David Cobb: Real Political Revolution Goes Beyond Election Cycles
At the 2016 Green Party national convention, Move To Amend’s Outreach Director says neither the Democratic or Republican candidates will challenge corporate personhood
DHARNA NOOR: I’m here in the University of Huston where just a few yards away currently the Green Party is having roll call. Soon, Jill Stein will revive the nomination as will her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, but in the meantime I’m here with David Cobb. David Cobb is the engagement and outreach director for Move to Amend. Thanks for joining us David.
DAVID COBB: Thank you, Dharna. It’s a pleasure to be here with the Real News Network where you know, actual news gets described.
NOOR: So David, tell me a bit about your journey with Move to Amend and what your role is here. What your role has been with the Green Party and what your sort of response is to specifically Dr. Stein’s endorsement of Move to Amend.
COBB: Well, Dharna, Move to Amend is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition of groups and individuals from across the country who are calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish in its entirety the illegitimate, court-created, totally made-up idea that a corporation must be treated as if its person under law with inherent and alitable[inaud] constitutional rights. And also the equally odious, also court-created idea that money is first amendment protected political Speech. See, these two doctrines are not just individual court decisions. They’re not just individual laws. They’re core doctrines that have allowed the ruling elite to steal our scared right to self government and as a lawyer what just fills me with righteous indignation, is that they’re using the legal system to legalize the theft. Well, we at Move to Amend say “Ya Basta.” Enough already.
We don’t actually have to accept this because you see, if a corporation is a person with constitutional rights, it means corporate lawyers can go into court and overturn environmental protection laws, worker safety laws, public health laws, and campaign finance laws. It literally means that we the people can’t govern ourselves. So I was one of the 12 people in the living room that founded this organization. Now we weren’t just 12 yahoos, right. Well maybe we were yahoos, but we weren’t just any yahoos. We were 12 people who worked with the Alliance for Democracy. Reclaim Democracy. Democracy Unlimited. The Program on Corporation’s Law and Democracy. The Center for Media and Democracy. Getting anything in common here? All the Democracy organizations saw the Citizen’s United case for the assault that it really was. So we gathered together before the decision came down and said, can we try to launch an affirmative, positive movement for Democracy as a constitutional amendment campaign?
Dharna, today we’re 408,000 people. 408,000 people participating and we’ve helped 17 states call for a constitutional amendment. And we’ve had over 600 communities pass resolutions of support at the city council or county commissioner level. But my favorite objective number that I want to share with you and the Real News viewership- we put this issue on the ballot in 350 communities. That’s where ordinary citizens can actually vote on whether they support the abolition of corporate constitutional rights and money as speech. Dharna, we’ve been on 350 ballots. I want you to guess how many we’ve won.
NOOR: Tell me.
COBB: The answer, 350. We haven’t lost yet. I mean and yes that includes San Fransisco and Boston and Madison, you know the liberal places. You know where else we won? Salt Lake City, Utah. We won in Wachesaw, Wisconsin, the hometown of Republican Tea Party, Scott Walker. Y’all they haven’t voted for a Democrat for President or Congress for 40 years in Wacheshaw. Move to Amend was on the ballot there and we won 70% of the vote. Move to Amend was on the ballot in Montana. Yes, that Montana. One of the most politically, culturally conservative states in the union. Move to Amend was on the ballot. We won 74% of the vote. Here’s the point I’m making. Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, a Green, a Libertarian, an Independent, a Conservative, a Moderate, a Liberal- there is almost universal support for the Move to Amend campaign. Here’s the second point I want to make. Move to Amend is an unequivocal Progressive organization. We are anti-racist, we are feminist. We have a set of principals around social justice and we talk about those issues internally. We are building a progressive organization. We are one of the few organizations, however, that say we’re building a progressive organization and we will relate authentically to conservatives. And it’s working.
Not only are we winning at the ballot box in conservative places, I want to share a quick story. I was in Lincoln, Nebraska, on the border of Iowa, gave my basic presentation. Talked about white supremacy, empire, patriarchy, corporate power. But I also talked about the proper role of the corporation and how the founders original intent was to properly control them through the chartering process. I talked about judicial activism and sovereignty. A man at the back stood up and said, this- I’m completely with you on this amendment language, but you’ve got to stop talking about that left-wing jargon stuff. Millions of Republicans like me will join you if you’ll just give that up. Dharna, I said, I can’t give that up cause that’s who I am. But if you’re sincere and you want to work with me on the amendment language, can we agree that we have disagreements on policy proposals but an agreement on that amendment language? Can we authentically work together? He said yes, that was 2 years ago. 2 months ago, the Patawatomi Republican Party in Iowa, didn’t just pass a resolution in support of Move to Amend, Patawatomi Republican Party amended their party platform to adopt this principal. They don’t agree with us at Move to Amend on most of our policy positions, but at the end of the day, they agree on that principal and we made alignment.
