The Supreme Court says that it is corruption in American politics that gives it the right to take away rights — to tell people what they can and cannot say on TV as an election draws close, for instance.
The ruling on campaign finance law shows the court itself suffers from a form of corruption and raises the question of whether Americans should feel themselves bound by this abuse of power.
The court's integrity and legitimacy, after all, rest to a large degree on whether justices are making an honest effort to interpret the meaning of the Constitution. But in this ruling, a majority seemed engaged instead in ideologically biased philosophizing, with scarcely a glance over the shoulder at what it might mean to guarantee such a proclaimed right as free speech.
It would therefore be hard to fault advocacy groups were they to take the legal risk of civil disobedience, saying on TV what their consciences bade them to say without bowing to the political censor's regulatory demands. Is submission to such a rights-denying law a form of disrespect for a higher principle? Do Americans who bow to it put themselves alongside others in history who have taken orders to do what they know is wrong?
In the end, the best attack on this law is not just further testing in the courts, which are unlikely to budge anytime soon. It is to recognize that it was Congress that brought us this folly in the first place, and to fight fiercely to have Congress amend the law. The attack should come from diverse quarters — from both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association, for instance. Using every available legal means, such groups should cast doubt on the wisdom of re-electing any member of Congress who voted for the law and is refusing to reconsider any of its provisions.
The majority justices on the court, meanwhile, ought to consider that money is not the only source of corruption of those in power. The wish for ever more power — of not being bound by even something so precious as the basic law of the land and principles for which Americans have died — is another source of corruption. And corruption of that sort, they might contemplate, can ultimately lead to contempt for an institution that has been vital in this republic's affairs.