So far, all it is is a suggestion to make a suggestion. But it could be among the seeds of a movement that has the potential to revolutionize democracy in America. For the better.
The newly formed Salt Lake City branch of the organization Move to Amend has begun a drive to place on the city’s November ballot a resolution calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an amendment designed to reverse the horrendous effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. (Details at www.movetoamend.org)
That’s the decision that found that corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals may not be prohibited from spending unlimited amounts of cash to influence the outcome of elections coast to coast, as long as they claim to be independent of any candidate they might be promoting or, more likely, trashing the opponents of.
The illusion of independence was skillfully destroyed by the sight of TV pundit Stephen Colbert signing a one-page document handing control of his super PAC — Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow — over to his friend and business partner Jon Stewart, so he could run for office himself.
The result of the Supreme Court’s view of what constitutes free speech, and what qualifies as a person, has already been seen in the hard-fought Republican primaries. Various super PACs have spewed tons of cash into highly negative ad buys that appear to be at least partly responsible for the rapid rise, fall and, sometimes, second rise of a procession of candidates.
All that is on top of the already disgraceful role that campaign cash has long played, in the public campaigns and, worse, in the behind-the-scenes deals that politicians have to make to attract, placate or neutralize the high-rolling donors.
The goal of Move to Amend is to change the wording of the Constitution to make it clear that money does not equal speech, at least when it comes to influencing elections, and that only persons, not corporations, are entitled to the human rights that include free speech.
Locally, the group needs the signatures of 7,141 registered city voters to put their referendum on the ballot. Similar campaigns are also going on in another 49 cities across the nation. Even if the measures go on the ballots, and even if they pass, they will amount legally to no more than a public call for this principled change.
But it would be a democratic process to restore much of the power in our supposed democracy to the people who supposedly govern their own nation.
It is an effort that deserves our full attention.