A Movement to Organize Against the Systemic Corruption of Congress

Lambert here: I’m skeptical of movements on process, as opposed to benefits or outcomes. For example, the Temperance Movement was non-partisan, but had clear goals a the personal level, and ultimately achieved the Eighteenth Amendment. Nevertheless, this is a clearly thought out proposal; I do think the notion of a “pledge” is important and interesting. What do readers think?

By Chuck, a frequent commenter at Naked Capitalism.

It’s been nearly twelve years since the Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision came down. Justice Kennedy’s remark in the majority opinion, “The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy,” was out of touch with reality at the time and is now nothing short of fatuous. The problem is not just “the appearance of influence or access,” but the pervasive reality of it. There’s a name for this kind of “influence and access.” Constitutional scholars such as Larry Lesssig and Zephyr Teachout call it “dependence corruption,” or “systemic corruption.” In their writings on the subject these scholars show that the founders regarded this type of corruption as the greatest threat, going forward, to de facto democratic government. If those men (and yes, for better or worse they were all men) were aware of what’s going on now they’d be pounding on the insides of their coffin lids.

The Citizens United organization had sued to challenge regulations the Federal Elections Commission had put in place to constrain contributions business and non-profit corporations could make to political campaign organizations, and the SCOTUS decided in their favor. Some level of dependence corruption has always been with us. and it had been ramping up in the decades leading up to the Citizens United suit. Since the decision it’s gone on steroids. The wealthy donor class and the institutions they control and lobbyists they employ split their largess between the two major parties, incenting the establishments of each to their megadonors’ common agenda instead of the programs they campaigned on to attract voters. Then it’s Charlie Brown, Football, Lucy. What is the megadonors’ agenda? It is to protect and perfect the radical neoliberal framework that enables them to establish rent toll booths throughout the economy that enable them to increase their wealth and power. Whether it’s intentional or not, their success is knocking the ladders down the rest of us have counted on to enable us to lead moderately prosperous lives.

Since Citizens United systemic corruption as a subject of discussion has virtually disappeared from public awareness. For obvious reasons, sitting Congress Critters who are prospering in office don’t mention it of their own volition. Nor do their former colleagues who populate K Street and environs. Even the minority of passionate supporters of overwhelmingly popular programs that are thrown into the legislative ditch by the process are reluctant to bring up. As for the narrow Overton Window through which the mainstream media filters what we’re allowed to see and read, it doesn’t appear there either. Instead they distract us with peripheral issues while the march of neoliberalism is casting ever more of us down the hierarchy of needs. But resignation to the inevitability of systemic corruption isn’t an acceptable path either. The status quo has put governance of, by, and for the people on a trajectory an aircraft pilot would call a CFIT – Controlled Flight Into Terrain – and the very social and geographic cohesion of the country may be going that route as well.

It’s become increasingly clear that if the pervasive dependence corruption of the United States federal government is going to be reined in, the initiative and the continuing push is going to have to come from the great mass of the people whose most basic interests are no longer being served by that government. Under our Constitutional system it is supposed to be the people we elect to the House of Representatives and the Senate who advocate for our interests but they are not doing so. It is not my intent to demonize people who serve in the elective offices of government. They are human beings, and like all the rest of us they have their individual strengths and weaknesses. But if you define success in legislative politics as being able to get elected and exert influence on legislation you perceive as beneficial, and then get reelected several more times or make the jump to higher office, you have to be a realist. That means to be effective you have to work within the framework you find in place. And now, as the first quarter of the 21st century draws to a close, that framework has become a cesspool of systemic corruption just as the founders feared.

What follows below is a suggestion for how We The People might organize to take on systemic corruption. For now we’ll call it “The Movement,” but before getting into it there are a few things to bear in mind. First off, one of the main things something like this is intended to achieve is to start a widespread public conversation going about systemic corruption and ways to push it toward the sidelines. If other people have better ideas, or if this blooms in ways unanticipated below but still gets the job on the way to being done, great! Also this is a broad brush first take, and many aspects of it are well beyond my skill set, including court precedents, campaign law, fund raising, and public relations.

The Movement in a Nutshell

Envision a Movement that is, does, and does not as follows:

  • Develops a Statement of non-corruption practices that Congressional candidates can publicly commit to follow during both primary and general electoral campaigns, and also while serving in office.
  • Recruits candidates during the primary, candidate selection stage to pledge to abide by the Statement, and publicizes lists of all candidates for each Congressional seat that is in play, noting which candidates have and have not pledged
  • Monitors candidates and office holders’ compliance with the Statement and publicizes deviations
  • Solicits voters to pledge to limit their votes, volunteer efforts, and contributions to only pledged candidates
  • Publicizes what the Movement is, does and why
  • Promote comity among pledged candidates of all parties
  • Funds its start-up and work with modest donations from flesh and blood US citizens
  • Does not advocate on any issues except those regarding corruption, qualified voter access and electoral fairness

Each bullet is described in more detail below. When the Movement is initially stood up, the focus will be on the US Congress. However the organizational infrastructure will be designed and built with eventual state-level activity in mind. These will begin once the Movement is a going concern at the federal level, and people who buy into the Movement’s mission come forward to become the founding core of state level affiliate organizations.

Here’s what the Movement seeks to accomplish:

  • Educate people about systemic corruption and how it pervades the US government in the 21st century
  • Convince the people the founders’ fear of corruption as the lethal threat to democracy has come to pass
  • Connect the dots among megadonors, Congress and systemic corruption
  • Illuminate the fact megadonations are toxic to democracy
  • Make accepting toxic donations the body odor of politics
  • Show voters that both major party caucuses pursue the same hidden agenda set by the megadonor class
  • Persuade nose-pinching voters a ballot for candidates who accept megadonations is a vote for the status quo
  • Convince couch voters and nose-pinchers they can make a difference by pledging to vote only for pledged candidates
  • Elect ever more pledged candidates of major and peripheral parties to Congress and the Senate
  • Encourage pledged Congress members and Senators to work together to fight corruption
  • When a critical mass of pledged members of all parties is reached, encourage all of them to withdraw from their original parties and form an anti-corruption caucus and to play hardball when negotiating with toxic donor parties to organize the body.

We should under no circumstances have any illusions the success of this effort is guaranteed. Far from it. The resignation among many American people must be over come. On the other hand it’s the kind of thing that could unexpectedly strike a nerve causing it to quickly go viral. As it gains traction it can expect push back from the status quo, and the more it gains the nastier will be the opposition. But we owe it to succeeding generations to do what we can to restore a functional American democracy.

