The Center for Media and Democracy was asked to introduce national populist leader Jim Hightower at Wisconsin's "Fighting Bob Fest," an annual gathering featuring progressive speakers and "carrying on the tradition of Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette by providing a forum for progressive ideas" on national issues. Hightower is a New York Times bestselling author whose latest book is "Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow."
The Center addressed the thousands of citizens who gathered in Baraboo, Wisconsin to discuss issues like the impact of the Citizens United decision, health care reform, financial reforms, and the ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Following remarks by Thom Hartman, the Project Censored Award winning host of a national radio show, who focused on the illegitimacy of the corporate rights doctrine in constitutional jurisprudence, the Center applauded his support for efforts to amend the Constitution to redress Citizens United, which the Center has been helping to spearhead nationally along with our work with a network of public interest groups, including Public Citizen and People for the American Way.
As the Center's director, I noted in my prepared remarks that "Corporations can't drink, can't breathe, don't sweat, and don't bleed, and so they do not care how dirty the water is or how polluted the air is or how hot the climate is or the working conditions of employees or whether workers have health care, unless the law makes them care, which is why they should not be allowed to spend unlimited money in elections from their massive treasuries and undermine the power of real people in our democracy." I also challenged the crowd to take up the call to overturn not just the Supreme Court's illegitimate, activist decision in CItizens United but also the array of judicial interpretations granting corporations rights, without the consent of the people, as enumerated by Hartmann.
For example, the Center for Media and Democracy was one of the leading organizations challenging the use of rBGH in milk from the outset, along with Jim Hightower. Yet, corporate agriculture fought the labeling of milk that had the growth hormones added in Vermont on free speech grounds, claiming it could not be forced to put words on its label it did not want, and won. We know corporations have been using the courts to obtain rights to resist democratic control over their operations and their effect on human health and the environment for some years. Citizens United is really a wake up call about the extent to which corporations have become too powerful in our democracy, threatening the people's ability to regulate them--as demonstrated by the flaws in the health care and financial reform proposals. In my prepared remarks, I also urged the crowd to remember that other generations of Americans passed constitutional amendments, without Facebook and modern technology, communicating through the Pony Express, and I stated "surely, we are not the only generation of Americans who cannot amend our Constitution."
Jim Hightower came to the stage and gave an inspiring address imploring people to take this democracy by working together across all of our interests to leverage of passion rather than divide it. Hightower has a real way with words and speaks the plain truth to power. As we urged the audience at Bobfest to subscribe to the email list of this original thinker, "if you don't get it, you don't get it."