Dear Mr. Coleridge,
Notes on “With Democracy So Sick”
Title and byline hits the problem on the nose, Mr. Coleridge: it will be hard to pass a single payer health bill without a strong progressive grassroots movement (Sanders’ “political revolution”); and it will be harder to build such a movement when right wing wealth and corporations have the upper hand in politics and media, as is the case today.
And yes - in addition to lobbying and shaping media - the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United ruling - which let the corporate Frankenstein out of the closet to politically spend as it wants - has sickened democracy even more. How can a people’s movement resist - or even form - in a political culture saturated in pro-corporate messaging?
Hence your call to increase democracy with a constitutional amendment to “end corporate ‘personhood.’”
- One, a constitutional convention could backfire.
Right now in NY, my teachers union argues members should vote no on a state constitutional convention likely to be called for by right wing forces, because the right will propose ‘right to work’ amendments that will weaken unions. (Members would then get a free ride - benefiting from union protections, but not paying in, ultimately weakening the power of unions to bargain for them…which would lead to even greater member attrition.) Isn’t there the same risk of a Federal constitutional amendment, when the right has so much power in all three branches? That the right might use its power to make changes that would increase and lock in its power even more?
- Two, I think the increase in corporate power is only half the story of the sickness of US democracy - the other half is the structural weakening of progressive forces - the weakening of unions due to automation and offshoring, a weakening that involves both ‘class consciousness’ (awareness of politics due to being in a union) and the former ‘countervailing’ lobbying power of unions. Atomized workers think less in terms of worker-group interest and, as a result, are easier prey for corporate messages and right wing media.
And this is a problem that does not have an easy solution.
- But, last - not to be defeatist! - the single payer drive opens the door to one strategy to progressive movement building that is not being done, but that could be effective. Several nonprofit organizations in the US provide free primary care at large, coliseum or open air-type events, events often attended by thousands of low-income people.
A progressive version of such an organization could deliver primary care and, a the same time, educate people - especially low income people who are often the least organized and who are some of the strongest supporters of a government role in healthcare. Our corporate political and media culture would continue about its propagandistic business when attendees went home, but they’d have been innoculated: they’d have been apprised of the good of single payer; they’d have been given a heads up about anti-single payer propaganda; they could have been registered to vote at the event; and they could have been encouraged to support a local pro-single payer movement, thus potentially organizing and mobilizing a hard-to-reach group with a progressive message. Last, it is to be hoped - this message would be more likely to get through because it was not a tv corporate message, but a person-to-person message from someone that had actually helped them.
I am currently writing a piece for publication on this last idea - feel free to reach out to me if you would like to review and comment on a draft.
[sent to Greg Coleridge email]