Last Wednesday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) took his crusade against the Citizens United decision to a new and absurd extreme, declaring at a rally: "It is the worst decision since Plessy v. Ferguson. I really believe that." Since Plessy, an 1896 case that upheld racial segregation, there have been several other egregiously bad decisions, such as Korematsu (1944), which upheld an Executive Order that sent thousands of innocent Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II.
But to Schumer, Citizens United tops them all. Schumer's vitriolic hatred of the Citizens United decision stems from purely partisan motives, as evidenced by his DISCLOSE Act of 2010, which would have targeted corporate contributions while leaving Democrat-friendly union contributions relatively untouched. When President Barack Obama slammed the Supreme Court during his State of the Union address in January 2010, Schumer--seated behind the justices--leapt to his feet to applaud Obama's brazen attack on judicial independence.
Given that the court's reasoning in Citizens United is based on the First Amendment--which liberals once held dear, but which they now wish to change after more than two centuries--it seems a stretch, to say the least, that the decision is the worst since 1896. Here is a list of far more likely candidates--all of which Charles Schumer thinks are not as bad as a decision to let people--and associations of people--express and promote their political opinions freely:
- Korematsu v. United States (1944) - permitted the mass internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. A decision so bad that it is universally condemned by liberals and conservatives alike, and was redressed decades later through the payment of billions in dollars in reparations.
- Kelo v. City of New London (2005) - allowed the government to exercise its power of eminent domain to take private property for the benefit of another private owner--not just for public ownership, as had previously been the case. The case is viewed as a drastic erosion of private property rights.
- Wickard v. Filburn (1942) - liberals may feel otherwise, but most conservatives regard this case as a grave mistake, and the beginning of the era of big government. The Court extended federal regulatory power through the Commerce Clause to cover even wheat grown by a farmer for his own consumption.
- Roe v. Wade (1973) - whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, it is undeniable that this poorly reasoned case--which took the debate over abortion out of the legislatures by essentially inventing a right to privacy under the 14th Amendment--set the stage for the bitter culture wars of the past several decades.
- Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) - most liberals, and some conservatives, would agree that this decision, in which the Court upheld state sodomy laws preventing homosexual sex between consenting adults, enabled intrusion upon privacy and liberty. The decision was reversed in Lawrence v. Texas (2003).
- Lochner v. New York (1905) - for liberals, this case is the ultimate in bad decisions, and is taught at law schools as such. The Court struck down a state law regulating working hours, defending freedom of contract and limited government. Conservatives don't dislike the case--but it's a landmark for the left.
So, according to Schumer, it was better for the Court to allow the mass imprisonment of Japanese Americans, seize private property for private benefit, subject non-traded goods to the Commerce Clause, create a right to kill unborn children, ban private homosexual sex between consenting adults, and throw out worker-friendly labor laws than to allow American companies to contribute--indirectly, at best!--to political campaigns.
This is a perfect example of the "extremism" Mr. Schumer wants to associate with the Tea Party. It is partisanship trumping reason, and it is what President Obama and his party have brought to Washington.