By Ben Lennon
| These days, it seems like it never truly goes away. Or, if it does, it’s always lurking behind a corner, before jumping into the spotlight months before anyone thinks it should. No, I’m not talking about the Christmas shopping season. At least, not for regular consumers. Instead, I’m talking about campaign season. Somehow, a full seventeen months before the 2016 election, we’re already being bombarded with ads from politicians trying to make their case. We’re looking at over seventy-two weeks of campaigning. To put this in perspective, remember that Britain allows their politicians just six weeks of election season.
With dozens of candidates appearing, thousands of ads being created, and billions of dollars being raised, it might seem like your vote will count for less than ever before. In reality, the opposite is exactly the case: with each passing presidential election, your vote matters more than ever. Why, you might ask? Consider these two pieces of information:
First, the 2010 Citizens United decision. Try as you might, we can’t talk about elections without discussing it. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of that case? Possibly the phrase “corporations are people” pops into your head. You wouldn’t be alone, as most people associate this idea with that case. Here’s the thing: the decision makes no reference to the constitutionality of corporate personhood. The main part of the decision is that you can’t restrict political speech. It doesn’t matter who is “speaking,” or whether or not they are people. Money, according to the court, is speech, and you can’t restrict this kind of speech. Remember too that the decision was 5-4, cleanly divided into the liberal and conservative wings of the court.
The second important piece of information is that, barring unforeseen circumstances, four out of the nine supreme court justices will be seventy-eight or older by the time the next president is sworn in. These four justices include two from each wing of the court, liberal and conservative. The next president will very likely appoint at least one justice in their term, and likely up to four if they serve two terms. This will radically shift the make-up of the court one way or another.
This is why your vote matters more than ever. As Lawrence Lessig points out, campaign finance reform, the kind brought before the court in Citizens United, has to be tackled first before we can get meaningful reform in any other area. Until we do that, politicians will continue to be dependent on their funders, and this dependency breeds a legal corruption. We will never achieve true environmental reform, for example, while politicians are still dependent on oil and coal companies to fund their increasingly expensive campaigns. Take any issue you care about, and the result will be the same.
What this means is that regardless of a sense of hopelessness you may have surrounding the presidential candidates, vote you must. You might care deeply about tax reform, or health care, or education, or any one of the numerous issues facing our country. You also might believe that the candidates for president won’t represent your beliefs, and won’t be able to achieve true change. You might be right. But know that whoever takes the oath and assumes the office of President of the United States of America on January 20th, 2017 will have the power during their time in office to drastically alter the make-up of the Supreme Court, and thus the power to reverse recent decisions that have destroyed our democracy in the name of “freedom.” If nothing else, the opportunity exists to reclaim our republic. And while this might not be true 364 days out of the year, on election day your vote and your voice matters as much as anybody else. So speak up, and be heard. Vote.