MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As US elections have become increasingly determined by the unlimited political spending of shadowy organizations financed by the rich, participatory democracy has further deteriorated. Although the ascension of wealth pulling the strings in Washington DC has long been underway, the 2010 US Supreme Court Citizens United decision put the outcome of elections - particularly on the federal level - more and more in the hands of the 1%.
This is particularly true in an age when television ads, with their negative memes and characterizations, play the most significant role in forming voter perceptions. Given that TV political advertising is extremely expensive in major media markets, corporatist candidates that have the backing of groups formed by the likes of the Koch brothers most often have the ability to dominate the airwaves and a better chance at defining their opponents.
Several campaigns are underway to amend the US Constitution to exclude both the concept of corporate personhood and unlimited political campaign spending in whatever form. These organizations include Move to Amend and Democracy is for People. Proceeding with a constitutional amendment is a rough slog. According to the National Archive:
The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures.
Should the proposed amendment be passed in Congress, it must then receive the approval of 75 percent of the 50 state legislatures to be ratified as a constitutional amendment.
However, no battle for democracy is won without effort, no injustice is corrected without resistance. As a result, Public Citizen announced in an email that 50 US senators now support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision:
U.S. Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) today co-sponsored S. J. Res. 19, the constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and other U.S. Supreme Court campaign finance decisions. This brings the total number of senators supporting the bill to 50. The amendment was introduced by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) in June and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month. The full Senate is scheduled to vote on the amendment this fall.
Additionally, a new poll released today found that 73 percent of Americans want Citizens United overturned – underscoring the fact that concern about the dominance of elections by corporations and the wealthy is overwhelmingly bipartisan. The poll also found that voters are strongly negative about super PACs. They believe spending in politics this year is worse than in the past and is very corrupting.
So far, 16 states, approximately 550 cities and towns, and more than 160 former and current members of Congress have indicated support for an amendment. So has President Barack Obama.
All this advocacy and support indicate that grassroots democracy is alive, well and fighting back for people - not dollars - to determine who is elected and what public policies are put in place.
Yes, it may be a long, arduous haul to reclaim a populist democracy for the voters, but absent such activity, the US is stuck in the rut of plutocracy.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.