The second part that I want to circle back to is, you asked me about Jill Stein. Move to Amend is a 501c4 organization. We don’t endorse candidates at all. We do however put out candidate questionnaires. We do invite candidates to reflect on us and to endorse us. Or to otherwise take a position on our proposed amendment. I can tell you that Jill Stein, so far, is the only presidential candidate who has unequivocally endorsed the We The People Amendment, has unequivocally endorsed the concept of a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate constitutional rights and money as speech. And we welcome that endorsement and we challenge Donald Trump, Garry Johnson, and Hilary Clinton to take the same position.
NOOR: Now it’s interesting actually that you’ve mentioned that she’s the only candidate who has actually endorse Move to Amend. Considering that in this election cycle, specifically, we’ve seen so much bi-partisan support of the kind you’re talking about- against money in politics. But you know, when some people speak about the widespread support for a candidates like Donald Trump, they speak mostly to how Trump gets to the soul of the white working class, the xenophobic and racist soul. In reality, it seems many people are also supporting him, not that he isn’t racist and xenophobic, they’re also supporting him because of his appeal to populist economics in a way. Is there anything that the Green Party can do, or that this convention can do, to sort of boost that support and raise up Move to Amend, not only amongst progressive voters, as those who are usually in the Green Party, but also as you’re saying, among conservatives?
COBB: I think that’s right. And it’s a good question, Dharna. And I want to remind folks, I grew up in poverty. I’m not just working class. I literally grew up in a house without a flush toilet. I used to be ashamed and embarrassed about that. I’ve learned because I’ve done the work around understanding capitalism and racism and white supremacy and patriarchy, that culture tries to shame us for these kinds of things. I’m a good person, right? I always understood the economic system was exploitive and oppressive. Because I’ve done the work around race and gender, I’ve also come to understand, the system is also patriarchal, the system is also premised upon white supremacy. And I’ve just learned to have honest conversation about those things. And so, to me it’s not that it’s not that it’s causal, but it’s that we have to talk about reality. And as a poor, white person, what I know is this- the boss man has had his boot on our neck from jump. And the rich and the powerful have had and worked hard to try to divide poor whites from poor black and brown and immigrant folk, right?
If you don’t know about Bacon’s Rebellion by the way, do a little research and take a look at what it looks like when there’s genuine across this construct known as race, based on the idea of actual liberation. But here’s the thing, I would submit this to you. If we want to talk about actual economic populism, let’s talk about the Trans Pacific Partnership. Let’s talk about the fact that the Green Party is the only political who’s presidential nominee is unequivocally opposed to the Trans Pacific Partnership. I mean the reality is the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are both in support of the Trans Pacific Partnership and Gary Johnson, the Liberation Party candidate, who I like on a lot of issues, is wrong on this one. I think the Trans Pacific Partnership is one of those ways that we in the Green Party can bring together environmentalists, trade unionists, and organized labor and ordinary working class folk to talk about the need for a green, new deal. What we need to do is actually invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects. Roads, bridges, a train system for interstate travel in this country. A transition away from coal and oil and nuclear power to sustainable alternative energy sources. You know, the reality is we could cancel student debt, we could have free universal health care, we could have free college education all the way up through the university level and still have plenty of money to spare if we just tax the billionaires.
NOOR: What you’re saying actually is something that in a lot of ways was voiced by Bernie Sanders when The Real News interviewed Bernie Sanders back in April actually. He was asked if he would support an FDR style public jobs program. He said that would be on the table with him as a candidate. How is the Sanders campaign actually sort of raised up some of the ideas that are in the fight to end Citizens United? Some of the fights that Move to Amend has been talking up?
COBB: So Dharna, I appreciate the question and I also want to start by lifting up Bernie Sanders. The reality is that Bernie Sanders did not create this moment or this movement, but he did galvanize it. He spoke to the best of us, the aspirations and the hopes that so many of us had. Bernie Sanders called for a political revolution. Let’s be clear. A real political revolution cannot be run, R-U-N, in just one election cycle. A real political revolution cannot be won, W-O-N, by just one candidate no matter how great he or she is. A real political revolution requires sustained effort over time. A set of principles and values. A program for how to challenge, contest, and take state power. How to exercise that power in a Democratic fashion.