Here bullet items from The Movement “nutshell” above, described in greater detail:

Develop The Anti-Systemic Corruption Statement

There are five pieces in the anti-corruption Statement to which candidates must agree:

  • They will not accept corruptive donations
  • They will place personal and family financial assets in a blind trust or similar vehicle during the campaign and if elected
  • When their term of service in Congress ends they will not monetize their legislative experience until at least N years have passed since the day they left office
  • While in office they will not “dial for dollars” on behalf of candidates and office holders who have not pledged, nor will they do so for party organizations that have not formally and publicly adopted the pledge
  • They will make fighting corruption a central tenet of their campaign, and if elected will work with pledged members of all parties to do so

A key item to be addressed at the outset is what does and does not constitute a corruptive donation. Also, a process will be put in place to periodically review and reassess those parameters. Similarly the terms of the blind trust will take some spelling out. The overall objective of these provisions is to shield candidates and office holders from the temptation to take into consideration her own personal and campaign financial situations when faced with decisions to support or oppose bills that comes before the legislative body. These tasks will require significant support from lawyers deeply experienced in Constitutional and electoral law.

Recruit Candidates to Pledge

Recruiting candidates to the Movement will begin as early in an election cycle as possible in the parties’ primary, candidate selection phase. Initially the Movement will consider candidates who are in good standing in their communities with some exceptions. Exceptions might include candidates who personally, or by party affiliation are:

  • Overtly exclusionary (e.g. racist, theocratic, etc.)
  • Advocates of or associated with violence
  • Possessors of personal or family wealth above a threshold set by the Movement (e.g. high six or very low seven figures)
  • Seeking office in a district egregiously gerrymandered by the candidate’s party
  • A record of participating in corruptive practices while previously in elective or appointive office (e.g. promoting gerrymandering, improper voter registration, and/or voter suppression while a member of a state legislature or political appointment)

Incumbent members of the House of Representatives or the Senate will not be considered except in the following circumstances: they are on record of speaking out on systemic corruption on several occasions; they contact the movement unsolicited. Any and all candidates for a specific office who pledge to abide by the Movement’s Statement will be on the Movement’s “Approved” list for that office. Because more than one candidate may be listed, acceptance of the candidate’s pledge by the Movement does not constitute an endorsement in the usual sense.

Monitor Candidates and Office Holders’ Compliance

The Movement will use resources such as opensecrets.org, etc. to monitor pledged candidates’ compliance with the Statement and publicize any deviations. Per the fifth bullet in the above section on the anti-corruption Statement pledged legislators will fight attempts by the status quo Congress to enact laws that shield campaign finance data from public view.

Solicit Citizens to Pledge to Vote and Work for Only Pledged Candidates

With the exception of 2020, in which the presidential race featured an incumbent who was the most polarizing person to hold that office in living memory, voter turnouts in Congressional elections in recent decades have been disappointingly low. The elections themselves have generally been indecisive, frequently flipping control of the Houses from one party to the other and back by narrow margins. Terrabytes of text have been written analyzing and theorizing about why this is the case. But for people who are not enamored with either major party, and who have flipped back and forth from red to blue and back for decades, and who personally are experiencing the acceleration instead of the turnaround of the society’s ride on the road to perdition, it’s hard not to conclude they say to themselves, “Why bother voting?” These are the people the Movement most needs to energize to disrupt business as usual of the two major parties. The Movement also needs to attract people who lean toward one of the two legacy parties. Because of the Bernie Bro phenomenon I suspect it will be quite successful doing so among those tilting toward the Democrats. As for the Republicans, it’s harder to predict because Trump. The most success, at least initially, will likely be achieved among peripheral party candidates. It’s much easier to eschew megadonor money when you don’t expect to get much if any of it in the first place.

People will be encouraged to sign up for the Movement’s email list before they decide whether or not to pledge. This will require only a user name, password and email address. However to make pledges they will have to provide their real names and physical addresses, as well as their Congressional districts. Some states have websites where a person can plug in a physical address and receive back the Congressional and state legislative districts, candidate lists and where to vote. Where feasible links to these will be available in the Movement’s website.

No personal data or other information collected from vote pledgers, and email list subscribers will not be sold. The data will be used only for internal purposes and for aggregating and publishing the total numbers of people who have pledged for each Congressional and Senate seat in play in an election cycle.

Publicize What the Movement Is, Does, and Why

It goes without saying that a Movement that seeks to arouse the public to take action opposing a lethal threat needs people with public relations skills. It’s also safe to say a Movement that takes on the status quo in the 21st century USA, which has almost infinitely deep pockets, will receive precious little coverage by and access to establishment media. Once the Movement gains some traction this will almost certainly include shadow-banning by the dominant social media platforms. Therefore various modes of guerrilla marketing will have to be employed. This is another area where experienced expertise is needed.

A crucial element of the PR messaging must be to educate the public on what systemic corruption is and how it is preventing the governing process from delivering hugely popular programs. In doing so it’s also crucially important not to demonize individual members of the House and the Senate. At most long serving Congress Critters should be depicted as people who had the realism to succeed in the system as they encountered it on a day-to-day basis, and to decide, either explicitly or tacitly, that the system couldn’t or shouldn’t be changed.

There is a chicken-egg issue that will be faced as the Movement is being stood up. Considering resources will be very limited at the outset, is it more important to begin by focusing on informing and getting pledges from voters or candidate? I lean toward the voters on the grounds major party candidates won’t take the Movement seriously until a significant number of voters have pledged. Perhaps while the initial primary focus is on voters, a secondary effort should be directed to the candidates of peripheral parties. They will be an easier sell and having some candidates on board early will help build credibility among voters.

Promotes Comity Among Pledged Candidates of All Parties

Unlike in days gone by, it is reported there has been very little good will and cooperation in recent Congresses except when it comes to enacting megadonors’ agenda items. When a critical mass of pledged members of both major parties are in Congress it’s likely the Movement will have an office in Washington. That office should provide a space where pledged members can meet to discuss anti-corruption strategy and other issues, as well as to just get to know each other socially and begin to rebuild the cross-party comity that was once common in Congress.

Fund Its Start-up and Work with Modest Donations from US Citizens

Recent examples such as Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns and the PanQuake social medium project have shown that crowd-funding can raise considerable amounts of money. The Movement should be able to do the same, and be able to accept both one-time and sustaining donations. Once it is up and running it may be appropriate to establish an annual limit on donations from one person in order to becoming dependent on one or a small group of contributors. If it is necessary to rely on some large donations to get the Movement off the ground, the founding directors should make sure the donors are fully onboard with the Movement’s mission as stated in its founding documents.

Remain Non-partisan and Advocate Only on Issues Regarding Corruption and Electoral Fairness

In order to be effective in its mission the Movement must be rigorously non-partisan. At first it’s likely it will have more more success recruiting both candidates and voters from one major party vis a vis the other. If early results show this is the case it is essential the Movement be prepared redouble recruiting efforts on the voters and prospective candidates of the other party. Once a critical mass of swing voters perceives the Movement is biased its effective in their eyes will be greatly diminished and difficult to recover from.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it folks. A proposal for a movement to turn around the systemic corruption of the United State Congress – systemic corruption of the kind our founders feared might eventually destroy democracy. Left unaddressed, it probably will.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Politics on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

76 comments

    1. John Rachel

      Movements fail because they don’t ‘move’. In order to move people, you need to reach them, then give them something decisive to do. OWS reached a lot of people, then failed because it didn’t answer one simple question: “What now?”

