There is a huge political divide between the Democrat Party’s leadership and its local voters. There is an equally huge political divide between the Republican Party’s leadership and its local voters. In a nutshell, the divide can be summed up like this. Voters from across the political spectrum oppose global corporate trade treaties like NAFTA and the current outrage called Trans-Pacific Partnership. Voters from across the political spectrum oppose bank bailouts using public funds. Voters from across the political spectrum oppose the corporate takeover of our entire society.
On the other hand, the vast majority of our congress people, our senators, and certainly our President, support corporate trade treaties, support the bank bailouts, and generally support the corporate takeover of the country. It doesn’t matter which of the two mainstream parties they’re from. Republican and Democrat elected leaders stand together against the will of the American people and for corporate power. The latest example is Obama pushing for fast track authority for the Trans-Pacific so-called Partnership agreement. If we had an honest mass media in this country, this fact would be obvious to everybody. But our media is now corporate too. In other words, on the issue of corporate power, it’s not a left vs right political struggle, although that’s what the 1% would like all of us to believe. The real political struggle is between the ruling elite and the rest of us, regardless of our party affiliation.
Tragically, most activists tend to either ignore or not understand this fact. So liberal advocacy groups endlessly attack conservative politicians, and conservative advocacy groups endlessly attack liberal politicians. It’s great for fundraising, but it doesn’t do much to build a movement of We The People taking our country back from corporate rule. What left vs right bashing does accomplish quite effectively is something that the 1% has been doing since there was a 1% – a strategy called “divide and conquer”.
From the American Revolution till the end of slavery, the ruling elite quite successfully kept their white indentured servants fearful of the African people who they had enslaved, in order that the two groups not realize how similar were their situations, and thus join together to end their oppressive conditions.
The same thing happened with the various waves of immigrants throughout the early 20th century, ensuring that each wave would distrust the next wave to ensure that they would not organize together and demand a better life for all poor working people.
The 1% has referred to We The People for 200 years now as “the rabble” and “the mob”, so it’s pretty obvious what they think of us. Let’s not forget – the 99% isn’t just the left or just the right. It’s almost the entire population of this country. So of course we’re a threat – especially if we can stop being on auto-pilot with this divide and conquer crap, and instead start mobilizing to create a real participatory democracy – across class, across race, and across political party boundaries.
Five years ago this month, in the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court decided to further expand the so-called constitutional “rights” that they had been granting to corporations ever since 1819 – that’s 195 years ago. The Citizens United decision made it even easier for large corporations to donate massive amounts of money to influence elections, and to hide where the money was coming from. 75% of Republican voters and 86% of Democrat voters were opposed to the Supreme Court’s decision. So you would hope that voters from both parties would have immediately thrown off their conceptual shackles and started organizing across party lines to end corporate rule once and for all. But that didn’t happen anywhere. Why? Because divide and conquer still works. The two political party machines just kept up their constant attacks on each other, and the voters from both so-called “sides” stayed obedient to the propaganda from their respective party leaderships. And of course, this story was not reported on the evening news, because our news institutions are now also almost entirely owned by five giant corporations.
One poll after another continues to confirm this fact that is hidden in plain sight – that most Americans oppose corporate power. Here’s a recent example. In 2014, Democracy Corps asked Americans what they thought about the Supreme Court. It turns out that an overwhelming majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters disliked the court’s performance, believing that judges are influenced more by their own personal beliefs and political leanings than by a strict legal analysis.
Perhaps even more remarkably, a similar cross-partisan consensus exists to support a wide range of reforms for our nation’s highest court. So even in this time of intense political polarization, there is broad cross-partisan consensus on these issues. Two recent decisions on campaign finance have only served to intensify Americans’ dissatisfaction with the Court. An overwhelming majority of Americans still disagree with the Citizens United ruling, including Democrats, Independents and Republicans and among every demographic group, while Americans of nearly every stripe believe the recent McCutcheon ruling will make our political system more corrupt – again with broad consensus across Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.
Perhaps most intriguingly, the survey found overwhelming approval for a series of seven reforms that would make the Supreme Court a more transparent and accountable body, with large, cross-partisan majorities supporting most proposals. The most popular reform would require Supreme Court justices to adhere to the U.S. Judicial Code of Conduct, which of course most of us thought they already had to do! But it turns out that the judges of the Supreme Court are the only judges who are not required to disclose who is buying them flights on private airplanes, or paying them speaking fees, or giving them gifts.
Abolishing lifetime appointments in favor of setting term limits also proved popular with the public, including a specific limit of 18 years or a single term of office. Television and audio broadcasts of the court’s proceedings were also supported by a super-majority of all Americans. The least popular reform, that the justices post a summary of their financial disclosures online, was still supported by 59% of Americans. You can read more about this poll by going to DemocracyCorps.com and typing “Supreme Court” in the search box.
What would it take for Republicans and Democrats and Greens and Libertarians to work together on the urgent issue of corporate power? To move outside of our comfort zones and realize how much we have in common. We have no time to lose.
Paul Cienfuegos is a leader in the Community Rights movement which works to dismantle corporate constitutional “rights” while enshrining local self-governance. Based in Portland, Oregon, he travels widely giving talks and workshops. His speeches have been broadcast nationally on David Barsamian’s show, ‘Alternative Radio’. He co-founded CommunityRightsPDX.org. More info: PaulCienfuegos.com.
This post was originally broadcast on January 27, 2015 as part of Paul Cienfuegos’ weekly commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Radio Evening News. Listen HERE