I submit to you that Move to Amend is a sustained effort to amend the United States Constitution, to peacefully, non-violently wave revolution as a concrete campaign for a constitutional amendment. I submit to you that the Green Party, as a political party, is a way for people to do the same thing at the local, county, state, and federal level at the ballot box. And at the end of the day, I don’t care frankly what the name of a political party is, I do know this- social change requires social movements. Broad, deep, conscience, militant social movements that are educated, agitated, and organizing for real change. And an electoral expression at the ballot box, so that you can actually codify the social change that you make in the hearts and minds and turn it into legislation and law. So I just want to remind viewers of The Real News, that what it took alternative political parties to win at the ballot box. The abolition of slavery. Women getting the right to vote. The creation of the Social Security Administration. Unemployment insurance. Worker’s compensation laws. Food and drug laws. Ending child labor. The direct election in the United States Senate.
Folks, the entire of fabric of what we today consider the bare damn minimum for a just a compassionate society, that fabric, that tapestry was woven together, thread by thread, issue by issue, campaign by campaign by alternative political parties. Alternative political parties who did their work when they were called dangerous un-Americans who did their work when they were called radicals. Who did their work when they were called naive and unrealistic. And who did their work when they were called spoilers. So my submission is this, we have got to have the same courage that those other movements had to build a movement and build political parties and make political demands that are independent of the ruling class, independent of the oligarchs who are taking control of both parties.
NOOR: Now as you said, the role of alternative parties is important. And that’s true whether or not we actually have a direct win. What does success look like in this campaign season, in this election season, for the Green Party, knowing that it’s very unlikely that Jill Stein could actually take the presidential win?
COBB: First of all, I got to tell you this. If Jill Stein and Gray Johnson were able to debate on the stage with Donald Trump and Hilary Rodham Clinton, I think that we would be having a different conversation. Let’s just acknowledge that. Let’s also acknowledge that that debate stage is actually controlled by the commission on presidential debates which is a merger of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee. They literally took that away from the League of Women Voters. Or rather the League of Women voters refused to go along with the sham on the American People. But your point is well taken. What does a win look like? What I would say is this, from my perspective Dharna, a win looks like building a movement for peace, justice, democracy, ecological sustainability. A movement that is taking itself seriously about understanding the crisis that we care in. Ecological, political, economic crisis. Systems failure is happening now. And we need to, from the bottom up, at the local, county, state level be building the movement necessary in order to actually be able to govern ourselves.
So to me, you know, I don’t measure success or failure at one election cycle over the other. I actually measure our success with whether or not we’re actually advancing our understanding of the world and are developing and implementing strategic plans for how we will actually govern ourselves and how we will create not just a progressive world, but you know what, I don’t want to just talk about single payer health care and abolish the prison industrial complex. I can go down the list of the Green Party positions, platforms and program. I’m very proud of them. But I also want to say this. Don’t we want to live in a society and a country where love and compassion and tolerance and acceptance and cooperation is integrated into our political discourse? That’s how I would measure success. Are we brining love, compassion, and joy into the political process and into one another’s lives?
NOOR: And do you see progress on this front? I mean, in terms of rhetoric, so much rhetoric, as I’ve said before, rhetoric from both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump about popular economics- populist economics, of which often the meat, the meat is actually quite questionable, but the rhetoric is there. We hear candidates like Hilary Clinton speak about system racism, the end for systemic racism when we know that she was actually in support of the Crime Bill which had it’s own impact on black people across America. Donald Trump has spoken about unity for all people while also calling for mass deportations. Has this rhetoric in all of these fights for as you’re saying, for justice for all people- but then also specifically, in the end of money in politics, has this rhetoric built up the movement or in some way posed a challenge as it’s been co-opted?