      I’m assuming this proposal is attempting to affect voter behavior. So the first question is: How do you get voters to notice this? Second question: What EXACTLY do you want them to do? (How would “moving them” be structured, engineered, promoted, pitched?)

      Some encouraging or discouraging numbers: There are 235 million people in the US eligible to vote. If we apply common sense, half of them are in the bottom half of the economy. That’s 117 million voters! These are the people most severely shafted by the corruption and skewed values. That’s a lot of frustrated, angry, confused folks packing a lot of punching power at the polls.

      My question is this: How does your message, your contract, your concept resonate with these people? Because if you could unite them, you could put a “people’s president” in office and completely transform Congress into an incorruptible institution serving the greater good.

      Reply
      1. juno mas

        There are actually 278 million citizens eligible to vote in the US. But the actual percent who do vote is but 61% (over the last 10 years; 2020 was higher). The impediments to voting are many and the GOP is working hard to create more. Maybe publicly funded (only) campaigns would help. Engaging the voters and restraining the DEM and GOP political schemers is a monumental task.

        It appears to me that the interests of the large states with robust economies do not align the smaller states. The institutional arrangements of our system of government favor the minority not the majority.

        Even with non-corrupt representatives “getting stuff done” for the populace is a struggle.

        Reply
      2. ex-PFC Chuck

        The Movement seeks to move two categories of people: those eligible to vote; and announced and prospective candidates for office, initially focused on US Congress members and Senators. This presents a chicken/egg dilemma that I believe tilts in toward the voters as initially the primary but not total emphasis. There is no downside to the decision for a voter to pledge from his perspective other than submitting his name and just enough other data to accurately identify his state and Congressional district. For the candidate it’s a difficult decision with intertwined strategic and tactical aspects. On the strategic side she’s faced with the John Boyd question: Does she want to BE a Senator or Congress woman, or does she want to DO something while she is in the Senate or the House of Representatives? If she decides to be a doer and corruption is near the top of her list of what to do something about the tactical decision is a no-brainer: Pledge! Candidates who do not contemplate the strategic dimension are probably mostly “Be-ers,” and the minority of Doers are likely focused on other issues. For them the decision is entirely tactical and will depend on the percentage of voters in her district or state that have pledged, as well as the pledge status of her opponents. The higher the percentage of pledged voters in her electorate, the more likely will it be she elects to take the pledge herself.
        As you note it all depends on the message out to prospective voters and as I noted in the post the Movement can’t expect much coverage by the monopolistic MSM and social media. Various modes of guerrilla marketing will be required. Getting interviews on the blossoming current affairs podcasts is a channel that must be pursued. We must also ask pledging voters to pass the word among friends, family, acquaintances, etc., and provide tools and support for doing so. This is critical, and as I’ve noted in other comments we need to focus on the people who are turned off from bothering to vote, as well as the nose-pinching voters. It’s not going to be easy, but once in a while something catches fire and we’ve got to make that happen in this case. In a good way of course.

        Reply
  1. MartyH

    It would be easier to pass a Constitutional Amendment rescinding “corporate personhood.” Perhaps not much. But then enlistment of politicians to honestly apply anti-corruption changes to enforcement of law on the books but nullified by “Citizens United.”

    Reply
    1. SufferinSuccotash

      Wouldn’t any pertinent amendment also have to deal with the Buckley v. Valeo “money is speech” doctrine?

      Reply
    2. Carla

      I agree, MartyH and SufferinSuccotash. The corruption of Congress and government is dual-headed, caused by the perversion of the constitution by 1. corporate personhood and 2. the misinterpretation of money as speech.

      So any effective reform must address both.

      The evil of corporate constitutional rights seems very difficult for people to grasp: the fact is, as long as corporations can hire entire white-shoe law firms to defend their (completely illegitimate and never-intended) constitutional rights, human individuals have NO constitutional rights whatsoever.

      Right now, voters across the country are challenging candidates for local, state and national office to “take the pledge” to support the 28th Amendment restoring constitutional rights to human persons only, and restricting bribery by legalizing the regulation of money spent in elections. Here is the complete (short) text:

      https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-joint-resolution/48/text

      Do not worry about how corporations will be able to function (enter into contracts, etc.) without constitutional rights. Statutes can and will be written to enable the necessary functions of corporations. Do not worry about the New York Times Corporation’s “freedom of speech.” It always had that constitutional freedom — not as a corporation, but as the press. (In fact its corporate form is more likely to restrict its freedom to “speak” than anything, IMO. But that’s another story.) Anyway, HJR-48 specifically protects the freedom of the press.

      Reply
      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        The Movement assumes it’s a vain hope that the status quo will change itself. It also assume that today Senators and members of the House, including the likes of Pelosi and Mitchell, are nothing more than useful idiots to behind-the-scenes actors who constitute the “establishment,” “deep state,” or whatever you want to call it. The status quo Congress is the indentured servant of that establishment. The Movement is intended to be a non-violent, inclusive way of severing the bonds of that servitude before we’ve gone too far down the slope to recover. That is if we haven’t done so already.

        Reply
        1. Susan the other

          I think it is an idea whose time has come. It’s a really good idea. The unfolding of this movement – ASCC – will take some time but it sounds like the national referendum I have been wishing for. A means to track and judge corrupt pols and take effective action against them for the corruption of democracy. Corporations are already trying to put a smiley face on their politics. No doubt they have all suddenly sobered up and realized that the true “wealth” of this country is the people. Not that they are not all still sneaky. I think teeth would be important. No revolving doors after a pol leaves office certainly. No estates on Martha’s Vineyard. Wink-wink will be hard to control but a national referendum which tracks corruption would certainly help. A mechanism for automatic recall for egregious behavior would also help. No more self-policing for Congress. Look at Nancy – she self polices herself by allowing Paul to play fast and loose with the stock market without censure. She and the majority of pols refuse to put their assets in a blind trust. Etc. But there is an acute awareness of all the corruption. Witness Senator Ossoff. And a few others. So now is definitely a good time to get things rolling.

          Reply
      1. Rolf

        Thank you, Carla, for the link and your comment above. Money ain’t speech, it’s money, and corporations are not people. Those SCOTUS justices voting in favor of Citizens (Corporations) United must have understood — and been happy with — the pernicious effect. This in and of itself seems to evince deep corruption.

        Reply
        1. Eclair

          Nice, Rolf. One sentence boils it down to a principle we can believe in. Even fits on a (large) bumper sticker!

          Money ain’t Speech and Corporations ain’t People!

          Reply
      2. Late Introvert

        That site has all kinds of Google up in it. I know because I block those evil sh1ts, and the site is broken without it. Sigh, are you folks sure you want to be relying on them for this project?

