(Big) Deal Or No (Big) Deal -- Dred Scott

Earlier this week, barnstorming in Pittsfield for US Senate, Congressman Ed Markey was pontificating against the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision, as he is wont to do, and said that in order to restore campaign-finance limits,

 "The constitution must be amended. The Dred Scott decision had to be repealed, we have to repeal Citizens United."

As best as I can tell, the rhetoric didn't strike anybody in the room -- including reporters, and trackers from opposing campaigns -- as anything out of the ordinary. Video of the stump speech, likely shot by a supporter on his phone, was posted to YouTube, where again as far as I know nobody took issue with it.

Then someone at Buzzfeed decided, for unknown reasons, to post about it. The post insinuated that there was something bad about Markey's statement, although there was no actual statement of what that might be. There was no indication that anybody had in fact taken offense. It was sort of along the lines of "gosh I just saw this video of Markey saying this thing, I wonder if anybody will have a problem with that?"

National Republican offices immediately feigned horror over Markey's sin. Apparently there was a dearth of actual things to fuss about in national politics today, because quickly the national politijourno world was buzzing about this Markey "gaffe." Which, as best I could tell as of midday yesterday, pretty much nobody in Massachusetts was aware of, let alone bothered by.

But with all the national attention, that couldn't last. With the press banging on his door, at 2:20 yesterday afternoon Markey's primary opponent Congressman Steve Lynch released a statement:

I don’t think it’s right to compare Citizens United to the Dred Scott decision.   Dred Scott kept an entire race of people in bondage and perpetuated the horror of slavery in America.  I’m not sure there are any Supreme Court decisions that rival Dred Scott in infamy.

I will say that Citizens United is certainly one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of my lifetime, and I would support a Constitutional amendment to overturn that decision. Granting citizenship to corporations, which are state-created entities that are immortal, greatly diminishes the rights of ordinary citizens.

Well, if you've got the campaign opponent saying that what Markey did was wrong, and suggesting that he showed a lack of appreciation for keeping "an entire race of people in bondage," you've got a political story. Hence (among others) today's page one Globe story, which managed to find some mildly disapproving African-American leaders; and today's Herald story, which apparently required the work of two journalists to not get any comments from anybody.

So, is this a Big Deal or No Big Deal on the merits -- that is, putting aside analysis of whether it will have an effect on the race, should it matter to people weighing their vote?


As you may have surmised by my tone, my answer is No Big Deal. Maybe it wasn't the single best analogy in the world (although I don't have a problem with it), but on the Ed Markey scale of hyperventilation it was unremarkable. (It's a slow day when Markey's congressional office doesn't issue at least three denounciations or demands. Yesterday he released statements on "marketing of energy drinks at high school and collegiate athletic events" and  "high levels of seafood substitution in restaurants and grocery stores"; the day before was LIHEAP, the GRID Act, and BP.) 

So that's my call. What say you: Big Deal, or No Big Deal? 

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