Guest opinion: 2016 is a chance to return power to the people
The 2016 election cycle may well offer some choices for voters to get out of this current corporate-controlled democracy death spiral; this black hole of greed into which our political system and the very elements essential to life, fresh air and water, are disappearing.
I am not being overly dramatic in this description of the effects of Citizens United on our political process, and worse, the effects of deference to money that extends into our lives in the form of pump jacks and gas wells within a stone’s throw of houses and schools. Many sacrifice zones are being created, whether they are areas for resource extraction, or located downstream or downwind, areas where wars are being fought over resource extraction, or climate altered as a result of the burning the fuels of this extraction. Citizens United puts the companies even more firmly in control of our government.
One choice offers a top-down opportunity to assert the rights of people over money. Bernie Sanders has made clear with his words and a lifetime of actions and votes as a senator from Vermont that he stands with the unmoneyed masses and will fight against income inequality and the rigged system that keeps the inequality in place. His issues-driven sincerity is drawing huge crowds hungry for honesty.
Hillary has a lifetime of Washington manipulation under her belt and is more a part of the problem than part of the solution. Even the least confounding candidate in the Republican clown car, Jeb Bush, is yet another Bush dim bulb. The clarity of Bernie’s stances stand in stark contrast.
We are a caucus state in Colorado, and a vote will first occur at a Democratic caucus meeting, held March 1. Bernie must defeat Hillary Clinton to be on the presidential ballot; one has to be present at your proper precinct caucus to have a voice in whether he is the nominee. Further, you must be a registered Democrat by Dec. 31 to participate. This can be done online. We know that next year the precincts are having all their caucuses in the library of the closest town.
Sanders, like Obama, is not a savior. We also need to work locally. There is in addition a bottom-up movement in motion to claim community rights to democracy for Colorado, in the form of an amendment to the Colorado Constitution. In February we will begin to collect signatures in an attempt to get this amendment on the 2016 ballot. The amendment basically disallows the pre-emption by statute of anything that gives the state the ability to overrule community protective self-government. To quote part of the amendment:
Rights “shall include the power of the people to enact local laws that protect health, safety and welfare by recognizing or establishing rights of natural persons, their local communities, and nature; and by securing those rights using prohibitions and other means deemed necessary by the community, including measures to establish, define, alter or eliminate competing rights, powers privileges, immunities or duties of corporations and other business entities operation, or seeking to operate in the community.”
Oil and gas companies were scared enough of a similar amendment in the last election to delay signature gathering with a challenge to its wording. The wording for the newly minted amendment has been approved already, and there is time between February and the election to gather the signatures for this iteration, with luck and hard work. Please read it carefully at cocrn.org because it establishes the rights of communities to pass laws protecting health and safety. This state amendment would put a crack in the wall of corporations’ power to pollute and loosen the split estate stranglehold of property rights, which are currently elevated above the rights of people. We are being treated as resource colonies instead of communities of citizens.
So we have both a top-down and a bottom-up possibility for change in 2016, if we can get them on the ballot, if we can ramp up participation. It can be done. It depends on us to participate in our democratic process.
Barb Coddington is a Glenwood Springs resident.
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