"Of course they are," replied Romney, with a "there, I said it!" statement that he and his staff would later confirm as his true faith.
The Republican presidential contender's bizarre certainty that faceless corporations, many of which enjoy the benefits and protections of the United States while shuttering factories and moving jobs overseas, are somehow human drew a stinging rebuke from National People's Action director George Goehl, who declared: "The corporations Mr. Romney believes are filling people's pockets are the ones who crashed our economy and hijacked our democracy."
Of course, Romney won't change. He's a class warrior, and he knows which side he is on.
Nor, frankly, will any change in position be forthcoming from a lot of the Democrats who have bought into the big-money politics that accepts the landscape outlined in the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision -- which accords corporations the same political rights as citizens -- as the new normal.
But there is nothing "normal" or "acceptable" about a circumstance -- illustrated by the Wisconsin recent recall election fights, which saw an expected $40 million in campaign spending -- that makes candidates and voters electoral bystanders in a process that is bought and paid for by corporations and unaccountable special-interest groups.
"The court's ruling in Citizens United demands that, once again, we the people use the constitutional amendment process to defend our democracy. We must press for a 28th Amendment -- a People's Rights Amendment -- to restore democracy to the people and to ensure that people, not corporations, govern in America," says John Bonifaz, director of the Free Speech for People project. "We call on all 2012 presidential candidates to make clear that corporations are not people with constitutional rights and to support the People's Rights Amendment."
Bonifaz is right. Romney has, with his "corporations are people" comment, disqualified himself from serious consideration as a contender for any position of public trust.
But Romney and his kind will remain a threat to American democratic life for as long as activist judges read the Constitution as an invitation to corporate dominance of our politics.
Romney's statement has clarified the urgent need for a constitutional amendment that renews the supremacy of "We the People."
That's going to be a central focus of the national Democracy Convention, which will be held August 24-28 in Madison, Wisconsin. A project of the Madison-based Liberty Tree Foundation (with which this writer has been associated over the years), the convention has drawn strong support from the Alliance for Democracy, the Move to Amend campaign, The Progressive magazine and labor, farm and community groups. As such, it will bring together activists from across the country who seek to "strengthen democracy where it matters most--in our communities, our schools, our workplaces and local economies, our military, our government, our media, our Constitution."
The focus on multiple issues and challenges will make the convention an exciting and necessary gathering at a point when America is suffering from so many democracy deficits. But central to the convention will be an understanding that the crisis created by the Citizens United ruling and the abuses of power inflicted upon the republic and its citizens by unrestrained corporations must be addressed.
"As far as we know, Mitt is not coming to the 2011 Democracy Convention," Democracy Convention Chair Ben Manski jokes. "But if he did, he'd learn a thing or two."
What the Americans who happen to stand on the other side of the class
divide can learn at the Democracy Convention is how to prove Romney
wrong by ensuring that the fantasy of corporate personhood is not used
by corrupt politicians and activist judges to prevent "We the People"
from realizing the full promise of the American experiment.
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