As the coffers of political action committees overflow with election swaying dollars, many Americans continue to point accusatory fingers at the Supreme Court. But the “Citizens United” ruling is no more to blame for the continued corruption of electoral politics than Madison Avenue is to blame for America’s massive consumer debt.
America is the land of the free, but unfortunately, freedom and intelligence are often mutually exclusive. The housing crisis didn’t just happen because of banks’ predatory lending; it happened because millions of Americans were such foolish prey. The average American doesn’t carry over $10,000 in credit card debt because of emergency expenses incurred after losing his job; he carries the debt because the house he couldn’t afford to begin with wouldn’t have been complete without the HDTV and new furniture. When given the freedom to make important decisions, the half of Americans with below average intelligence will consistently make below average choices.
If you need less anecdotal proof of America’s intellectual shortcomings, take the National Assessment of Adult Literacy’s 2003 study which found that 43% of Americans cannot successfully “perform moderately challenging literacy activities.” This failure to make sense of moderately challenging literature is indicative of our country’s real political problem: many Americans cannot comprehend moderately challenging civic issues. If 43% of the electorate cannot form policy opinions based on the latest articles and literature by experts in their respective fields, they are destined to bite at the baited lines of thirty-second television ads funded by super PACs.
The current lack of civic aptitude among Americans is further evidenced by simpleminded folks taking hold of far-fetched, yet elementary ideas they can understand, like “Romney hates dogs,” or “Obama is a foreigner.” Prodigal super PACs are now free to exploit this kind of logical deficiency, but only because the masses are too dim to inform themselves—not because five justices decided to make a mockery of The Constitution’s first amendment.
If the television ads and other media propaganda of super PACs are enough to persuade would-be voters, then it is not the court system that has failed; it is the educational system and society as a whole that is culpable.
It is not the Supreme Court’s job to protect Americans from their own ignorance.