. My first was a Simca Ariane I purchased from my father, who also financed it for me. I never noticed a single ad for a Simca. I have owned models from the Big Three. In addition to the Simca (it was built by Ford of France but sold by Chrysler in the United States) I owned VWs, an Audi, Nissan (when it was called Datsun), Suzukis, and several Toyotas. I turned to Consumer Reports for reliable information and mechanics who worked on cars. I talked to tow truck operators to learn which models gave them the most business. I never think of buying a car based on an ad.
Political ads are an unreliable source of information. When I was a lobbyist, legislators usually asked me this question: Who is behind this? In other words, just consider the source.
For instance, in Virginia, the poverty law center wanted to keep existing usury limits of 36 percent. Guess who wanted to repeal usury limits so that they could soar to 2,000 percent, like the rates in South Carolina? Lenders.
So, ask: Who supports the candidate? What interests do they represent? Do the people paying the piper want to play your tune?
More important, the time has come for us to set aside our individual interests and ask which candidates serve the common good. Good governance requires enormous competence coupled with integrity. Good schools, safe highways, well-trained peace and corrections officers, public hygiene, safe food and medications, and protection of property values through cautious development and building code enforcement cannot be done on the cheap. If making a fortune is the primary qualification for public office, we must remember that pimps and drug kings make a lot of money at public expense, too.
Contrary to the saying "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door," modern admen believe, "If you build a great road to your door you can sell inferior merchandize."
It is one thing to buy a lemon. It is another thing to feel like a lemon, with our civic life being squeezed out of us because we voted on the basis of slick or sleazy ads financed by undisclosed special interests.
The Supreme Court makes it mandatory for voters to ignore all ads.
C.D. Chamberlain lives in Spring Hill.