        Reply
    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      For better at this point the Movement exists only between my ears. I’d like to be a part of starting it up but I’m not the best person to plan on long term considering the fact by the end of the year I’ll no longer be able to deny I’m in my mid-80s. But I definitely want to be a part of standing up such a Movement and remain active in it as long as I am able.
      The impact of the Movement will depend on the number of voters who commit to pledging. The impact it could have on a given race will depend on how balanced it is between the two legacy parties. A major impact milestone will have been achieved when incumbent candidates of major parties begin to approach the Movement about making a pledge. This won’t happen until the percentage of voters pledging until the candidates start seeing it as a lethal threat to their reelection.
      The Movement needs to be designed to avoid putting any hurdles in the way that might discourage a voter from pledging. There are no co$ts to making a pledge. To be sure we’ll request donations but doing so won’t be an obstacle to having your pledge counted. Your name won’t be made public unless you specifically request it to be, and even then it will only be used to enhance the Movement’s public credibility. It will only use a pledger’s name and address to identify state and Congressional district, and to make it available for audit to prove the Movement isn’t making stuff up.
      Making a pledge is the fed-up voter’s way of being Howard Beale.

      Reply
      1. Eric Anderson

        Thank you for your hard work on this Chuck. A suggestion toward jump starting the movement: Start fishing for existing 501(c)(4)s who have lost the wind behind their sails to co-opt. The machinery will be there ready to be repurposed.

        Reply
    2. Samuel Conner

      ditto.

      Would it be possible for the NC principals to ‘expose’ (with commenter consent) our respective email addresses to ex-PFC Chuck? I hereby consent.

      Reply
      1. chucksearcy

        If ex-PFC Chuck agrees to a mailing list, please put me on it. (Another ex-PFC Chuck, though I mustered out as an E-5.)

        Reply
        1. ex-PFC Chuck

          I actually mustered out as an E-4 but the promotion came only a week before my separation date so I consider myself forever an honorary PFC. In choosing the handle I was tipping my hat to ex-PFC Wintergreen of Catch-22.

          Reply
    1. Eric Anderson

      If only the left weren’t so (family blog) CONTRARIAN this approach would Succeed.

      Thank you, TheoriesAndGames, for being the only team player in the thread.

      Reply
      1. Kevin

        No, Tom is absolutely correct. He is recognizing reality and not wishful thinking.

        The problem with any form of government is baked in with human imperfection – we simply are not capable of governing ourselves and this has been demonstrated time after time after time throughout the entire history of our existence.

        Reply
          1. ex-PFC Chuck

            Schizmogenesis is one of the main instruments with which the establishment maintains their power. Think Fox vs. CNN/MSNBC. I suspect its emergence was a happy accident (for them, not the rest of us) that fell into their laps when the Bill Clinton closed the sale of the Democratic Party’s soul after nearly a decade of negotiations. Since then, because both partys are committed to supporting the deep state’s agenda of pushing people down to where they can’t focus beyond the base layers of Maslow’s pyramid of needs, they have to find other ways to keep the political corners of our minds occupied. This is much easier for the Republicans because over the last 40 years the core of their grass roots base has morphed from professional people and small business owners to Christian evangelicals. They’re easy to convince, not least because many leaders of the evangelicals’ political movement are megachurch preachers of the prosperity gospel who have themselves become wealthy in that role. By contrast the Democrats’ grassroots supporters are either older folks who in their youth knew a Democratic Party that still advocated significant vestiges of the New Deal and have not yet been mugged by the reality of the Party’s Clinton era policy pivots, or younger people who would like to restore and update the New Deal agenda. So their tactic of choice is distraction. For the Democratic establishment Trump’s victory in 2016 was a blessing in disguise. They were able to distract the party faithful for four years because Trump. And it appears John Durham’s investigation might reveal the deep state actors’ illegal participation in making up the Russiagate scam.

            Reply
            1. Susan the other

              Yes, I think this is a correct analysis. ‘Divide and conquer’ needs to be rejected. So in effect what I’m thinking is that we turn our backs on ‘divide and conquer’ and come back together, as you advocate, with purpose. Sociobiology then.

              Reply
  2. Money

    1) Are there enough serious non-corruptable folks out there to fill the void from all the leeches now filling politics? There is a skewed recruitment base for politicians: mostly incompetents from political families or coming in sideways through connections. Is there anyone entering a political organisation nowadays that starts with handing out flyers and end up in government?

    2) Not one word about how to handle violence. Ask history about trying to move away people from the honey pot without either applying violence while prying them away or dealing with the ensuing violence instigated by the persons having lost their money.

    Reply
    1. Late Introvert

      I’ve become an avid student of the Bolsheviki for this very reason. They showed us that non-violence doesn’t work.

      Reply
  3. Carolinian

    The problem is that a public that is already aware of vast elite corruption lack the power to do anything about it. And the elites, including these days the press, are determined to make sure things stay that way.

    Therefore a reform candidate like Sanders is squelched by the MSM and not just the Dem hierarchy (or do I repeat myself?). Even Trump was a kind of reform candidate in that he promised he would not be bought by special interests because he was already rich. Arguably this was one reason the establishment Repubs were so vehemently against him.

    To be sure Trump very much caved to special interests and especially in the foreign policy area. But how much of that was because of the preemptive Russiagate fantasy designed to make sure he didn’t upset the Blob apple cart?

    So all power to any proposed Movement but history doesn’t seem too encouraging. We once had genuine popularism in this country–in response to the similarly corrupt Gilded Age–and that was squelched too. It took the Great Depression to bring the reform movement back for awhile. Things may have to get worse before they get better. Not to worry though because the Bidenistas are working on it. Even today they are busy stirring up trouble with a country that can truly put the hurt on us.

    Reply
    1. Watt4Bob

      Even Trump was a kind of reform candidate in that he promised he would not be bought by special interests because he was already rich. Arguably this was one reason the establishment Repubs were so vehemently against him.

      Trump pretended to be a reform candidate.

      What he really was, was a huckster who recognized the opportunity presented by the angry mob of right-wing authoritarian followers that had been instigated into existence to ‘‘resist’ the menace of economic reform that seemed possible in the wake of the crash of 2008, and the election of Barack Obama.

      Trump jumped in front of the mob and called it a campaign.

      Trump’s real interests are the same as the Koch Bros. and the rest of the MOTU, his own personal wealth and power.

      The GOP was only resistant to the extent that they retained any capacity to be embarrassed, which soon ceased to be much of a problem, as they all joined Trump in front of the mob.

      Reply
      1. Carolinian

        I think you are missing my point which is

        a) a lot of people voted for Trump as at least a chance of getting something different–whether he was sincere or not. And

        b) we’ll never know what he might have done if not faced with rabid opposition (accusing him of treason no less). I believe Trump’s real motivation was not the cardboard villain depiction of a greedy criminal but rather self glorification (yes money helps with this). And making at least some reforms to the system would have earned him the popularity he so obviously craved. The establishment’s approach to Trump was a self licking ice cream cone–they accused him of the worst before he had done anything and then made sure it came true.

