Once again, Minnesota's Senator Norm Coleman attempted to ensure that government would not control the content of political speech -- and once again the Democrats ensured that they could impose it. Ted Kennedy himself blocked Coleman's amendment with a point of order, and the Democrats torpedoed it in a party-line vote:
Senate Democrats last night beat back a Republican attempt to attach an anti-Fairness Doctrine bill as an amendment to education legislation.
The doctrine, a former requirement that broadcasters present opposing points of view on political issues, was scrapped in 1987 by the Federal Communications Commission, which said the policy restricted journalistic freedom. The bill by Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, would prevent the FCC from reinstating the doctrine.
"We live in an age of satellite radio, of broadband, of blogs, of Internet, of cable TV, of broadcast TV. There is no limitation on the ability of anyone from any political persuasion to get their ideas set forth," Mr. Coleman argued in support of the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2007. "The public in the end will choose what to listen to."
By a vote of 49-48, senators voted not to consider Mr. Coleman's amendment after Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, raised a point of order. Senate rules require 60 votes to waive a point of order.
Kennedy pronounced Coleman's amendment on the education bill as "insulting", claiming that it delayed passage of his education bill. Coleman responded tartly by telling Kennedy that education can only be enhanced by "unfettered access to information." Perhaps it would have been better to remind Kennedy that the federal government has less business regulating political speech than it does in education.
It's become clear that the Democrats want top-down government control over political speech in this country. More than that, they want a mechanism that will kill talk radio -- because they can't compete in that arena. They want to re-establish the Fairness Doctrine so that broadcasters get intimidated into changing formats to protect their licenses. With the FD back in business, any crank can file complaints at will and force the broadcasters to conduct minute-by-minute audits of their broadcasts, attempting to determine how much time went to one position versus another.
Instead of going through that burdensome and expensive accounting, broadcasters will dump political talk for sports, or perhaps the inane "community" talk that almost always turns covertly political. The AM band will fade -- again -- and the broadcast industry will contract -- again. And all because the Democrats believe that Americans are so stupid that they can't find competing information on their own.
Evan Bayh was the only Democrat to support free political speech in this vote. Every Republican in the Senate voted to support free speech. That should inform voters for the 2008 campaign. Without free political speech, all else is lost.