When I was young, I remember my father saying, “It will be OK; the pendulum of politics swings back and forth.”
Surprisingly, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake just said the same thing when he decided to leave the Senate because there was no place in his party for a traditional conservative who was opposed to anger and resentment as a governing philosophy:
“I think the fever will cool... This spell will eventually break... We will return to ourselves once more.”
But will we?
I’m afraid that waiting for the pendulum to swing back will be useless for Senator Flake. He has been checkmated by a political system with unfair election rules. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision radically changed the rules of the game.
The only way to move the pendulum again is to stop settling for checkmate and begin working together to stop the Supreme Court.
We have to decide to trust that the left and the right can work together to stop the Supreme Court by passing the constitutional amendment that will restore fair elections by ensuring that “corporations are not people and money is not speech.”
Senator Flake is not alone in needing to try a new approach.
It’s urgent that we all overcome our differences, because divisiveness will increase with every passing year.
The wealthy have a lot to gain by increasing our divisiveness. Infighting deflects attention away from their gains: 99 percent of new wealth goes to the top 1 percent. The top 10 percent already owns 77 percent of our wealth, while much of the bottom 40 percent has a negative net worth (Washington Post, 2015).
Fanning the flames of distrust and hate is not hard to do if you’re allowed to use both unlimited funds in elections and an unregulated media.
Government austerity is already being used to cause us to compete for limited resources. Playing on fears of terrorism easily becomes a tool to increase distrust of each other.
How can voters see through the tactics of divide and conquer without strong journalism? What chance do they have when six corporations control the media, the Federal Communications Commission has dismantled net neutrality, and the fairness doctrine requirement to air both sides of issues is long gone?
We need to work together now.
Montanans should lead in this: Think of 1972 and how citizen delegates created our new Constitution in a time when our Montana Anti-Corruption Act had regulated corporations and money for 60 years.
Our country can also govern as a people, without the distorting forces that made corporations into people and money into speech. Then we can progress, veering left and right, but able to respond to our challenges.
In that spirit, Montanans Move to Amend-Missoula Chapter is offering two events to help Montana work together to pass the “We the People Amendment,” which says that “corporations are not people and money is not speech.”
On Monday, at the City Council meeting, we ask that you come fill the hall in support of Mayor John Engen’s proclamation of “We the People Amendment Day.”
On Wednesday at the Missoula Public Library, please join us for a dinner and speak out about “The True Human Cost of Citizens United: A Civil Rights and Human Rights Issue.”
North Missoula Community Development Corporation, Montana Conservation Voters, Missoula Interfaith Collaborative, League of Women Voters Missoula and MontPIRG will explain the challenges their members face because their voices are not heard.
This event is an opportunity to come together, with food and fellowship, to explore our common values.