Venerable actor Samuel L. Jackson’s makes the clear point – in a way only he can do – to pay attention to the upcoming presidential election in the video, “Wake – up!” The wake up call must be applied to a very dangerous trend of big money hijacking the democratic process in several ways that should have all freedom-loving citizens taking action.
The insidious assault on voter rights nationally and the sabotage of ballot initiatives such as Cap the Rate! Raise the Wage! are the latest casualties. The ballot language of Prop A on police local control has now been perverted to maintain the power of a few over the many.
Voter suppression is the current battlefront where the powerful alliance of the Right and corporations are attacking the right of citizens to vote and to petition their government. They are making it difficult, if not impossible, for citizens to register to vote, to cast their vote and to participate in ballot initiatives, a process created by citizens when they can’t get their elected officials to act in the people’s interest.
The demand for police local control has been taken up by citizens groups for over 25 years. When it became clear that concept was moving from an idea to reality, the mayor and the St. Louis Police Officers Association appealed to the deep pockets of Rex Sinquefield. Prop A is the ballot initiative they put together that would make the police department less transparent and less accountable to the citizens.
As someone who has been a part of the nearly 30 year struggle for local control, I will be working hard to defeat Prop A. Yes, we are willing to kill Prop A and from square one if all of the stakeholders are not at the table. This is not the local control that nearly 75 percent of St. Louis citizens voted for in a 2010 local referendum but one that will severely restrict our ability to see what’s happening on the inside of the department, especially as it relates to citizen complaints of police abuse.
Corporations have become emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that claimed corporation are people and that money is free speech. They can raise and spend unlimited sums to advocate for or against candidates. Ditto for ballot initiatives. The perversion of the ballot initiative and the democratic participatory process must be stopped. Our voices are being drowned out and our votes are being suppressed by those who are the highest bidder.
The most recent example of this travesty is the 350,000 Missouri voters who were denied their fundamental right to petition their government. Many don’t even know they were disenfranchised by the legal tactics of the corporate forces opposing raising the minimum wage and capping interest rates on payday loans. Missouri voters were denied the right to vote to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 an hour and to cap the interest rates payday lending companies can charge at 36 percent APR, down from an average of 445 percent APR currently (the predators can legally charge up to a scandalous 1959 percent. When it was clear that the broad coalition supporting the bill was winning on the ground, the corporate giants used every dirty trick in the book to throw a monkey-wrench in its successful efforts. The coalition was not able to muster up enough resources to fight the relentless legal threats and challenges.
Working people cannot match the dollars of these titan destroyers of democracy. That doesn’t mean we cannot beat them. Defenders of true democracy will have to fight the way we do best: hand-to-hand, mouth-to-mouth and foot by foot. A clear and unapologetic message must be sent to corporations and their flunkies that we will not give up our rights to participate at the most fundamental level without a fight. That fight is to defeat Proposition A on November 6.