Same votes nationwide will help Dems win in 2012 (but who’s misty eyed about that!)
Voters in Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved, by an 84 percent majority, a city referendum calling for amending the U.S. Constitution to establish that “only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights.” In Dane County, Wisconsin, which includes the city of Madison, 78 percent voted for a similar county referendum, rejecting the rationale underlying the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which allows unlimited, and secret, corporate campaign spending.These votes are the first referendums anywhere in the country against Citizens United, and calling for a constitutional amendment that would void the decision. This stunning victory has not been covered by the mainstream media, and very few even on the netroots know about it. As with the extraordinary demonstrations in February and March against Republican attempts to destroy public employee unions, once again the people of Madison have led the way for the entire country.
Let’s spread the spirit of Wisconsin nationwide, and organize so that tens of millions can vote in similar referendums against Citizens United across the country this year, and in 2012. If progressives organize this spring, we can create a national referendum to save the American Dream through special elections in November 2011. We discuss how below. This diary has been updated with an analysis of how widespread votes against Citizens United can help the Democrats retain the Senate next year. Such votes are possible in states with 15 of the 18 competitive Senate races. More below the fold.
The text of the City of Madison referendum reads:
RESOLVED, the City of Madison, Wisconsin, calls for reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate influence by amending the United States Constitution to establish that:
1. Only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, and
2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.
The Madison and Dane County referendums were put on the ballot by the Madison City Council and the Dane County Board of Supervisors after a concerted campaign by the local chapter of Move to Amend, a nationwide grassroots effort to overturn Citizens United through a constitutional amendment. Organizers gathered 15,000 signatures, just falling short of the required number for a citizen initiative. However, the number of signers convinced elected officials that there was enough support to put it on the ballot.
The Citizens United ruling has proven hugely unpopular in every poll taken since it was decided in January 2010. An August 2010 poll conducted by Survey USA, and sponsored by MoveOn, asked, “Would you be more likely or less likely to support a candidate for Congress who backs a constitutional amendment that would overturn this Supreme Court ruling?” 67 percent overall would be more likely to support such a candidate, including 64 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Democrats.
This reflects overwhelming voter anger at corporate campaign spending in general, and the stranglehold that corporate donations and lobbying has over our democracy.
LET’S PUT IT ON THE BALLOT NATIONWIDE
Citizens United was a true turning point for most progressives, and pushed many organizations into seeing that we cannot get our goals through Congress unless we organize to eliminate the corporate stranglehold over government. MoveOn has been strongly focused on this campaign. According to an August 16, 2010, article in the Nation (“Citizens Unite Against ‘Citizens United’ ”, by Ari Berman):
“Citizens United was the breaking point for folks,” says Ilyse Hogue, director of political advocacy and communications for MoveOn.org. “We needed a comprehensive vision, as a movement, for how to have a voice in our own democracy.”
In late June  MoveOn members overwhelmingly approved a three-part “Fight Washington Corruption” pledge calling for (1) overturning the Court’s decision through an amendment to the Constitution; (2) passing the Fair Elections Now Act in Congress, which incentivizes candidates to collect small donations by offering competitive public matching funds; and (3) enacting tough new laws cracking down on the revolving door between government officials and lobbyists. A diverse coalition of advocacy groups, including the SEIU, Democracy for America (DFA), People for the American Way and The Nation signed on as co-sponsors. MoveOn called it “our most ambitious campaign ever.”
MoveOn set a goal of gathering one million signatures by Election Day and urging congressional candidates to sign it, endorsing those who signed on, and targeting those who refused. “The goal is to make the election a referendum on corporate power,” Ilyse Hogue told the Nation.
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE WITH US
The suggested ballot proposition in the box below is based directly on the goals set in MoveOn’s “Fight Washington Corruption Campaign,” overwhelmingly approved by MoveOn members last year. With the stunning victory in Wisconsin yesterday, and the extensive organizing by anti-Citizens United groups, we can build toward providing million of voters this year with the opportunity to vote directly to similarly reject corporate domination of our democracy.
We can encourage the 15 Democratic-controlled states and Democratic-controlled local governments to give their voters a chance to oppose Citizens United in special elections called for November 8, 2011. Let’s create an election this year that will truly be a nationwide “referendum on corporate power.” And then we can shape the 2012 campaign in a way that, unlike 2010, forces Republicans onto the defensive and helps to defeat them. It’s easy and it’s urgent.
THE 2010 ELECTION MIGHT HAVE TURNED OUT DIFFERENTLY
IF THIS HAD BEEN ON THE BALLOT
We are facing a government shutdown next week. The Republicans claim they have a mandate for devastating budget cuts because they won in November. And one of the main reasons the Democrats lost is because the November election was not a referendum on corporate power. It was not a vote against the corporate power that diminishes our lives and destroys our democracy. That vote didn’t happen because Democrats and progressive organizations did not give voters a way to vote directly against corporate domination.
Imagine if the election had been different, if anti-Citizens United measures similar to the one passed in Madison and Dane County had been on the ballot last November in most Democratic-controlled states as well as in Democratic-controlled cities and counties in Republican states. They would have been put on the ballot by Democratic governors and legislators, as well as city council members and county supervisors and commissioners, or by citizen petition. They would have passed by 75-85 percent in most states.
During the election, Republican candidates would have been forced to say whether they supported a constitutional amendment to void Citizens United. Most would have opposed such an amendment because they benefit from flood of corporate donations unleashed by the decision, even though only 35 percent of Republicans support the decision.
