Both Vice President Biden and President Obama gave brief moving speeches on gun policy on January 16 at the White House. Obama identified the source of the problem of irrational policy on guns in his speech: "pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists [seeking] revenue for themselves."
Pres. Obama could have used this opportunity to not just propose a comprehensive set of measures addressing the problem of guns aimed at children, but the problem underlying this and every other dysfunctional public policy: private interest money aimed at our whole democracy. Money that pays for the election of politicians, for the manufacture of consent by the corporate media, and for the lobbyists who manage this corrupt system, is the fundamental reason for the crazy proliferation of guns in the United States.
Money puts the interests of the gun lobby ahead of the interests of children in the national conversation; money buys politicians who refuse to respond to the wishes of the overwhelming majority, creating the most unequal society in the industrial world which inequality itself is a cause of social dysfunction, unemployment, violence, and mental health issues; money has purchased a highly profitable health insurance system that fails to serve the public's health needs; money elects politicians who place plutocrats on the Supreme Court who are highly unrepresentative of the nation, and whose decisions distort the Constitution to serve plutocracy and undermine democracy.
Money in politics became the source of these problems, and much more, starting 37 years ago when a Supreme Court dominated by Richard Nixon appointees said that corrupt political money, of the kind that got their patron Richard Nixon elected twice and then rejected, is protected under the first amendment. (Buckley) This decision had even less historical support for it than the decision that interpreted the Second Amendment to extend the right to own private weapons (Holder) beyond the imagination of any Founder. Immediately after Buckley the NRA converted from being a gun safety group to becoming a powerful lobby for the gun industry that secured from dependent legislators the gun policies that Obama now wants to reverse. As a leading member of the new right Republican alliance between plutocrats that fund electioneering propaganda and the "values voters" at which the propaganda is aimed, the gun lobby made constitutional protection of gun sales from rational regulation an ideological litmus test for Republican politicians and judges.
To show how similar the arguments are concerning the illegitimacy of these two decisions distorting the First and Second Amendments respectively, Obama's speech has been slightly edited below [edits are in brackets] to produce a credible first draft of a speech on money in politics. The draft below simply applies Obama's own comments on the Second Amendment protection of guns to the First Amendment protection of corrupt money in politics, both of which decisions are fatal. But the enormous casualties from the death of democracy is a far more fundamental issue about which Obama has done nothing to date.
The draft speech below, submitted as an open Memo to Pres. Obama, supports not only gun policy reforms that Obama admits will be difficult to obtain from members of Congress in the face of opposition by the "lobby that funds their campaigns." It supports the comprehensive reforms to keep that lobby's money out of politics which would make the effort for gun reform in accordance with majority opinion easily achievable. Without action carrying out such a speech the lobby is likely to win the gun issue and prevail against the will of the majority on every other issue. This is how the faux democracy created since 1976 now works.
If President Obama could honestly say about abolishing lobbyist funding of campaigns "I will put everything I've got into this, and so will Joe" maybe something could be done about the corrupted politics that prevents adoption of policies that vast majorities support. This is what many people expected of Obama who voted for him in 2008, and some still think Obama may fulfill his unfulfilled 2008 promises in his second term.
As the record-setting recipient of political money - Obama is unlikely to ever deliver anything like the following speech, although he almost wrote it himself. Such a speech might initiate real change.
To: President Obama
RE: DRAFT SPEECH ON MONEY IN POLITICS BASED ON WHITE HOUSE GUN SPEECH
"We can't put this off any longer. ... So I'm putting forward a specific set of proposals based on the work of Joe's task force. And in the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every [special interest dollar reaching a politician's pocket and distorting our state and national policies] if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this [vast corruption of our democracy] we've got an obligation to try. And I'm going to do my part. ...
"I also believe most [voters] agree that we can respect the [First] Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale. I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep [private political money] out of the hands of [politicians], there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in [financing the 2012 elections]. That's what these reforms are designed to do. They're common-sense measures. They have the support of the majority of the American people.
"And yet, that doesn't mean any of this is going to be easy to enact or implement. If it were, we'd already have [exclusive public funding of elections]. The ban on [anonymous and corporate contributions] never would have been allowed to expire. More of our [democracy] might still be alive ....
"This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty -- not because that's true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they'll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.
"The only way we will be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership says this time must be different -- that this time, we must do something to protect our [democracy]. I will put everything I've got into this, and so will Joe. But I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it. And by the way, that doesn't just mean from certain parts of the country. We're going to need voices in those areas, in those congressional districts, [that elect the most avid supporters of private money in politics, like Senator Mitch McConnell -R(Ky)] to speak up and to say this is important. It can't just be the usual suspects. We have to examine ourselves and our hearts, and ask ourselves what is important.
"This will not happen unless the American people demand it. If, [understanding the importance of democratic elections to functional public policy, and mindful of the kind of country we will leave to posterity,] Americans of every background stand up and say, enough; we've suffered too much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continue -- then change will come. That's what it's going to take.
"In the letter that Julia wrote me, she said, "I know that laws have to be passed by Congress, but I beg you to try very hard." (Laughter.) Julia, I will try very hard. But she's right. The most important changes we can make depend on congressional action. They need to bring these proposals up for a vote, and the American people need to make sure that they do.
Get them on record. Ask your member of Congress if they support [abolition of private money from politics and public funding of elections]. Ask them if they support [stripping the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over elections
]. And if they say no, ask them why not. Ask them what's more important -- doing whatever it takes to get a A grade from the [powerful] lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving [Americans] some peace of mind when they drop [their ballot in ballot boxes around the country]? (Applause.)
"This is the land of the free, and it always will be. As Americans, we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights that no man or government can take away from us. But we've also long recognized, as our Founders recognized, that with rights come responsibilities. Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same. We don't live in isolation. We live in a society, a government of, and by, and for the people. We are responsible for each other. [The real freedom of speech that protects every American's right to speak their views does not allow money to so flood the public conversation with paid propaganda that it denies the right of other speakers to be heard and the right of voters to elect representatives solely dependent on their votes, and not the money of the 1%.]
"The right to [elect representatives responsible to the people that elected them rather than to those who funded their election] was denied in [the 1st Congressional district of], Wisconsin. The right to assemble peaceably, that right was denied [to Occupy protesters] in [Portland], Oregon, and [Denver], Colorado [by politicians who owed their allegiance to money rather than the Constitution]. That most fundamental set of rights -- to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- fundamental rights that were denied to [victims of financial policies that enrich Wall Street bankers while decimating the middle class, victims of globalization policies that export American jobs while enriching Walmart heirs, victims of a flawed privatized health insurance system that sells inferior health care at a higher price than other industrialized countries, victims of futile wars waged to merely fatten the balance sheets of the military industrial complex while bankrupting the country, victims of policies that tolerate industrial polluters and the carbon economy which cause toxic and climate disasters, and the rights of the many victims of the numerous other corrupt beneficiaries of government policies sold to the highest bidder -- in sum the rights of We the People over profits and plutocrats] -- those rights are at stake. We're responsible." [And so we will act with your support to get money out of politics by enacting comprehensive legislation abolishing the influence of money from our electoral processes. (Clamorous applause)]