My Turn: An urgent mission for Souter
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter is seen, Thursday, July 19, 2012 in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
To Justice David Souter:
Thanks much for your service to New Hampshire and the country. Now that you are off the U.S. Supreme Court, I’m sure you have many things you are looking forward to doing. I’m writing with the hope of interrupting your retirement. I’m asking you to expand your legacy by doing an even greater service for our country.
In recent years, we’ve seen obscene amounts of money circulating through our elections and political systems. Now, with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, corporations and the wealthiest of the wealthy are moving toward having control over our electoral system, from the lowest local offices right up to the president. It astounds me to hear politicians say that the huge amounts of money contributed to their campaigns doesn’t influence the way they vote. That’s like saying the paycheck you receive doesn’t affect whether you come to work or not.
I hear politicians talking about what the American people want and don’t want, implying that for them, that is their guiding star. The reality is that increasingly politicians and their decisions are determined by the money that fills their campaign coffers and the people who put it there.
Given the huge amounts of money corporations and the wealthy few put into our elections, it’s doubtful we still have a democracy. Probably we have shifted over into an oligarchy. It’s no longer “We the people.” It’s “We the wealthiest.”
Given that, I ask you to come out of retirement and be the guiding force leading us toward the adoption of a constitutional amendment that would reverse the Citizens United ruling. Lead us in reversing the decision which in effect says that corporations are persons and free to pour unlimited wealth into influencing the outcome of campaigns. Confront the
absurd idea that money equals free speech.
Start here in New Hampshire, and encourage New Hampshire to lead the rest of the country in rolling back this threat to our democracy.
You have the legal knowledge of how this could be done. You have the moral authority, respect and stature. In short, you are uniquely gifted for this calling.
I was listening to an interview on NHPR recently in which the author of a book on the Supreme Court argued that Chief Justice John Roberts delayed the Citizens United ruling until after you retired because he knew you had written a scathing dissent of the majority decision, and he didn’t want your dissent to be a part of the record.
Assuming this is true, please don’t bury your dissent. Let it out to the light of day. Your country desperately needs it. Share your dissent with the people and invite them to undo this destructive decision. Turn your dissent from an opinion that simply registers opposition into a positive agenda for action that has the potential to change the course of history.
You don’t seem to have the personality of a politician who really likes being out in the public with all the attention and notoriety accompanying that kind of life. I’m not suggesting you do that. Leave that for the people who like it. I’m suggesting that you provide the intellectual firepower to a movement.
Put your decades of legal experience and your years on the Supreme Court at the service of an issue critical to our country. Contribute your integrity and moral authority to protect our electoral system and democracy. Offer your passion in a way that fits your personality and style.
We are familiar with the well-known quote from Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” A paraphrase occurs to me: “If you lead, we will follow.”
(Gray Fitzgerald lives in Concord.)