Yet what force on Earth is weaker
than the feeble strength of one?
-From Solidarity Forever by Ralph Chaplin, 1915
Before Labor Day fades into memory, let’s remember that most of the economic gains workers have made in the US, came about because people organized to secure their economic rights.
But now, as these economic gains are evaporating in corporate-funded clouds of conservative dogma and divisiveness, it is time to organize to secure our political rights.
Quite simply, corporations have stolen the political process and the rights of citizens, in much the same way they robbed people of their economic rights in times past.
Doubt that? Consider this:
Contrary to what the press, pundits, political advisors and our elected officials believe, on an issue-by-basis, the vast majority of Americans are progressives.
For example, most Americans were far more worried about jobs and economic growth than they were about the debt ceiling, yet Washington focused on the debt ceiling, foreclosing on our capacity to fund meaningful job-creating programs.
Single payer and the public option were favored by vast majorities in the health care debate, yet they were never seriously discussed by the White House or Congress and the few Congressional representatives who actually chose to represent the people’s views on health care reform were treated as if they were a lunatic fringe by their peers and by the press.
Americans overwhelmingly wanted to restore New Deal regulatory constraints on banking and the financial sector; it didn’t happen. Dodd-Frank was a watered down law that didn’t address too-big-to-fail, and didn’t restore Glass-Steagall.
Most people favored rescinding the Bush tax cuts for the rich; it didn’t happen.
The vast majority wanted social security, Medicare, and Medicaid protected; they’re all on the chopping block.
The majority of Americans have wanted to cut Defense spending and end the insane wars of choice for some time now; no sign that the wars will end, (the White House is actually negotiating with Iraq to stay there longer than our current agreement allows) and any cuts to Defense are likely to be in the range of a paltry $35 billion a year.
Most Americans want clean energy policies and investments; they want to get serious about dealing with climate change; they want to end mountain-top mining; they want environmental laws and protections, etc. etc. etc. They’re getting fossil-fueled business as usual served up with a heavy dose of green rhetoric, but just a dollop of support for green energy and little or no support for environmental protection.
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It’s enough to make you think the people aren’t in charge anymore. (Did I just hear a big Homer Simpson, DOH?)
So, OK, it’s no secret that American governance has been purchased – lock, stock and barrel – by the plutocracy. They own it, they operate it, and they control it. And the same goes for the press.
What can we do about it?
The answer, when you think about it, is quite simple. We need to buy back our country. Here’s how.
We can organize and use our market power to: 1) build a Superpac that funds candidates who pledge to represent us – not the plutocracy; 2) expand the progressive base by being more strategic in our messaging and our goals; and 3) constrain corporate power. Let’s examine the first effort; building a focused Progressive Superpac.
The framework for such a Pac already exists. Efforts such as A Contract for the American Dream have elements of the idea and the organizational structure needed to make it happen. And Van Jones has the vision and credibility to make it work.
The ten steps outlined in the Contract could form the basis of a platform candidates would have to pledge to support to qualify for funds from the Progressive Superpac.
And in aggregate progressives are capable of generating enormous sums of money. There are approximately twenty five to thirty million self-indentified progressives – An average contribution of just $20 from each one would put a war chest together of half to three quarters of a billion dollars. That fields a lot of candidates and funds a lot of campaigns. Unions and other organizations could also contribute to the Superpac, making the war chest even bigger.
But to be effective, this money couldn’t be randomly distributed to candidates and causes deemed “good. ” If our experience with Obama proves anything, it is that rhetoric – no matter how eloquent – is cheap. The Progressive Superpac would be available only to candidates who signed a pledge to support progressive principles, and the Pac would monitor their performance and condition future support on how closely they adhered to honoring the pledge. Think Grover Norquist in reverse.
Aggregating our resources around a higher moral and ethical compass, would buy us access and influence, just like big Pharma, Exxon, or the Chamber of Commerce, except it would be on behalf of the people, not the plutocrats.
If government is for sale, our best hope is to put in a few bids and see if we can buy it back. If we are successful, we might even return the governance of this country to “We the People,” instead of the America we have now: A country for the corporations, by the corporations and of the corporations.