In the Nov. 8 elections, the national media gave extensive coverage to a proposed “personhood amendment” to Mississippi's state constitution. This was an extremist anti-abortion ballot initiative to declare that a person's life begins not at birth, but at the very instant that a sperm meets the egg. However, extending full personhood to two-cell zygotes was too far out even for many of Mississippi's zealous antagonists against woman's right to control her own fertility, so the proposition was voted down.
Meanwhile, the national media paid practically zero attention to another “personhood” vote that took place on that same day over a thousand miles from Mississippi. This was a referendum in Missoula, Mont., on a concept even more bizarre than declaring zygotes to be persons with full citizenship rights.
It was a vote on overturning last year's democracy-killing decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the now-infamous Citizens United case. A narrow five-man majority had decreed that — abracadabra! — lifeless, soulless corporations are henceforth persons with human political rights. Moreover, said the five, these tongueless artificial entities must be allowed to “speak” by dumping unlimited sums of their corporate cash into our election campaigns, thus giving them a far bigger voice than us real-life persons.
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Missoulians, of course, cannot single-handedly overrule the Supremes. But they can be in the forefront of a grassroots movement for a constitutional amendment reversing the Court's perverse ruling. And that's just what the people there did, with a whopping 75 percent of voters calling on Congress to send such an amendment to the states for prompt ratification.
We can all be Missoula! Get your city, county and state to join the call. Boulder, Colo., has recently done so by a 74 percent to 26 percent vote. Madison, Wisc., did it, too, with 84 percent of voters there supporting the call in an April referendum. The movement is literally on the move from California to Vermont.
But will Congress move? Not of its own volition. Congress is a beast — to make it move, you have to whack it with a big stick.
Our biggest stick is a riled-up citizenry, and it's growing bigger and “rilier” every day, particularly on issues of corporate arrogance and avarice. We've seen plenty of evidence this year that the American grassroots are catching fire — January's surprise protest by more than 2,000 people at the Koch brothers' secret billionaire's retreat in the California desert; Wisconsin's mass rebellion against Gov. Scott Walker's venomous anti-worker legislation; November's resounding 63 percent vote in Ohio to repeal Gov. John Kasich's union-busting law; and, of course, the ongoing Occupy Wall Street revolt.
This citizens' uprising is clearly not going away. To the contrary, 76 percent of the people polled by Hart Research support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's edict that corporations can make unlimited secret donations in any and all American elections. The same big majority supports an amendment to make clear that corporations do not have the same rights as people.
Congress is sensing these political tremblers — and beginning to move. In the past few weeks, three bills have been introduced in the House and one in the Senate to undo the Supreme Court's damage to our people's democratic rights, including Rep. Jim McGovern's bill (H.J. Res. 88) that specifically rejects the fiction that a corporation is a person. As he puts it, “People govern corporations, not the other way around.”
To get information and action kits on how you can be a part of the big stick of people power, contact the We the People Campaign: www.wethepeoplecampaign.org.