Guest Opinion: Democracy, elections and the TPP
In most Americans' minds, the right to vote is the mark of a democracy. Election campaigns are the parties of democracy, but much-longer movement-building work is what it takes to have a functioning democracy; that's hard work. Hard work, but vital if it is democracy we want and not the illusion we live under. The election of candidates is not a gift to them to do with as they please, it is an assignment to them to do what their constituents tell them to do for the common good. In a functioning democracy, the voters must assume the role of the strict teacher, with a pointer, insisting that the student attend to the assignment. We elect people to represent us; instead, we've learned that most of them represent the corporations and people of wealth who contribute millions to their re-election campaigns. The epitome of the corporate oligarchy we actually live in is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - a "trade" agreement that was negotiated in secret and drafted by corporate representatives, "the experts," without involvement by our elected "representatives." Now before Congress, it can receive only an up or down vote, no debate, no amendment, thanks to the passage of the "fast track" process our representative voted for last year. Billed as a virtuous trade agreement by the administration, and favored by our current representative, supporters are hoping to get a vote on the agreement during the lame duck session of Congress, right after the election when they will not be held accountable for their actions - when, hopefully, many of them will not be around come January, leaving us with the damage they've done. In order to obtain trade provisions with 11 Pacific Rim countries, our "representatives" will be voting away our sovereignty in favor of an investor-state dispute resolution process, enhanced even beyond the one in NAFTA. A democracy's judicial system will be supplanted by a tribunal of attorneys who alternately represent the corporations who bring them disputes when laws or regulations would interfere with the corporation's ability to increase profit. Corporations will be able to evade our laws on environmental protection, climate change, worker safety, buy-American preferences, and prescription drug costs. Now is the time to do the real work of a democracy. Not only can we ill afford to sit this election out, neither can we let our work stop when the votes are in. If indeed we want a revolution - and we do need one - it must begin in us. The next first step - first because of timing - must be to insist candidates for federal seats oppose a lame-duck session vote on the TPP and that the new Congress vote it down. There is some support for us there, we must build on that. The history of our country can be told by a study of movements to enlarge the number of those covered by the democracy. Now is the time to advance the movement against the non-person, the corporation. First we must educate ourselves, not to the level of experts, just in the basics. Sadly, we cannot rely on what the administration says about the TPP. One of the most reliable sources is Public Citizen - Google it. Second, we must talk about it, get the subject out there - insist that the media tell us more about it - help others learn. Use your social media, but don't think any movement can succeed in front of a computer - we have to talk to the voters and make this the issue on Nov. 8. And then we must remind the elected of their assignment until trade agreements are negotiated for trade between and among nations for the good of their people, not in the interest of increasing corporate profit. E. Joy Arnold is chair of Central Kentucky Move to Amend.