Paul H. Jossey
On the positive side Buckley’s wending opinion cemented its place in First Amendment lore with a single line: “[T]he concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment.” Buckley thus rejected “political equality”—equity being decided by those in power—as a legitimate reason to subjugate individual speech rights. Instead government could only curtail speech in order to combat “corruption” or its “appearance.”
By forbidding government from rationing speech through equality, Buckley unshackled the political marketplace that has since flourished with competing and diverse voices. Contrarily the Court’s stance provided perpetual heartburn for a generation of would-be speech policers. Politicians who abhor criticism cite equality as a rationale to abate individual First Amendment rights. Academics—particularly the Harvard law faculty—have supplied intellectual support for their fight.