COBB: So the answer, yes. And I don’t mean to be coy, but the way you phrased the question- let’s acknowledge the fact that this rhetoric is being used by the corporatist parties is an example of the fact that it works, right? So there is a narrative that they are now having to being to reflect. You and I both know and viewers of The Real News that the rhetoric is not being matched by policy proposals for me by the Democratic and the Republican Party but the fact that they feel obliged to talk about it is actually an indication that we’re shifting the political discourse and the conversation. So let’s just acknowledge that. Let’s also acknowledge that at the end of the day, regardless of who is the President of the United States, the polarization of this country is going to continue. I genuinely believe that we’re entering into a moment where something new is going to be created, right? I want that something new to be something that is actually dismantling white supremacy and empire and capitalism and homophobia and creating in its place, loving, compassionate institutions that actually work for one another and are ecologically sustainable for ourselves for our children and our grandchildren.
So here’s the thing, if we actually believe that is the world that we want, we need to start creating it. So I am a believer in saying, we have to fight harm, abuse and exploration and oppression wherever it manifests. So we fight against the bad stuff. But you know what else we have to do? We have to create the good stuff. We have to create a cooperative economic economy. The solidarity economy network. The next systems project. Cooperation Jackson. We could spend an entire program on all the amazing new economy efforts that are springing up. I know because I’ve seen much of it covered on The Real News.
There is an amazing new process of new institutions being created as we go along. But here’s the thing, if you just create new institutions within the existing system, it will always only be a niche or an alternative. What if we actually fought the harm and abuse where it existed? We created alternative institutions. And we built political power to shift the entire culture and the framework of power itself so that we learn it’s not power, but it’s power with, that we actually transparency and democracy seriously. And we’re going to engage in that process, then I think that what we would see is genuine, non-violent, revolutionary cultural work that would being to manifest not only at the ballot box but in our consumer choices. It would manifest in how we treat each other on the day to day. In every way, how we live work and play would be different. That’s how I would garner success.
NOOR: Now can you just to wrap up, can you speak a bit about how corporate interests in politics and specifically how so called big money in politics intersects with some of the other issues we’ve been talking about? Intersects with for instance, systemic racism. Or justice for people of color for immigrants across america, for gender justice, for a number of these other issues that we’ve touched upon here.
COBB: Dharna, we have to be clear about something. The large transnational corporation today are not just exercising power. They are ruling us. As surely as masters once ruled slaves. As surely as kings once ruled subjects. Unelected and unaccountable corporate CEOs are ruling over us because they’re making the decisions. A small wealthy elite have literally taken control of this country. It is an oligarchy. A plutocracy. They use the transnational corporation as a tool to exert that power and control. But as a lawyer, what I can tell you is this, corporations are just tools created under the political process. They are not persons with inherent rights. They’re just tools. And like any tool, they can be put to productive, legitimate use, or they can be put to destructive use. What we’re seeing with corporate rule today is the horrors of the prison industrial complex. The horrors of immigration policy where literally, literally state governments are contracting with private corporations to guarantee a certain number of beds in both the criminal system and the deportation facilities, right?
So we are incentivizing all of the worst things that we could be doing in creating a profit motive around it. This is insane. This is crazy. So I submit this, you can’t name a social problem or ill or issue that I can’t within two to three steps if not one step take it directly to corporate power, directly to corporate constitutional right, directly to money in elections. The last thing I want to do is cover this notion around specifically money in elections. We have turned elections into auctions in the country. Where 158 families are funding almost all of the candidates for both major political parties. 158 families. This is outrageous. And so I’m going to conclude this conversation to ask viewers of The Real News whether you agree or disagree with everything else that you’ve heard from us, please got to the website and if the cameraman is really good right now, it says www.movetoamend.org. But go to that website and just learn about what we’re up to. Learn about the incredible growth that we’ve experienced because we’re willing to tell the truth to people. And people are responding accordingly.
NOOR: No matter which one of the elites ends up ruling us for the coming four years, we hope to follow up with you and see how the election cycle is treating move to amend and what your next steps are. So thanks for joining us, David.
COBB: Thank you. And I do want to say once again, how grateful I am not only for this conversation but for The Real News itself. Because what we know is the corporate, traditional corporate media is actually lying to us. Thanks to Wikileaks, it’s actually being demonstrated. The Real News is more necessary than ever today. Again, I don’t always agree with everything I watch on The Real News, but what I appreciate is, I actually see journalism on The Real News. I see investigative reporting on The Real News. I see conversation that is not allowed to happen in the corporate media. So thank you for what you do.
NOOR: If you agree with David, we’re in the middle of a fundraiser on therealnewsnetwork.com. So somewhere around here is a button, a big red button that says “Donate.” Feel free to drop us a few dollars so we can continue to do this. And stay tuned for more coverage from the Green Party here in Huston. Thanks so much for joining us.
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