Democratic campaigns would have raised questions about the secret corporate contributions that Republicans were getting, raising doubts in voters’ minds about “Who’s buying their vote? Which corporations are paying to elect them, and why?” If advisory measures against Citizens United had been on the ballot in many states on November 2, 2010, as it was in Madison, Wisconsin, on April 5, 2011, many Democrats might not have lost.
LET’S SPREAD THE SPIRIT OF WISCONSIN NATIONWIDE
Good strategy begins with a decision to fight for what we want and need. The people of Wisconsin have shown what one state can accomplish to change the sense of progressive possibilities in this country—your state could be next.
If progressive organizations unite to create a National Referendum to Save the American Dream, we can move from tens of thousands of people demonstrating to tens of millions of people voting this year in states all over this country. Such a referendum will help make it possible to multiply the impact of Wisconsin 10-20 times—in the 15 Democratic-controlled states, and through democratic insurgencies in Republican-controlled states beyond Wisconsin. (For an inspiring photo essay that is an visual reminder of the demonstrations in Wisconsin, and beyond, see Let’s Spread the Spirit of Wisconsin Nationwide).
The most powerful way we can defend democracy is to use it not only in Republican states where unions are under attack but in Democratic states to get popular support for solutions to the economic and budget crises and to defend democracy.
The above is a sample ballot of the kind that tens of millions of Americans could be voting on in November if progressive organizations and Democratic elected officials join together to make it happen. The winning percentages are taken from existing polls, and the questions asked in the polls do not always correspond exactly with what’s in the proposed measure. They are our best approximation of support; more specific polls will have to be conducted.
WHO WE ARE: INITIATIVES FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE
The National Referendum to Save the American Dream is being promoted by Initiatives for Democratic Change, a small strategy development group founded in 2010 and based in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are long-time activists, primarily in the peace movement. We took part in the movement for nuclear disarmament in the 1980s. In 1987, one of us helped place a successful advisory measure on the ballot in the city of Santa Barbara against funding for President Reagan’s Star Wars missile defense program. There is more information about this strategy available on our website, Initiatives for Democratic Change.
Initiatives for Democratic Change is the only progressive group in the country proposing concrete ways for tens of millions, and potentially the majority, of Americans to vote directly this year for jobs and economic recovery programs, and to reject the Republican agenda.
With your help, we can do the outreach necessary to convince national progressive organizations and Democratic elected officials to create a National Referendum to Save the American Dream, a nationwide vote for November 8, 2011. Tens of millions of Americans will be able to vote that day for real change, if progressive organizations unite to make it happen.
We need to raise $50,000 by the end of April to get the word out about the referendum, to hire staff, and to pay for a national poll to confirm public support for a referendum and for progressive ballot measures. If no established organization funds such a national poll by April 25, we will use your donations to do it ourselves.
Our ability to continue to do this work depends on what you contribute today.
THANK YOU FOR HELPING GIVE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE A VOICE
AND A VOTE FOR CHANGE!
UPDATE: HOW VOTES AGAINST CITIZENS UNITED CAN IMPROVE THE CHANCES FOR DEMOCRATS TO RETAIN THE SENATE IN 2012
The Madison and Dane County results are no surprise, based on national polling results. Dane County is not Berkeley, however; Barack Obama received just 58 percent of the Dane County vote, about 5 percentage points more than his vote nationally. That means that the vote against Citizens United in Dane County was 20 percent more than the vote for Obama.
Ballot measures opposing Citizens United are possible statewide in 15 of the 18 competitive Senate races for 2012. Republicans need to gain only four seats net to take control of the Senate, and at least two-thirds of the vulnerable seats, or 12 of the 18, are now held by Democrats.
Of the 14 potentially vulnerable Democratic seats, anti-Citizens United propositions can be placed on the statewide ballot in 10 of them and on the local ballot in 2 more. Of the 6 potentially vulnerable Republican seats, measures can be placed on the statewide ballot in 4 of the states, and local measures in 1 more state.
For 2012, a ballot measure opposing Citizens United will make many voters think twice about voting for Republican candidates who support the decision, especially if they are outspending their Democratic opponent with massive corporate contributions, including secret donations, that the decision made possible. This is especially so when 77 percent of Americans view corporate campaign donations as simply a way in which corporations bribe politicians.
Although an analysis of competitive House races is still being done, it looks like ballot measures could affect about half of those races.
A REFERENDUM AGAINST CORPORATE RULE
The general idea is, first, for the 15 Democratic-controlled states to put measures on the ballot for November 8, 2011, special elections and, second, for people in 12 other states where measures can go on the ballot by gathering signatures to petition for the November 2012 ballot. If the progressive movement and Democratic elected officials get behind this strategy, as many as 27 states could vote on opposing Citizens United in 2011 and 2012. If even half of them did so, which seems quite possible, it would be the largest national advisory referendum in U.S. history.
This referendum will lay the basis for Democrats to win in 2012. It can also create a movement and the political will needed to get a constitutional amendment through Congress to overturn Citizens United, through a united citizens’ effort to do so. Indeed, it may be the only thing that can.
The movement to establish the citizen-petition initiative process, now available in about half the country, was largely a reaction to corporate bribery of state legislators. One hundred ago, it took the form of direct handoffs of bundles of cash to the legislator to buy their vote on a law favoring a corporate interest. It’s a bit more indirect now, but the effect if the same. A national referendum to oppose corporate bribery of politicians would use the initiative process for one of the main purposes for which it was intended.
ORIGINALLY POSTED TO DEMOCRATIC INITIATIVES ON THU APR 07, 2011 AT 06:21 PM EDT.