The slave system channeled the vast majority of wealth into the hands of fewer than 2,000 aristocratic families. Seventy-five percent of whites in the South did not own a single slave, and did not appreciate competing with unpaid labor. Yet, somehow, this tiny cabal of plantation owners convinced Congress and the Supreme Court to uphold slavery. Ultimately, they convinced the masses to fight and die for it.
We wonder now what Jedi mind trick they performed to get people to act against their own self interest, just as future generations might wonder how so many of us got convinced that campaign finance reform — and health care, for that matter — was a threat to our freedom.
Citizens United makes it impossible for states to limit money’s influence over politics within their borders, just like the Dred Scott case made it impossible to forbid slavery on their soil.
At its core, Dred Scott was about whether the country could remain half-slave and half-free. The answer was no. Slavery would cross state borders and infect everyone. Citizens United was about whether half the country can curb the influence of money in politics.