The Powers That Be want us to believe that the Occupy Wall Street effort is hopeless, that we can't really undo the legal scaffolding of artificial personhood that the corporados have erected over us flesh-and-blood citizens. Rather than attempting to deconstruct the Brave New America, they tell us, we should be satisfied with softening its rougher edges with things like campaign finance reporting requirements.
Now there's a rallying cry for an angry public: "Give us campaign finance reporting regulations or give us death!"
How insulting to say that Americans today are too small to achieve big democratic results. And how erroneous. As a friend of mine notes, those who say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.
Here's a partial menu of actions that are underway or that you could start right where you live:
1. Amend. Two major coalitions are aggressively organizing grassroots power from coast to coast to demand and pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit corporations from buying our elections. Freespeechforpeople.org proposes a straightforward amendment to repeal the Supremes' infamous Citizens United "corporations are people" ruling. Movetoamend.org proposes a broader amendment to declare that only human beings, not corporations, are persons with constitutional rights.
Both coalitions have grassroots organizers; do-it-yourself toolkits for raising the issue locally; petitions to be sent to public officials; videos and other graphic materials for getting people informed; sample resolutions for local and state officials; ways to connect people to each other and to the national movement; and other organizing ideas and resources.
2. Uncover. One of the little-noticed and unfulfilled promises included in the Citizens United ruling is that corporations should at least have to disclose to shareholders and the public how much political money they spend on whom.
Citizens groups in Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Boulder have pushed disclosure requirements into law, and at least nine federal courts have ruled that these requirements pass constitutional muster. Other groups are pushing conflict-of-interest laws to ban or restrict campaign donations by corporations that seek government contracts.
3. Impeach. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas had undisclosed ties to the Koch brothers and other secretive corporate plutocrats at the time the Supreme Court was considering the Citizens United case. Two national organizations have extensive information about the justices' blatant disregard of basic ethics and are collecting petitions to hold them to account.
Commoncause.org seeks a Justice Department investigation of the two and proposes that Supremes be subjected to the Judicial Code of Conduct that applies to all other federal judges. Rootsaction.org goes farther, calling for impeachment proceedings against Thomas for accepting gifts from participants in cases before him and for filing false financial reports.
4. Connect. It's not all bad news in Washington. Some congress people are pushing national policies to end or at least curtail the corrupting power of corporate political cash. It's important to have an inside-outside strategy on these policies, linking grassroots strength to those fighting inside for real reform. One of the best points of connection is the Progressive Caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Keith Ellison of Minneapolis and Raul Grijalva of Tucson, Ariz. Find them at cpc.grijalva.house.gov.
5. Confront. Every congressional candidate — incumbent, challenger, Republican, Democrat, et al — should be confronted politely but insistently on the corporate money issues: Citizens United, corporate personhood, public campaign funding, etc. Make appointments, attend their campaign events and town hall sessions, send queries and disseminate their responses as broadly as possible, even if all you get from them is gibberish.
6. Localize. Clean election coalitions have passed laws to give local and state candidates the alternative of using a public pool of money to finance their campaigns rather than having to kiss the ring of corporate interests. Learn about these successes and how you can launch a similar effort where you live by going to publicampaign.org.
Likewise, get information and inspiration from the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (poclad.org) and reclaimdemocracy.org about local communities that are restricting or outright rejecting the fiction of corporate personhood.
7. Enjoy. Whatever you do, think fun: How could this be more humorous, more lively, more entertaining, more welcoming, more engaging and, therefore, more effective?
Whether it's the Arab Spring or the American Autumn, democratic progress doesn't come on the winds of history, but on the shoulders of a determined people. Occupy Wall Street offers millions of strong shoulders with which to shove corporate money out of our politics and make "people power" more than an empty slogan.