On Constitution Day, time to remove money and influence from politics

September 17th was Constitution Day, a federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the Constitution as “the Supreme Law of the Land.” As we reflect upon the significance of this document, we are witnessing yet another election cycle dominated by a two-party duopoly beholden to the corporate elite and their army of paid lobbyists.

We must also have the courage to acknowledge that the Constitution was not originally intended to protect the human rights of all people, but was originally created to acknowledge the rights of white male property owners only. Even after the Bill of Rights added basic human rights, the vast majority of people–as much as 90% of the post-Revolutionary population — were denied human rights. They were not legal “persons.”

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When a nation’s governing document is about protecting property — and when some human beings are considered property — it’s easy to understand the current moment. Unfettered corporate power and the excessive influence of money in politics has created an illegitimate oligarchy pretending to be a democratic republic. In a political game that’s rigged against ordinary people, to change the outcome we have to change the rules.

When women, people of color, indigenous peoples, and low-income families wanted equal rights and opportunity, they built mass movements to abolish slavery, to demand suffrage for African-Americans and women, and to secure labor rights and civil rights.

And we must not forget the key historic role that alternative political parties played in these movements — the Liberty Party, the Greenback-Labor Party, the Progressive Party, the Populist Party, even the Republican Party (in its inception). And more recently, Ross Perot’s Reform Party. (Another reminder of the importance of having alternative voices in the Presidential debates).

The ruling elite responded to these movements of, by and for the people by turning to an unelected and unaccountable Supreme Court, which created the illegitimate doctrine of “corporate constitutional rights” to allow corporate lawyers to overturn democratically enacted laws. Later, the same Court created the doctrine that “money equals political speech.”  Both doctrines are examples of judicial activism run amok.

In honor of Constitution Day, let us celebrate that the Founders rejected monarchy as a form of rule. Let us celebrate the promise that “We the People” would govern ourselves.

Let us also acknowledge that originally only rich white men were legal persons, and celebrate the social movements that corrected that insult.

If we are to fulfill the promise of a democratic Republic, we must abolish Court-created doctrines that allow the 1% to rule over the 99%. We must build a movement to pass a constitutional amendment to abolish the concept that a corporation possesses the constitutional rights of a person, and the equally odious concept that money is political speech. That is why we support House Joint Resolution 48. When this Amendment is passed, “We the People” will mean all people, and only people.

And that would be a simple concrete step towards achieving the lofty goals of the Constitution itself — “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

David Cobb is the campaign manager for the Green Party presidential ticket of Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka.


 

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