David Cobb, the 2004 Green Party Presidential candidate, has been making his rounds across the country to promote the cause of ending corporate rule with the organization, Move to Amend. His tour is part of Move to Amend’s 2013 Barnstorming Tours, which aims to educate the public “in the tradition of the mighty Populist Movement” about corporate personhood and the need for a constitutional amendment that firmly establishes that money is not speech and corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights. This past Tuesday, Cobb stopped in Emmaus, PA for a chat with the Lehigh Valley Coffee Party and other concerned citizens about restoring democracy.
The gathering at the local All That Salon was small but active and engaged as Cobb wove a story of the constitution and how it has been co-opted by moneyed interests and large trans-national corporations to benefit their bottom lines at the expense of the people. “We the People”, he began, we who are free and sovereign, come together to make government which is thus subordinate and accountable to the people. At the time when the constitution was ratified in 1789, Cobb explained, corporations gained approval through a series of obstacles and were passed through the House and Senate just like a law. Corporate charters could even be revoked if they acted outside of the already approved charter or acted outside of the public interest. Not a single one of the huge trans-national corporations, Cobb raved, could exist today under that law.
What’s more, following the January 21, 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court granted that corporations are persons, entitled to all rights protected under the United States Constitution. “We the People” now includes you, your mother, your best friend Mike, your cousin Fay, your doctor, your lawyer, JP Morgan, Shell Oil, CitiGroup, Goldman Sachs, and all of the other corporations that have systematically sought to bolster their bottom lines at the expense of our health, our environment, our economic stability, and our democratic system. “We the People” now means that corporations, as well as you and I, are afforded the same rights under the constitution and now legally hold the power over our government. The government used to be subordinate and accountable to men and women. Real men and real women with consciences, desires, feelings of love and sometimes of hatred, thoughts, and actual physical bodies. These men and women used to hold all of the legal power over the government. Corporations, who do not have beliefs or thoughts or desires or consciences, now legally hold that same power, and in fact, since money was also ruled to be equated to speech, hold that power even more so than does the natural human.
Today we are living in a corporatocracy. Elections, laws, and even our rights can now be bought and sold. Perhaps it would be easier if we were just more transparent about this fact, afterall, the spectacle that can be called our modern-day political arena can be best equated to a sports game with its endless corporate sponsors. “This election brought to you by: Royal Dutch Shell, killing polar bears since 1907. Annnnd the Koch Brothers, “We love your social security so much, we want it for ourselves!””
And the mainstream media only encourages this display of political theatre. As Cobb noted during his lecture, the corporate media frames what we are allowed to think about. It tells the story that the power elite want us to hear and paints it in their favor. Across the country, movements against the power elite have sprung up, both liberal and conservative. The Tea Party has railed against Big Government. Occupy Wall Street has cried out against corporate power and greed. As Cobb explained, the media would have you think that these two movements are entirely separate; fringe groups with little in common. We are shown the racists and homophobes within the Tea Party. We are shown the Anarchists and hippies living in Occupy encampments. This divisiveness and disunity only serve to secure the power of those in charge. Terrifying to the plutocracy is the unity of the common man. It is when we see our collective disenfranchisement, that we have been collectively sold out— the conservatives by the Republican Party and the liberals by the Democratic Party—that we can truly rise up and affect real change. As Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!” It is not hard to see how power, wealth, and greed have plundered our republic.
Democracy (n.) from Greek demokratia: demos “common people” and kratos “rule”
Plutocracy (n.) from Greek ploutokratia: ploutos “wealth” and kratia “rule”
We call ourselves a democracy for a reason. The power lies with us. It is implicit in the very definition of our system of government. It is time we reclaim what is ours.
Alyssa Röhricht blogs at Crash Culture: Political Train Wrecks for Political Junkies