Opinion | Mind Over Money: Defending Democracy in the Wake of McCutcheon

first_img Pasadena’s ‘626 Day’ Aims to Celebrate City, Boost Local Economy Community News Community News Subscribe 9 recommended0 commentsShareShareTweetSharePin it Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * One of the countless prescient scenes in Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 finds the hero, Montag, struggling to memorize a simple Bible verse as a toothpaste commercial blares over the radio on a commuter train. Living in Bradbury’s imagined America in which substantive reading and critical thinking are illegal has accustomed Montag to superficial, lazy communication. Incapable of focusing his thoughts, he is quickly overwhelmed by the aggressive, simplistic sales pitch invading his ears.Bradbury wrote that scene as a nightmare. But for the corporate and political champions of recent campaign spending cases, that dark moment in Fahrenheit may read like a dream come true. To agenda-driven individuals and groups, the Supreme Court’s invalidation of campaign contribution limits is a green light to deluge the public with torrents of political ads intended to overwhelm us through relentless sloganeering. Fortunately, we don’t have to fall for it.Building on its controversial Citizens United ruling (which struck down campaign giving limits on corporations, organizations and unions), the Supreme Court’s recent 5–4 decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission clears the way for unrestricted political contributions by individuals, further empowering that small group of deep-pocketed donors who already flex disproportionate influence over candidates and political parties through their anonymous support of PACs. Congresswoman Judy Chu was right when she warned that these high court rulings, which equate campaign spending with free speech, could “effectively drown out the voices of average Americans and replace them with special interests who can afford to fund entire campaigns on their own.”In order to protect our democracy, voters will have to become more critical and discerning. We’ll have to study issues and candidates carefully and resist the persuasive power of superficial, sensory-assaulting media advertising – especially TV ads — that the combined power of McCutcheon and Citizens United will certainly unleash. In short, We The People will have to use our minds to overcome their money.Relying primarily on political commercials has never been a smart way to make voting decisions. Ads are intended to persuade — even manipulate — but not to inform. Reading credible newspapers and magazines (be they in print or online) is still the best way to gain understanding of the issues. Supplementing that with study of candidate and party web pages, reading fact-checking watchdog sites and watching candidates’ speeches in their entirety online helps round out the picture. Yes, that’s kind of a lot of work. But democracy doesn’t function properly unless We The People do our part.The good news is that political advertising isn’t as effective as many would-be influencers of power may think. Multiple studies of Presidential and Congressional elections over the last ten years indicate that TV ads have a limited impact on election outcomes. After comparing previous research with his own analysis of the 2012 presidential race, Dan Hopkins of Georgetown University concluded in the Washington Post that, “In all likelihood, even major shifts in advertising would have produced only minor shifts toward the candidate benefiting from those shifts.”So, while Citizens United and McCutcheon give a large and unfair advantage to a small group of wealthy political contributors, it may be a stretch to say that our system has been put up for sale. We The People still have the power to resist the media onslaught and to think, analyze, draw conclusions and make decisions.As the Clarence Darrow-esque lawyer Henry Drummond declares in the play Inherit the Wind, the ability to think is the one virtue that sets humans above the other creatures of the Earth. And this ability to think is both our shield and sword against those who would turn us into a nation of malleable Montags. Exercising our ability to think is how We The People will protect and preserve our democracy. The focused power of our minds will win out over the avalanche of their money.Thank you for listening. I’m Cameron Turner and that’s my two cents. Opinion & Columnists Opinion | Mind Over Money: Defending Democracy in the Wake of McCutcheon By CAMERON TURNER Published on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 | 8:37 pm First Heatwave Expected Next Week Business Newscenter_img More Cool Stuff EVENTS & ENTERTAINMENT | FOOD & DRINK | THE ARTS | REAL ESTATE | HOME & GARDEN | WELLNESS | SOCIAL SCENE | GETAWAYS | PARENTS & KIDS Pasadena Will Allow Vaccinated People to Go Without Masks in Most Settings Starting on Tuesday Make a comment Top of the News HerbeautyYou Can’t Go Past Our Healthy Quick RecipesHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyA Mental Health Chatbot Which Helps People With DepressionHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyWant To Seriously Cut On Sugar? 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