We must crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to bid defiance to the laws of our country.
Thomas Jefferson, 1812
When our Founding Fathers laid the foundations for our democracy, they did so recalling the abuses they had seen committed by European governments against citizens .The Constitutional Convention was determined to protect citizens against governments that would become too big, too powerful, forgetting that they had come into being to serve the people they had sworn to represent. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were thus laid into place specifically to protect us, our ancestors and our descendants from similar abuses.
Thus, we Americans have thus been continuously warned and protected.Recall Theodore Roosevelt, the vigor ous Republican “trust buster” who backed down large corporate conglomerates in favor of the interests of our citizenry. It was FDR who admonished, “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of a private power to the point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in essence, is fascism.”Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his farewell address, warned us again of the dangers of large corporations and the threat they posed in the form of the military-industrial complex. Both Democrats and Republicans, both liberals and conservatives, have labored long and hard to protect our democratic and decent American way of life.
Despite these efforts, despite these guaranteed protections, the deepest fears of our Founding Fathers have come to be realized. Corporations have gradually and quietly taken their place in our midst as the political disease of our time. Because their power has grown so enormously, they now have in their possession such incredible wealth that neither the individual citizen, nor even organized groups of citizens, can any longer hope to compete with them in terms of economic influence.
And economic influence is the point. It has been translated into political influence, undue political influence. Our elected officials in Congress, nearly half of whom are now millionaires, have prospered in terms of both their political power and their personal economic wealth due to their association with, their dependency upon, corporations and their monetary favors.
How can this be so? How am I able to make such a condemning, blanket statement regarding our elected officials in Washington? I can do so in view of the fact that because political campaigning, including the cost of television broadcasting, has become so astronomically expensive that our elected representatives, abandoning their responsibility to us, the American voters, have turned to corporate money to finance their campaigns and to retain their enjoyed political power. And, likewise, other various arms and organs of our government have agreed to participate in similar behaviors marked by the lack of integrity. Likewise, they, too, have been influenced by these alien forms of economic and political power, which directly threaten our democratic way of life.
We need only consider the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of “Citizens United” (08-205).Two years ago, the highest court in the land granted the full rights of an American citizen to any corporation doing business in Our Land. The ramifications of this decision in terms of striking down the democratic principles of our Founding Fathers are nothing short of staggering.
Our democracy is not for sale. We hereby move to amend.
James Mischke is a professor emeritus of psychology, sociology and social work at San Juan College. He lives in Cortez/