From the Left: Democracy endangered
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
The Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United decision represents the beginning of a dangerous phase in American history. It represents the transition from a people-driven democracy to a corporate oligarchy, wherein the say that you and I has become increasingly unheard while the voices of the ultra-rich are amplified.
Of course, there are those who will support the Supreme Court’s decision out of a genuine belief that spending money equates to free speech. But this view runs in direct opposition to the well-being of America and its people. Citizens United has nothing to do with free speech or the liberty to take part in the electoral process. How does the legalization of super-PACs and groups with the ability to spend unlimited money in elections reinforce liberty or democracy? How does it do anything to better America and improve the lives of the working class? The simple answer is that it does not. Allowing money to flood Washington does not make our voices there any louder. It only silences them.
The amount of money that one has should not equate to how much say they have in government. Democracy should go hand-in-hand with political equality, not economic classism.
What does that say about our Republic? What sort of message are we projecting to both our citizens and those abroad when we let super-PACs trample over us? What sort of Republic are we, when things such as Citizens United and voting identification laws begin to undermine the system that made this country the envy of the world? It is not a good one. We are setting the stage for both potential disenfranchisement and the very end of representative government as we know it.
Elizabeth Warren put it spectacularly when she said, “corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”
Bernie Sanders, the longest-serving Independent in the history of Congress, has offered a proposal that seems logical to us but will be extraordinarily difficult to pass through the capital-riddled system: the Saving American Democracy Amendment. It states that corporations are not people, and only living, breathing human beings are entitled to the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Amending the Constitution is not something that should be taken lightly or be done often. Such discussion should only come up when the existence of our Republic is in peril and, unfortunately, we are at that dreaded point. Which path will we take? Will we go down the road wherein the ultra-rich wrest total control of Congress from the people, or will we rise up and demand a preservation of democracy?
Is this what we have come to? A time wherein our supposedly democratic Republic and its representatives can be bought and sold by the corporate élite like so many commodities? What would our Founding Fathers say if they knew that our most hallowed institutions have been infected with the cancerous influence of capital? President Lincoln’s famous declaration of our nation being “of the people, by the people, for the people” is increasingly slipping away, piece by piece.
This is not an issue like abortion, same-sex marriage, universal health care, or the host of other mundane things that Democrats and Republicans bicker about every day on the news. The condition of our democratic system transcends this. Citizens United has been the subject of sharp criticism from both the left and the right. We may argue over talking points throughout the course of the presidential campaign and be divided amongst which candidate to choose, but we are all united in our desire for fair, pure, and transparent democracy.
This is not an issue that divides America, splitting it into liberals against conservatives – it literally represents a turning point in America, a presentation of two very distinct paths that our country can take. Will we follow the one that leads toward corporate ownership of government and the death knell of representation? Or will we overturn Citizens United and do as Senator Sanders says and “wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America?”
The solution is clear: we need to purge corporate money from Washington, and get the lobbyists out of the people’s Congress.
The choices that we make in the coming months are going to have effects that resonate for generations. We have the momentum on our side to overturn Citizens United. Numerous states have passed resolutions condemning the Supreme Court’s decision and its potentially fatal blow to American democracy, and we have the opportunity to send a strong and powerful message to the government this election. We can say that it can no longer be in bed with the corporations, that people come before profit, and that people – and only people – are entitled to the liberties that our Founding Fathers fought and died for. All this rhetoric that we spin when fighting abroad – that we’re doing it for humanitarian reasons and that we’re working to bring democracy to tyrannical nations – will only remain rhetoric and speech if we do not work to undo this devastating ruling.
Dan Fournier is a pre-medical undergraduate majoring in evolutionary biology. He considers himself to be a left-wing progressive and liberty-minded individual.