        And the worst of his actions–his Middle East policies–they approved. Indeed Biden is continuing these policies and most of the rest of it as well.

        Reply
        1. Watt4Bob

          a) a lot of people voted for Trump as at least a chance of getting something different–whether he was sincere or not

          Unfortunately, that’s the same mistake we’ve been making all along. We keep hanging our hopes on the next grifter that promises “change”.

          At some point we have to take responsibility for our own foolishness;

          b) we’ll never know what he might have done if not faced with rabid opposition

          That’s the same excuse the DNC would have you believe about Obama, and now Biden.

          When are we going to learn?

          Reply
          1. Carolinian

            As Taibbi and others have pointed out, Trump derangement syndrome is on a whole other plane from the Repub opposition to Obama or even to Bill Clinton. Pretending that the goofy con man Trump wants to be the new Hitler is unhinged. And with Gingrich and Dole there was an obvious element of calculation whereas the Dems expect people to believe this stuff.

            It’s really not the same as the rote Dem excuse.

            Reply
            1. Watt4Bob

              I don’t really feel like we disagree much.

              I think TDS has gone a long way to confirming for the progressive side of the electorate that the Dims have been running a long-con.

              What’s it going to take to convince the tRump flavored Repuglican base that the country isn’t standing on the edge of a ‘socialist’ precipice?

              Reply
  4. DLS

    I see nothing in here about reducing the power and reach of the federal government which is what attracts the lobbyists in the first place. first step is to delegate all unnecessary federal powers to state and local governments. in short, reactivate the tenth amendment, and you will solve about 2/3 of the problem. otherwise you are in the business of separating power and money. good luck with that.

    Reply
    1. marym

      No, it won’t solve any proportion of the problem. There’s plenty of corruption in state and local governments, including the same big donor/lobbyist influences found at the federal level (see links), as well as local forms of corruption, bribery, etc.

      In the current alignment of money and politics a “10th amendment” movement to eliminate the federal government would be more closely aligned with the forces of big money corruption in state government than with forces that would eliminate corruption.

      On the other hand, a strong movement addressing corruption at the federal level can help discourage big money corruption at the state level. Consider the candidate exclusion criteria referenced in this post: “A record of participating in corruptive practices while previously in elective or appointive office…”

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicholasreimann/2021/06/14/hundreds-of-companies-pressured-to-cut-ties-with-group-behind-restrictive-voting-legislation-push-across-us/
      https://www.teenvogue.com/story/what-is-alec-explainer
      https://www.aft.org/resolution/opposition-alec-and-alec-education-agenda

      Reply
  5. The Historian

    Nice post! It contains a lot of things we should do. But…..did you read Mary Tracy’s tweet in Links?

    This movement doesn’t stand a chance in Hades of getting through the voting process. As though we actually pick our candidates! Yea. Sorry, but that avenue is now closed to 99% of Americans. And don’t count on ‘progressives’ to do anything. We saw what they are capable of wrt BBB! If we really want to end corruption, we are going to have to find an alternative method. The only thing I can think of right now is street action – non-violent protests. The elite still do respond to fear. Other thoughts?

    Reply
  6. Fred

    An upstate NY sheriff’s deputy once told me why most elected officials make no effort to put down organized crime: “Because they are either corrupt, incompetent, or scared to death.” Try as I might, I can think of no other option to explain why any member of congress would not support this movement.

    Reply
  7. Tom Pfotzer

    This is a particularly important component of the proposal:

    It’s become increasingly clear that if the pervasive dependence corruption of the United States federal government is going to be reined in, the initiative and the continuing push is going to have to come from the great mass of the people whose most basic interests are no longer being served by that government.

    Bottom-up, not top-down. I agree completely.

    The top is corrupt, rich and powerful. It has two major weaknesses: there aren’t that many of them (1% or so) and they depend upon your acquiescence and complicity.

    The piece also points out the importance of founding any bottom-up program upon well-defined, widely-held common interests, for ex. Temperance. Suffrage. Depression-induced poverty.

    As the economy continues to falter, the pain will become excruciating, and widespread. A common, visceral, very powerful motivator is emerging.

    What’s really terrific about this proposal is a) it’s coherent, b) it got written up and promulgated, c) it’s a solution to a major problem we all have, and d) it spells out specific action-steps that can be implemented by an individual at-will.

    Well Done! It’s a good model.

    Reply
    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      Exactly! It is futile with a capital F to expect today’s status quo US government to reform itself. In the US Constitution it’s the Congress is the avenue through which the people make their desired policies known. The President, as the executive, is the one who oversees putting the policies approved by Congress into effect. That is why the Movement initially focuses on Congress. Although 20th century Congresses have ceded many powers to the executive, with enough un-compromised people there some (much?) of that power can be taken back.
      Noting your less optimistic observations later in the day in response to Tom Stone’s comment, when the dust settles following violent revolutions the results are often no better than and sometimes worse than what was revolted against.

      Reply
      1. Tom Pfotzer

        ExPFC: And sometimes _much_ worse off. That’s why I advocate evo- not revo-lution.

        Evo is clearly better. But it takes smart people who can do the Long March. Make a plan and stick with it.

        Never mind “agreement capable”. Is the U.S. “long march capable”?

        Reply
  8. Dave in Austin

    Why all this tiresome talk about corporate personhood?

    I’m a guy who would really like to meet a nice corporation and get married. I’ll go for either a boy-corporation or a girl-corporation, I swing both ways. But if I get engaged to a boy-corporation he will have to be at least 27 so he is no longer subject to the draft.

    I think in California there is no legal age for marriage, so if you know a cute 13 year-old girl corporation from California, I’ll definitely consider her, although I will not be able to take her back to Texas for a few years; that would violate the Mann Act. I’ll just have to wait until she’s old enough to vote.

    A transgendered corporation? Sorry, I want to get married in a Catholic church.

    Reply
  9. LowellHighlander

    This movement will take time, but so does any [successful] populist movement. And I see no other peaceable way out of this political hell; too many Americans would let their lives be destroyed before they vote outside the duopoly. I’ll be signing up forthwith, and will ask my wife to do the same.

    I think we should simultaneously, preferably through this movement, be seeking public funding of campaigns. That will give candidates who make the pledge a viable alternative policy plank here.

    Two omissions I saw in the article. First, in the third-to-last paragraph, I think the work “avoid” is missing after “in order to” in this sentence:

    “an annual limit on donations from one person in order to [AVOID?] becoming dependent on one or a small group of contributors”

    In the second-to-last paragraph, I think you want the word “effectiveness” instead of “effective”:

    “its effective[NESS?] in their eyes…”

    Reply
  10. Tom Stone

    This proposal is charmingly naive to the point of being delusional.
    If the only way to maintain the status quo requires slaughtering half of the populace in the most brutal manner one can imagine TPTB will do that without blinking an eye or hesitating for a moment.
    Aren’t 800K plus unnecessary deaths from Covid,the demonization of IVM and the crushing of “Occupy” a clear enough message?
    I can think of dozens of other examples and I’m sure many others here can as well.
    There is no mechanism for peaceful change and anyone who tries to organize any kind of change will have to face an unprecedented surveillance state and an elite that will use any means necessary to preserve its power.
    Any means necessary,without limit.
    Change will come because change is unavoidable.
    It will not be organized and it will not be peaceful because those options have been taken off the table.

