‘We the Corporations, in Order to…’
Your lead editorial "Democracy Inc." [Feb. 15] rightly points out the need for a constitutional amendment to prevent corporations from buying elections. An Angus Reid poll showed that 65 percent of Americans disagree with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC campaign finance decision. The nationwide revulsion at this abhorrent decision creates an opportunity to bring about a series of amendments to truly make our democracy of, by and for the people.
The Citizens United decision may be the final nail in democracy’s coffin. I appreciate that The Nation is "committed to the struggle" against this atrocity, but a constitutional amendment is very unlikely (remember the Equal Rights Amendment?).
And so the Republic dies. The Supreme Court shores up the doctrines that money is speech and corporations are people. Those with the most money will have the strongest speech rights, making corporations supercitizens and the rest of us second-class citizens. The arc of history likely leads us to a corporatist state, like Italy, 1922-45; Spain, 1936-73; and Germany, 1933-45. Another label for it is "fascism." We can keep the Constitution as a historical document in our archives to be viewed but essentially irrelevant, quaint.
MARK L. THRON
Gnashing of teeth. Rending of garments. Wailing to the heavens, as you go after the five GOPer Supremes and their siren song for oligarchy on the half shell. Nice.
Now it is up to us to organize and fight. First up: frame the issue. Real people are what the Bill of Rights is for, not legalistic fictions. As the Real Rights for Real People movement, pass bills that define corporations as outside the Bill of Rights (how does freedom of religion apply to Goldman Sachs?); get shareholders to file suits against officers who sign political contribution checks from corporate coffers; boycott corporations and media outlets running corporate political ads. If Democrats are not to wimp out–or be wiped out–real battle must be joined. Or we’ll have another generation lost in the desert.
The Citizens United decision legalizes corporate bribery of candidates, but the problem goes beyond that. Courts have overturned thousands of laws enacted to protect elections, workers, health, safety and the environment, claiming that such laws violate the constitutional rights of corporations. The late Howard Zinn observed, "Liberals get excited about things like the Citizens United ruling as if they signal a dramatic change. No, the corporations ran our elections before the decision and will do so now–just with a fig leaf of ‘legality.’ The designation of corporations as ‘persons’ is just proof of how our legal system, the Constitution, the courts have always been tools of the wealthy classes." A broad-based coalition of grassroots groups and national organizations has launched the Campaign to Legalize Democracy to fight this. In the first weeks since the decision, more than 55,000 folks joined us at movetoamend.org. To be part of the growing grassroots rebellion, join us online or call (707) 269-0984.
Saying No to the Protection Racket
I found Christopher Hayes’s "System Failure" [Feb. 1] soothing in an odd sort of way. It correctly diagnosed the tension in my neck after hours of phone-banking–on yet another Robert Michels-style "noble, endless, Sisyphean endeavor." Hayes helps us see that the rock we are pushing uphill is corporatism, promoted by both Democratic and Republican oligarchs.
I disagree only with Hayes’s skepticism about the realignment of left and right populism into a new force. It is difficult indeed to imagine coalescing with the hatemongers on the airwaves or in the healthcare town halls. But there are many others attracted to the vague notion of a "tea party" who are neither shrill nor hateful but simply frightened and alienated. The "socialism" they decry is the very corporate socialism that the left should be railing against as well, the socialism that turns trillions of public dollars over to Goldman Sachs, Citicorp, AIG, Big Pharma and the health insurance companies.
The notion that our government would "mandate" that we buy health insurance from a private insurer is the essence of the "protection racket" Hayes presents in such a useful metaphor. Yes, I would reject the anti-immigrant scapegoating that often accompanies the right-wing populists’ rant, but I would join them in railing against the loss of jobs because of Bill Clinton’s (and now Obama’s) "free trade" policies, which have also driven desperate Mexican workers to our cities. It won’t be easy to form the new alliance, but that’s the soil we have to till.
Oregon Working Families Party
Happy Valentine’s Day (Belated)
New York City
I enjoyed "A Fine Romance," Miriam Markowitz’s thoughtful and humorous review of Cristina Nehring’s book [Feb. 8], and agree that as we lower our stakes with fewer taboos, we drain away the risk that heightens passion. I also find that as we enter marriage later, we become too aware of context and second and third chances. We see too clearly that there are an array of possible life companions for each of us and that any marriage or romance will bring both joys and strains, exhilaration and limits. No one is the one. If poetry is "emotion recollected in tranquility" then as a nostalgic 41-year-old I’m two steps removed from the particular passion I felt at 21, when I wrote this senryu: "Love kills poetry! Neither hand is free to write with two breasts to hold."
Haiti, Harlem–They All Look Alike to Him
Amy Wilentz ["The Haiti Haters," Feb. 8] describes David Brooks’s blame-the-victim column. Brooks has attributed the same cultural deficits to the people of Harlem as he did to the Haitians. Bearing the white man’s burden, he calls for replacing parts of Harlem’s local culture "with a highly demanding, highly intensive culture of achievement involving everything from new child-rearing practices to stricter schools to better job performance." Point being, they’re not just Haiti haters.
Kansas City, Kan.
I was pleased to read in your January 4 "Letters" page about the spread of newly coined words. May I add to "Limbecile," mentioned by a reader: who is that fat, loud, arrogant, fascist upstart who wears black and struts his ignorance and ambition to be a national leader? Rusholini!
P.S. Sorry this is not on e-mail. I’m 90 and computer illiterate, but I have loved reading and writing all my long life. Changes in language fascinate me!
In "Scalia v. The World" [Feb. 22], Michael O’Donnell said that Joan Biskupic "began covering the Supreme Court for USA Today in 1989." She went to USA Today in 2000, after covering the Court for the Washington Post (1992-2000) and Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (1989-92).