The last time a Democratic candidate compared a campaign finance decision to Dred Scott, he was on his way to winning easily. Then-Rep. Ed Markey told an audience of liberals that just as “the Dred Scott decision had to be repealed, we have to repeal Citizens United.” Republicans (and Markey’s forgettable Democratic opponent), having little to work with, portrayed this as a gaffe. But it hurt him not a whit. Democrats agreed with him.
They still seem to agree with this. At 3:18, a few hours after McCutcheon came down, the campaign of South Dakota Senate candidate Rick Weiland sent out an email with the subject “Worst Decision Since The Dred Scott Case Reaffirmed Slavery.” Half an hour later, the campaign took another bite: “Worst Ruling Since Dred Scott,” read the headline. In the email itself, Weiland referred to a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas, which occurred last weekend, as if it was ongoing.
In Dred Scott, the Court said people with money had the constitutional right to purchase and enslave other human beings. In its line of “money has the right to free speech” decisions, including today’s McCutcheon decision, the Court is saying that people with unheard of amounts of money have the constitutional right to enslave our democracy.
As we speak the inevitable result of this Court’s willingness to grant great riches unlimited power is playing out in Las Vegas. Leading candidates for the Presidency of the United States have been summoned there by a billionaire who has made his money preying on the gambling addiction of millions of Americans and they are being made to grovel for his ill-gotten billions courtesy of the United States Supreme Court’s decision that money has the right to buy anything it wants, including our democracy.
And so on. For a while, pundits attempting to argue that the Democrats’ populist wing was overtaking the Clinton wing pointed to Weiland as a breakout candidate. Weiland, wrote Noam Scheiber last year, was “a mere six points behind the state’s former Republican governor for a soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat.” Polls taken since then have put Weiland behind the governor by 14 to 20 points.