    Reply
    1. Tom Pfotzer

      There’s nothing quite so invigorating as a whiff of realism in the morning.

      Well said, Tom, and I really admire your willingness to be so direct.

      I proceed at two levels:

      a. take constructive action to support an evolution (not a revo, an evo), and
      b. be ready to pick a side and fight if things go to hell in a bucket

      It’s not clear to me at this time what the menu of “sides” will be to choose from.

      I haven’t seen any group yet that dings the requirements list. Capable and toxic? Well-intentioned and impotent?

      I’d want to hook up with the highly-capable, well-directed and tuff people. Not quite sure where to find them.

      Reply
  11. Tom Doak

    I fear that the pledge will become nothing more than another blue check mark, but I’ll go along, anyway. Any system that says you can’t vote for Nancy P. has my support.

    There has been much talk in my lifetime about Blind Trusts, but it is all meaningless because they are shielded from our eyes, and there might be a bunch of cattle futures being traded behind the scenes, for all we know. So I propose to make the Blind Trust consist of exclusively long-term US Treasury bonds, on the premise that politicians’ ultimate goal should be to strengthen the US Treasury long term, not the stock market or anything else.

    A candidate with a significant % of his wealth in real estate [or in the stock market for that matter] might object to this, but again, anything that discourages those guys from running would be a victory.

    I just don’t know how you prevent the financially sacrificing Congress critters from accepting corporate board seats or lucrative consulting / lobbying gigs from the industries their actions favored, after retirement, as a payoff for doing the right thing for the corporatist agenda. That’s where the real money is.

    Reply
    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      It is crucial the Movement avoid becoming identified with either party. The top priority of the initial PR efforts should focus on the nose-pinching voters. Each election cycle, out of aversion to the two major parties and/or their candidates, millions of them vote red hoping they’re the lesser evil and millions more vote blue for the same reason. These people took seriously the responsibility to vote and they actively or tacitly bought into the meme that a vote for a peripheral party is wasted. The second priority should be the couch voters – those who don’t bother voting any more, usually because they realize both parties are out to hose them or they’ve been turned off by negative campaigning. Once there’s enough of a critical mass of vote pledgers in these categories, people considering a primary run against a legacy party incumbent will seriously consider tossing their hats in the ring as pledged candidates.

      Reply
  12. Dick Swenson

    If I am not mistaken, SCOTUS did not write that corps are persons. The wording is that corps have some rights that are the same as those of persons. Can someone clarify this?

    Reply
    1. Carla

      Although the U.S. Constitution does not mention corporations at all, the U.S. Supremes claim to have “found” them in the constitution. They found what was never there. That is either a miracle or a complete scam. Your choice.

      Reply
    2. Starry Gordon

      I believe the Supreme Court held that since the First Amendment says ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” without specifying any particular field of application, that this freedom of speech was not thereby confined to, say, citizens or even human beings; it could also apply to collections of human beings, or robots or space aliens, I suppose. Hitherto the usual route for abridging speech anyway has been to define certain kinds of speech, like pornography or incitement to riot, as really non-speech, or to say that some other law or rule is violated by a speech act, as with libel. Should one confine the application of the Amendment to “natural persons” someone would be sure to contend that the that right of free speech would extend to collections of “natural persons”, and that money and other devices, when operated by a “natural person” were the same as natural speech, writing, sign language, etc.

      Reply
  13. NotThePilot

    I think honest, thought-out proposals like this are always to be commended, but I’d like to make a short counter-point. It doesn’t necessarily contradict anything you wrote, but it does imply that maybe congress & elections are exactly the ground the status quo would like a reform movement to fight on.

    My observation is simply this: in any reasonably complex state, the vast majority of people will interact with the government, for good or ill, almost exclusively through unelected officials or rules set by unelected administrators. The bureaus are also quite effective, again for good or ill, at maintaining their own internal logic and momentum, regardless of how the elected officials try to mold them.

    I’m not a US history expert, but haven’t most truly lasting populist or progressive policies in this country also come with a bureau of some sort? Then there’s the whole line of theory, which Weber is particularly known for, that reasonable government at scale goes hand and hand with a professional civil service, despite all the corresponding dangers and disappointments.

    So in a weird way, I think the best shot for a reform movement to succeed in the US at this point isn’t to try to claw back the 3 constitutional branches of government from the corporations and their puppet ideologues. Instead, the goal should be to simultaneously open up the bureaus to public scrutiny while also making them more of an independent 4th branch. That way, you can go for the throat and just ask, “What does Congress really even do anymore? I like my mail carrier though and I just want the people at the DMV to have better customer service like him/her”

    Reply
  14. Adam Eran

    I’d prefer a constitutional amendment like the “Move to Amend” organization promotes, and an additional one to eliminate the Senate and make house terms four years. Maybe Move to Amend will adopt the anti-corruption cause too…they’ve already done the groundwork.

    Reply
  15. Sam F

    Good ideas here.

    Amendments are need for both elections and mass media, to limit funding to individual donations of less than (say) the average day’s pay per year, fully reported by all intermediaries. But there is no obvious mechanism to force that.

    I have prosecuted Florida politicians in federal court for theft of $120 million in conservation funds, with interstate effects. All federal investigative agencies refused 11 times to investigate despite notices and full evidence and memoranda of law to all of their local, headquarters, and OIG offices, and the judges of six courts have committed the perjury that they could not understand the obvious and well-documented interstate effects. So the federal and state judiciaries will be of no help at all: their bribes are from the same sources.

    My contribution is founding the College of Policy Debate (CollegeOfDebate dot com) to get all viewpoints on the real issues before the public, challenged and debated in moderate textual debate with no winners, with commented debate summaries available to the public. This can also be used to evaluate candidates and office holders on knowledge and willingness to consider alternative viewpoints.

    Reply
    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      Thank you for your comment and kind words, Sam. However it appears you forgot the word “policy” in the URL of the website you founded. The disguised URL that works is collegeofpolicydebate dot com

      Reply
  16. KD

    How is the sausage made? Does each legislator review each bill in its entirety, contemplate its strengths and weaknesses, then engage in a rational, deliberative debate to decide whether or not to pass the bill?

    If so, then probably electing incorruptible politicians might fix things.

    On the other hand, if legislators are mostly tools of leadership in their voting behavior, bills are drafted mostly based on drafts from special interest groups, and legislators are dependent on making leadership and special interests happy to get fundraising to stay in power, then electing the incorruptible just means the legislator will be sidelined by the machinery, the district won’t get any pork, and the legislator probably won’t be able to fund raise to get re-elected.

