The Article: Can’t We Just Say The Roberts Court Is Corrupt? by Mike Lofgren in Bill Moyers Online.
The Text: The Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission was not about aggregate limits on individual campaign donations to candidates in federal elections. The case was about what constitutes a bribe, how big that bribe has to be and whether an electoral system can be corrupt even in the absence of a legally demonstrable cash payment to an office holder or candidate for an explicitly specified favor. The Roberts court, or five of its nine members, adopted the misanthrope’s faux-naïve pose in ruling that private money in politics, far from promoting corruption, causes democracy to thrive because, money being speech, the more speech, the freer the politics. Anatole France mocked this kind of legal casuistry by saying, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.”
James Fallows has reminded us that during Chief Justice John Roberts’ confirmation hearing, the nominee described his own judicial approach as “Humility. Modesty. Restraint. Deference to precedent. ‘We’re just calling balls and strikes.’” Fallows goes on to say that Roberts is cynical for adopting that pose to get through the hearing. It is true that he is cynical, no doubt in the same way that prostitutes are cynical women, but I don’t think that term quite captures the key quality that makes Roberts decide legal cases the way he does. Nor does his cynicism differentiate him from his jurisprudential clones named Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Kennedy.