That smell? It’s the rotting corpse of the American political system. It’s been displayed in an open casket since the Supreme Court decided “Citizens United,” allowing corporations and shell political action committees to spend untold amounts of money buying politicians.
It can be resurrected for the public good or for the good of the special interests. It’s up to the voters.
The University of Wyoming recently produced “Fascism! The Musical.” Sean Stone wrote the music and lyrics. One of his lyrics says, “If you don’t have the money, you don’t matter honey.”
That poignantly describes the results of the autopsy which exposed a body politic whose arteries were clogged with dark money.
Representative Chris Collins paraphrased Stone’s lyrics speaking of the GOP’s plan to raise the deficit in order to give extraordinary tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Collins quoted Republican donors telling the politicians they bought that if they can’t get what they want out of tax reform “don’t call me again.”
Senator Lindsey Graham agreed. What matters is not the future of the middle class, nor the ballooning deficit, or those who will lose healthcare under the GOP tax bill. What matters, Graham admitted, is that “the financial contributions will stop if tax reform fails.”
It’s not just Republicans. Big money is the root of all evil in both parties.
The musical’s playbill included an essay about the work’s import. Stone said, “Americans today find themselves living under a government that has no interest in governing for the benefit of its citizenry.”
Can Stone get an “amen” from the left and the right?
Wyoming’s congressional delegation is a part of the problem. Their conviction that only those with money matter is apparent in the refusal to hold a town hall meetings to listen to constituents. It was evident in the surreptitious way Enzi and Barrasso participated in closed door meetings to draft a secret plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The sum total of all special interests does not equal the public interest. Political contributions from banks, pharmaceuticals, energy companies, and other corporate powers is the only explanation for the way in which Congress casts aside the public’s interest. It’s why politicians ignore climate change and their constituents’ needs while deregulating the big banks, prohibit the government from negotiating drug costs, and neuter consumer and worker protection laws.
A lack of interest in serving the public interest is evident in the Wyoming legislature where big money elects legislators who refuse to increase tobacco taxes or impose other taxes rather than slashing education and other social services.
You can bet big money interests are endeavoring to resurrect the corpse of American democracy. They’d like a plutocracy, a government controlled by a small, very wealthy minority.
A story from Hebrew Scripture provides hope for those who don’t matter to politicians. The “David and Goliath” myth teaches that the little guy has a chance. There is hope when the citizens who have been ignored decide that enough is enough. First, they have to recognize what has happened to them and why.
A movie titled “Charlie and Goliath” premiers in Cheyenne December 7 at the Lincoln Theater. It’s about Charlie Hardy’s 2014 senate campaign against Mike Enzi. Charlie plays David. Goliath is played by big money. Charlie raised $62,469, Enzi 3.3 million. Spoiler alert: Charlie doesn’t win. He lost just as every other severely underfunded candidate loses in a nation where Goliath stalks the political system.
Alas, the movie doesn’t have a “David and Goliath,” happy ending. “Charlie and Goliath” does have an equally important message. “Wake up, Wyoming.”
Democracy’s corpse can be resurrected for the good of the people. Wyoming Promise is soliciting signatures to put the question of whether elections can be bought on the state ballot. Citizens united can overcome “Citizens United.”
It’s true today that, “If you don’t have the money, you don’t matter honey.” But, we still have the right to vote and our votes can change those lyrics.