    You need a realistic model of how a bill gets through committees, gets votes in legislatures, doesn’t get vetoed or overturned, and becomes law, not the high school civics b.s. Unless you actually understand how something gets done, you stand zero chance of actually getting it done better. You had all these progressives like AOC promising things, and then it all got backpedaled once they went to Washington and figured out how it works. This is just asking for a repeat. You either play ball with leadership, or have a hard core constituency/power basis with your back (Manchin), or you are a forgotten nobody.

    Reply
  17. tiebie66

    Thank you Chuck! Read with interest and appreciation! Thank you to Lambert too, perhaps we can get more such material and how to address political ills. It is indeed necessary to go beyond chronic complaining and to start considering ways forward. A few points in response to this post:
    1. How can one avoid corruption of The Movement itself? Having been on a HOA board and noticed how the very system set up to regulate affairs can be corrupted, I’d think any oversight system is vulnerable to corruption from within.
    2. How to avoid pledged Congress members and Senators to take corruption underground. How can stealth be countered? Corruptive donations can be done in a multitude of ways.
    3. I’m leaning in favor of Citizens’ Assemblies along the line of juries to deal with legislation, rather than pledged representatives. I’m not sure how to implement such a system. Perhaps this has been considered elsewhere beyond my notice.
    4. Obligatory and formal participation in the political process might be necessary. Perhaps an obligatory jury-like presence at legislative debates can be implemented. ‘Jury’ members must be sequestered for the duration of their duty.
    5. Are there aspects of Swiss democracy that could provide helpful ideas?
    6. Other commenters have noted “human imperfection”, hence a system needs to be designed to circumvent or even out human imperfections. Hence my preference for Citizens’ Assemblies or Legislative ‘Juries’.

    Reply
  18. Eclair

    My spouse, a former Boeing engineer, discussed with me yesterday, his disgust with the corporation. He had just read that Boeing, after announcing with great fanfare that they had discontinued their contributions to legislators who had denied the election results, had recently, and very quietly, resumed their financial support to these people.

    Or, to say it like it is, they have continued with their bribery. The entire governmental structure has become a corruption-riddled network of greedy politicians who trade on their insider knowledge to enrich themselves and their families and associates, and corporations who treat bribes, paying for favorable legislation, as a normal cost of doing business.

    We can wring our hands and spout pious platitudes about ‘that’s just human nature,’ and moan that ‘we are helpless in the face of such power.’ Or we can do something. Chuck has a proposed a plan. Jon Ossof is mounting a fight from within. We all have friends, family, twitter and tiktok accounts (well, maybe not), FB buddies, work colleagues, alternative-media allies. We can develop ‘talking points.’ Mount a People’s PR campaign against corruption and corporate domination. Dag nab it, people, we have the whole Internet!

    (And, let’s not forget about Climate Change and Massive Inequality!)

    Reply
  19. Starry Gordon

    I think what many of you are calling ‘corruption’ is just the natural result of liberalism-capitalism. That is, some have much, other have little (power, wealth, connections, social status, information, etc.) Some have virtually nothing. It is normal, expected behavior of primates in such a situation for the first class to dominate the others and for the others to suck up to them, to subordinate themselves. The first class are ‘influencers’ with teeth. Corporations are just one instrument of their practices; if you somehow (against all likelihood) deprive them of their combinations they will find others. Actually, what I think you’re observing is simply the liberal state working the way it is supposed to work.

    If you want something else you will have to organize it locally and pretty much out of sight.

    However, if a reform movement does get started, I agree that it might put some fear into our lords and masters and mitigate their abuses at least for a little while.

    Reply
    1. Tom Pfotzer

      A highly valuable perspective.

      We are primates, and we act like it. There’s a social order, and it’s enforced. In order to function, you have to decide whether you’re in or out of the order, and how much you’re willing to fight/suck up for position.

      And you can, to some degree, opt out. The Big Market lets you be invisible if you wish.

      I often wonder if there isn’t some secret-handshake society of shadowy but very cool people that have transcended primate-ism, and are living it up somewhere off the radar.

      If so, please put a message in a bottle and toss it my way.

      Reply
  20. Greg Coleridge

    I’m all for any/all of the proposals to address the corruption of Congress — especially systemic proposals. This “Movement” plan addresses a piece of the problem. Unfortunately, legislative solutions can’t solve constitutional problems. Once the Supreme Court invented the doctrines of “political money in elections equals free speech” and “corporations are persons” (i.e. corporate constitutional rights) — that is, shifting the authority to define money in elections and control over corporations from the legislative to judicial arenas — it’s been pretty much game over for Congress and We the People to be able to self-govern (to the slim degree We the People ever had real self-governing authority to begin with).

    A 100% non-corrupting Congress would still face the mega rich and mega corporations flooding the airwaves and mailboxes with ads calling on Congress to pass/overturn statutues that benefit/hurt this power elite. But even if they didn’t, the truth is “corporate personhood” has boxed in what any legislature can do by shielding them from public accountability by going to court arguing that their 1st, 4th, 5th, or 14th Amendment “rights” are being violated. Preemption of locally passed laws by the state legislatures or courts or abuse/misuse of the 14th Amendment and/or Commerce Clause by corporations has resulted overt the past century in overturning hundreds of state laws that were passed by state legislatures to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and communities. This is why a systemic piece of the solution must include, yes, abolishing the constitutional doctrine that “money equals speech,” but must also inlclude abolishing corporate constitutional rights, as proposed by MovetoAmend.org and the We the People Amendment, HJR48.

    Reply
  21. Rainlover

    Thank you, Chuck for taking the time to think about and write out this proposal. IMHO it is a good starting point from which to advance. Ironically, yesterday I had the brilliant idea that one should find a way (probably there isn’t one) to get “None of the Above” on the federal election ballot as an independent candidate. Judging by the disgust with congress critters I hear from everywhere except the MSM, it’s my fantasy that NOTA would win, thus throwing all incumbents out of office without firing a shot. But unlike Chuck’s Movement, I don’t actually think this is a workable plan./sarc

    I’m also inclined, like tiebie66 toward Citizens’ Assemblies. I’m currently reading The Ministry For The Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. The plot features among other things the re-working of democracy in India after the experience of a killing heat wave in the first chapter. India throws out the BJP and takes Sikkim as its model for agriculture (organic) and Kerala as its model for government (communist/socialist). I’ve personally admired Kerala for many years as a state government that cares about its people and that has also resisted the BJP poison. Devolution of power to the people in Ministry features “panchayats [town council] for every village, then district governments that coordinate these panchayats and oversee disputes and care for any necessary business at the district levels; and above them is the state government . . . looking after such business as involves the whole state together. The focus on local government has been so intense and diligent that there now total 1,200 governmental bodies in Kerala, all dealing with issues in their particular area whatever it might be.” [p. 231, Kindle edition]

    Town councils already exist in most places of any size; they could be taken over by candidates pledged to non-corruption. This can be done as evidenced by Sequim, WA, where a determined band of citizens ousted four Q-Anon associated town council members, replacing them with councilors dedicated to “good governance.” https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/landslide-for-democracy-in-washington-states-clallam-county/ The Sequim Good Governance League (SGGL) is a non-partisan organization.

