Democracy Convention — Day 5

Move to Amend

The Convention concluded yesterday. The major theme of the plenary was, “Securing Democracy through Constitutional Reform.” After lunch, there was a final Move to Amend strategy session on the work ahead over the next year. Nearly 50 people attended.

Here are 10 observations from Michael Greenman, Alice Faryna and myself (compiled as we’re driving home to Ohio) from these experiences:

1. We have won the cultural frame/meme that “corporations aren’t people.” Hardly anyone a few years ago knew about this concept. It is now much more commonly understood – and opposed by a large percentage of the general public.

2. The real challenge is not ultimately corporations. It’s us. It’s our own limited vision, thinking and actions, particularly concerning amending the Constitution – not just about corporate personhood, but also related to the right to vote and have our votes count, ending money being speech, promoting basic economic rights. We have to take ourselves seriously. We stand on the shoulders of giants. We have to act like it. Our starting point should be to convey that we can actually have what we want in terms of peace, justice and respect for the natural world.

3. We need a mature, serious, methodical and deliberative approach to create a democracy. It starts with US making peace with the world. This nation has grown out of a 500 year war against scores of nations of the world. It is coming to an end – around the world and here at home. The hypocracies and contradictions have never been clear. The ability to sustain a permanent war culture and economy is no longer possible. The new culture, political and economic system requires new rules, laws and constitution.

4. Working with NGOs inside the beltway or trying to lobby Congress given our small numbers is on this issue at this is virtually ineffective. As Richard Grossman said to David Cobb years ago after spending a frustrating session in DC: “I’m not going back to DC unless I’m a tourist or a member of a conquering army.”

5 We should be less concerned at this point with developing the exact constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and money as speech than involving and honoring people and a devising radically inclusive processes for local education and action.

6. We have to relax and take care of ourselves. Democratizing the US Constitution in ways that authentically reflect our values of justice, peace and sustainability is a long-term project. We need to rush slowly.

7. It is shocking that the ACLU supported the Citizen United Supreme Court decision. They saw the issue through the lens of the first amendment rather than corporate constitutional rights. Only if one believes the fiction that corporations are persons is violating corporate free speech a constitutional violation.

8. We will not get where we want to go until we genuinely engage with communities of color. White must examine their unexamined privileges. We must also follow the direction of those communities we want to work with. We must also work to find common ground with principled liberals and conservatives.

9. It was incredibly exciting to engage with others in our sessions: brainstorming, networking, learning, conspiring. We developed a feeling of shared identity and common purpose as part of a growing movement. Being with others helped validate our work addressing what has been considered a “fringe” issue for more than a decade.

10. Throughout history real change (personal and political) has happened when it begins to feel chaotic, when normal and comfortable feelings and conditions are replaced with discomfort and uncertainty. When we begin to start feeling that all is chaotic, the opportunity for evolution is present.

Onward!

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