Thursday, July 26, 2012
The Future Depends On Ourselves
The possibilities that lie in the future are infinite. When I say 'It is our duty to remain optimists,' this includes not only the openness of the future but also that which all of us contribute to it by everything we do: we are all responsible for what the future holds in store. Thus it is our duty, not to prophesy evil but, rather, to fight for a better world.
- Karl Popper, The Myth of the Framework (1994)
Saw an infuriating thing on FB the other day, wherein Sen Durbin was called "ignorant" for suggesting there is a need for amending the Constitution to correct the Citizens United ruling. Another serious person said all "we" needed to do was pass the DISCLOSE Act.
I still have a difficult time understanding the purity mentality that admits only one path to change and condemns other approaches aimed at the same goal. Generally speaking, a strategic arc requires many tactics over the course of any struggle, and rather than being mutually exclusive, they actually can offer mutual support, providing the same sense of strength as diversity in other contexts.
There's a scene in A Single Woman, the film dramatizing Jeannette Rankin's life, where suffragettes angrily debated whether the movement should focus their struggle on the Federal or State level. In reality, the movement ultimately was two-pronged, with state and national efforts complementing each other.
You never know which way will ultimately lead to success, and even the failures can teach or move things forward as they change the terms of debate and shift the Overton Window. So an amendment would probably fail, but you can light brushfires in the imagination and spur other solutions that might be more likely and effective.
Consider child labor laws. Bleeding hearts tried to reform things purely on moral grounds, and economics at the state level trumped such considerations. It really wasn't until the Great Depression that people realized kids were putting able-bodied adults out of work, so the Fair Labor Standards Act finally incorporated child labor regulations along with a minimum wage and other reforms.
After SCOTUS rejected child labor regulations, reformers got the ball rolling on the amendment process, but as yet we still many decades later are 10 states shy of ratification (Vermont is one of a number of states that rejected proposed changes). Of course, the issue became moot as SCOTUS changed direction and the Fair Labor Standards Act has been fundamentally upheld.
Similarly, we're trying now to overturn Citizens United by updating the Constitution to clarify that people are people, and corporations are not. We had scores of towns in Vermont weigh in, as well as our State Legislature and Congressional delegation. We joined other communities in putting a stake in the ground, which could force the issue in any number of ways.
Even if we have a shot at Congress' passing an amendment--which right now is really a pipe dream--it will be even more difficult with the current state legislative landscape to get it ratified. Still, we must try, and in doing so we might again obviate the need for such a measure.
As I often say, the only guarantee is that if you do nothing--or sit on the Internet prophesying doom--nothing will change for the better.
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Can't agree more on the concept that any problem should be addressed on several fronts. As a liberal environmentalist I'm absolutely convinced that a concern for the environment is also concern for people, often for the poorest people who are most likely to fall victim to environmental degradation.
Posted by: Loren | Jul 28, 2012 11:34:11 AM