I was going to start this off with, "Ah, life is good." But that's a bit of an overraction in the world of politics, so i'll just say, "Well. Pretty good week." First, a single election in Massachusetts changed the whole political landscape in Washington. Health care reform is dead, and cap-and-trade is on life support. I won't echo Bill Clinton and say "the era of big government is over," but its growth just got slowed down a bit. Conservatives who a mere year ago were consigned to the wilderness for "a generation" were suddenly back in the game, and some Democratic senators told the Politico Web site that every Democratic senator facing re-election this year is in peril. A generation isn't what is used to be.
Then, the Supreme Court rediscovered the First Amendment. "Did we say McCain-Feingold was constitutional? Just kidding."
"Congress violates the First Amendment when it decrees that some speakers may not engage in political speech at election time, when it matters most."
Pretty simple, pretty basic, obviously right but so often violated.
This case shows the difference just one justice can make. McCain Feingold was decided by a 5-4 vote, and so was this case. Justices Kennedy, Thomas and Scalia were in the minority the first time around and the majority this time. In the intervening years, McCain-Feingold majority-voting O'Connor and Souter were replaced by Roberts and Alito, who created the new majority. What made the majority possible this time was the fact that swing vote Kennedy went conservative on this issue.
Unfortunately, he went liberal on the property rights issue, voting with the majority in the despicable Kelo decision that all but put the finishing touches on the destruction of the concept of private property. Despite the changes in the court, that issue would still go 5-4 the wrong way if it came up again.