I have to confess that I didn’t go to the polls yesterday, having glanced at the sample ballot to find mostly school bond issues of little interest to me now. But across the country, what an election it was. Though it may be too much to hope, it seems that our great unwashed may finally be waking up to the fact that capitalist democracy, in its present form, is not going to save them. Rather, the oligarchs and banksters and Wall Street billionaires now in control of both the economy and the political process will never be satisfied until they have ground the faces of the working classes into the dirt, stripped them of all dignity, and forced them to shut up, watch the circus, and become slaves. But wait: enter the Wall Street occupiers who, contrary to all expectations, seem to have changed the conversation, and now, voters across the country have shown that they, too, are fed up.
In Ohio, where Governor John Kasich had emulated his Republican counterpart in Wisconsin by pushing a law, SB 5, that stripped public sector unions of their right to collectively bargain, the voters repealed the law in a huge victory for union rights. Over 60% of voters stood with nurses, teachers, policemen and firefighters in a victory that had the Ohio governor sheepishly acknowledging that he had “heard the voters.” I just bet he did. I bet the smart-ass governor of Wisconsin heard too. Perhaps even the billionaire Koch brothers, who financed much of this concerted Republican attack on workers, heard it as well. Because this wasn’t the only reversal for the conservatives who just months ago appeared poised to take over the whole nation.
No. Progressive victories took place in several more states, including Maine, Mississippi, Iowa, Arizona and North Carolina. Something is happening here, Mr. Jones. In Maine, the people voted to maintain their same-day voter registration policy after the right-wing legislature had passed a law to repeal it—employing their usual argument about “voter fraud.” The people didn’t believe it, saw it as disenfranchisement, and yesterday took their right back. In Mississippi, voters struck back on a different front, rejecting another attempt by fundamentalists to pass a constitutional amendment granting “personhood” to a “fertilized egg.” That’s right. On the one hand, these right-wing bozos grant personhood to corporations; on the other, to “fertilized eggs”, thus putting at risk not just abortions, but even birth control. Even benighted voters in Mississippi said “no thanks” thank god.
But my two favorites, at least in the U.S., were Arizona and Missoula, Montana. In Arizona, the Republican state Senator who had pushed the state’s nasty immigration bill, SB 1070, one Russell Pearce by name, was recalled. Tossed out of office. The gopher for the notorious American Legislative Council (ALEC)—funded by corporate special interests including the aforementioned Koch Brothers—Pearce this morning was talking about having to re-examine his options after his big defeat. Which probably means figuring out how to maintain his racism by putting a more palatable face on it. No matter. He’s gone and SB 1070 should be toast. The Koch brothers suffered another defeat in Wake County, North Carolina where voters defeated four conservative school board candidates backed by the Koch’s “Americans for Prosperity” who wanted to get rid of the district’s diversity policies. In other words, to re-segregate the schools. The voters said no, and replaced them with Democrats. Why, it might even be called morning in America!
Finally, in Missoula MT, (site, incidentally, of the camp where Italian Americans were interned during WWII), citizens passed a resolution proposing to amend the U.S. Constitution to END CORPORATE PERSONHOOD. To me, this is potentially the most important victory of all. This is because the absurd notion that corporations are actually persons, with all the First Amendment rights granted to human beings by the U.S. Constitution—including and specifically free speech (the basis for the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United granting corporations complete freedom to throw money at any and all candidates for public office without restrictions)—makes a mockery of democracy itself. Corporations are fictitious entities. Persons organize themselves into corporations specifically to limit their liability as individual humans in business dealings. That limited liability is granted because it allows corporations to do what individuals cannot—so to then turn around and grant a fiction with immunity the same protections as vulnerable humans is an absurdity. Further, the Supreme Court itself never actually decided on this issue; it was a clerk working for the court, J.C. Bancroft Davis, who added a headnote to the 1886 Santa Clara case that assumed the personhood of corporations—a headnote that slipped by and became precedent ever after. In other words, corporate personhood should never have had the force of law. Since it does, however, the remedy is to pass a constitutional amendment to bring the situation back to where the Founders—Jefferson, Madison, and others who insisted that it was the people who needed protection from corporations—initially put it. Humans have human rights. Corporations do not, except in the fictitious world established in the United States in recent years. As one sign in the Occupy movement put it, “I’ll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.” It is time to abolish this so-called right, and the voters of Missoula, Montana took a first step. My hope is that before too long, the entire nation will wake up as well, and take the necessary actions to put corporations and their power back in the bottle where they belong. If, that is, it isn’t already too late—which it will be if now all of Italy comes undone (Berlusconi’s downfall another victory), joining Greece, and the whole Eurozone follows suit. Then, it might be too late not only to save Europe, but to save capitalism as well.
First things first, though, and today we can raise a glass to some small, but significant victories. May they continue.