In my time writing about politics, I’ve come to the conclusion that the greatest transgression against the American people of the last thirty years has been the incessant creep of unbridled capitalism in our government, our healthcare, and our food supply. Corporate America has nearly exclusive access to our legislators and presidents. It started with Reagan Republicans going hard at unions, busting them up and handing all the political clout to the corporations who employed the now broken unions. Each subsequent president and congressional body has done their damndest to open the door just a little wider for lobbyists to come in and drop some money into their campaign coffers, securing a sympathetic vote or a nod to their industry in an important piece of legislation.
If congress and the White House were opening the door to Corporate America, the Supreme Court swung the floodgates wide open in their 2010, 5-4 landmark decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. Citizens United ostensibly took governors’ feet off the gas pedal and let corporations jam their foot down as hard and often as they wanted. The results were apparent in the first elections after the decision was handed down which essentially helped give corporations the same protections as people too, my friends. Last year’s election season was flooded with dark money. It was so nakedly apparent that Stephen Colbert was able to both satirize the process and participate in it by starting his own SuperPAC in some of the most amazing and biting political satire I’ve ever seen.
The people, the rank and file voters on both sides of the aisle who actually cast the votes, cannot be heard over the sea of money that comes from these 501(c) (4) corporations that act as legal money laundering organizations to obfuscate the source of the donations. We have very little oversight into the process, and it’s damned-near impossible to know exactly who is spending the millions and billions of dollars to influence our politicians unless they cop to it like Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers or even Bill Maher. The system is broken right now, and that’s obvious. The good news is that a movement is growing to resist it.
This past week Oregon joined a growing number of states passing resolutions in their legislatures demanding that Congress address the wrong put upon us by the Supreme Court’s decision. In the same week that saw twenty-nine homophobic Republicans in the House draft their own Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, it’s nice to see that in the states the real issues, the issues that are truly the cause of so much that ails us this great nation, are being addressed.
Sixteen states so far have enacted legislation demanding Congress draw “the distinction between the rights of natural persons and the rights of corporations.” Oregon’s bill points out “that Congress and state legislatures may regulate all moneys raised and spent for political purposes.” All across the country similar bills, many of which are bipartisan believe it or not, are springing up.
It’s really easy to get cynical about what’s happening in our country these days. We don’t seem to have the attention of our representatives most of the time. They don’t pass gun background check laws that 90% of us want. They ignore our calls for a public option health care system. They send weapons and treasure to arm Syrian rebels that are also aligned with Al Qaeda and that have been caught on tape committing atrocious acts of barbarism. Our educational system is broken, and we have red state legislatures trying to remove science and critical thinking from curriculum and supplanting them with religious dogma. So if you’re a progressively minded soul, it can be very easy to take one look at our country and hop the next flight out of here.
Thank Sagan that there are still people who are paying attention and are fighting to jam a wedge between Corporate America and the We, the People’s representatives. Maybe sixteen of our fifty states doesn’t seem like much, but Oregon is just one of four states (Delaware, Illinois, Maine, and West Virginia) that have adopted measures which call for a Constitutional amendment to block Citizens United permanently in the last two months alone. That’s some serious momentum. The fight isn’t over, not by a long shot, but when we hit that magical half-way point–twenty-five states–that have petitioned our Congress for actual leadership instead of political theater, it will become impossible for even our corporate-sponsored government to resist the voice and will of their constituents.
Help is on the way, America.