    Just as the right wing has focused on taking over school boards, a national Good Governance League could focus on taking over town councils and progressing up the ladder from there. It would be a fight, of course, but the SGGL has shown that appealing in a non-partisan fashion to citizens’ longing for good governance is a winning hand – at least in this particular instance. Power to the people!

    Reply
  22. Richard

    Hello Chuck, Hello Lambert,

    Last night when I read this article there were 4 comments. Now this morning, so many well thought out replies, every one of them worth contemplation.

    I have an acquaintance, John Rachel, working on a program to require political candidates to sign a legal contract that they will honor their campaign promises. It is ongoing for several years and he calls it CFAR, Contract For American Renewal. I am not sure of the make-up of the groups promoting this (other) movement.

    About Us:

    We are non-aligned, non-ideological, non-partisan citizen activists, who are deeply concerned about the decaying state of our democracy, angry about abuse of power, and appalled by the marginalization of everyday citizens. We are deeply patriotic, loyal to the United States of America and all of its citizens, and dedicated to enforcing their rights of full participation in the governing of our nation. We are determined to implement full, true, representative democracy through dramatic electoral and systemic reform.

    https://no-contract-no-vote.us

    https://cfar2020.com

    https://cfar2018.com

    The candidate contract ELECTORAL STRATEGY is a completely different bird. The contracts are built around those initiatives that a vast majority of citizens want done but the establishment candidates refuse to deliver. A perfect example is Medicare-4-All.

    There are at least ten such issues with consensus support of 62% or higher. Now please pay attention:

    1) We DO NOT EXPECT any establishment candidates to sign the candidate contracts. If they did they wouldn’t honor the terms anyway;
    2) The candidate contracts will only be signed by non-establishment, independent, “rogue” candidates, who commit to honoring them as legally-binding;
    3) This validates candidates outside the established political machinery, identifying them in the eyes of voters as individuals who will serve them and deliver the desired initiatives, and DISCREDITS the establishment candidates who refuse to, literally cannot sign the contracts;
    4) Opening the doors hopefully to candidates who are not owned by corporations and the corrupt major parties who control them.

    The candidate contract strategy I’m proposing is not a pretty-please pledge.

    IT’S AN ELECTORAL STRATEGY DESIGNED TO UPROOT AND EJECT ESTABLISHMENT PAY-FOR-PLAY LAPDOGS OF THE RULING ELITE.

    I’ll ask John to comment here to explain it.

    (Yes, many comments here mention the extreme difficulties in how the current system runs.)
    I can’t say what will work.

    Reply
    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Richard – I’m liking this. I’m very much ready to vote for people that will sign your contract.

      And I endorse the word “contract”. That’s the right positioning, the right emotion.

      Keep it up.

      Reply
    2. John Rachel

      I think in order to get the level of participation necessary for an electoral “coup” — and realistically we’re talking in the 120-140 million range — we need to frame a contract in the language of the people, reflecting the values and priorities of the people, addressing the day-to-day challenges of the people. Surprisingly or maybe not, it’s not that difficult to identify what everyday citizens are troubled by, what’s on their minds. Even with Covid-19 (and because of Covid-19), it’s the economy. It’s the pocketbook. It’s the wallet. It’s paying the bills, covering medical expenses, it’s job security, it’s making a living wage. Right behind are community issues. Safety, education, clean neighborhoods, healthy water and air. You folks here know the reason this country is in the mess it is, how the corruption serves the corporate class, the big banks, the ruling elite. If that corruption is identified issue-by-issue, then people will pay attention. If you directly and resolutely offer them relief, they’ll join the ranks, uniting in a vast voter bloc. CFAR is the brand. CFAR is the “good housekeeping seal of approval”. Only vote for CFAR candidates. Take back our country one community, one district, one electoral office at a time. The CFAR creates a bond between honest “non-corrupt” candidates who want to serve their future constituents — who GUARANTEE IN WRITING to serve the people — with voters. There’s nothing abstract in the CFAR. It only contains initiatives supported by 62-80% of the American public. Minimum wage, health care, etc. Other than violent revolution — and let’s face it, it may come to that — it’s the only way to clean house, get rid of the pay-for-play puppets of the ruling elite.

      Reply
      1. Tom Pfotzer

        This is excellent advice, every word of it.

        Nice job, John. I hope you’ll get involved with one of these grassroots contract groups, as you’ve clearly got the background for it.

        Reply
        1. John Rachel

          I’ve reached out to hundreds of such groups and been greeted with a range of receptions: indifference to hostility. I’ve found them all so far to be closed to new ideas, even ones which are synergistic with what they’re already doing. There seems to be some territoriality in play. It’s as baffling as it is frustrating. Perhaps this group will be different. I’m always available to try something which works.

          Reply
  23. ChrisRUEcon

    Thanks for sharing this! Many great ideas articulated here; having been revitalized by the recent return of Yves’ Skunk Party posts, this is more wood for the fire as it were … ;-)

    Cheers!

    Reply
  24. IM

    There is an analogous movement in medicine called “no free lunch” which is basically a systematic, across the board, thoughtful break from the clutches of pharma. No free samples, no free lunch, no pharma lectures or slides, no subsidized CME. Once you’re used to it, there’s no other way!

    Reply
  25. Boshko

    1) The post + comments exemplify what I love about NC. Thank you all for this sliver of civil and rational discourse and debate!

    2) Someone made a point that our corrupt political order is operating precisely as intended under a neoliberal and capitalist system. This is a system that, by definition, brought us the idea of capitalism as….democracy! One dollar = one vote, after all. What could be more egalitarian in a free-market system? The original intellectual evangelists of neoliberalism couldn’t contain their contempt for universal suffrage and democracy. That their successful project has yielded a state that fails its human citizens is, of course, no surprise. So can a socio-economic system that naturally generates such corruption be remediated from the bottom-up? I’m skeptical. Because, if picking sides in a fight between those who have something to lose (the PMC and the top 0.1% with ever-inflated portfolios) vs those who have nothing to lose (the overwhelming majority of wage/debt slaves), I’d always pick the latter. It’s just that a physical fight isn’t at play. Yet.

    3) Re: IM’s no free lunch in medicine. I have a good friend who completed his surgery residency at an Ivy League medical center. I don’t know if he was aware of this movement, but he actively avoided any free meals/bribes/junkets etc from future corporate overlords (and continues to). He was a complete outlier, mocked by his peers for his principled conviction. Just as in other fields, they groom them while they’re young, indebted and sleep-deprived so that any rational actor couldn’t be judged too harshly for saying yes to a nice meal, and starting off down that slippery slope….

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *