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Jeremy Peters
Published: Friday 5 October 2012
“Regardless of which party is in charge, it is the political establishment controlled by special interests that is steering the country towards decline, not those who merely disagree with our political preferences.”

Occupy the Path of Corruption

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Never before has an election seen political operatives try so hard to convince voters that those with whom they disagree politically are their enemies. The addendum of course being that there is only one party or candidate which can possibly prevent these traitors from destroying our country.

But it is not your peers with whom you argue about politics inhibiting progress on important issues; it is the systemic corruption caused by money in politics. Regardless of which party is in charge, it is the political establishment controlled by special interests that is steering the country towards decline, not those who merely disagree with our political preferences.

Combatting this corruption requires cooperation among traditional political opponents, so it is little wonder politicians and special interests are eager to perpetuate the lie that political opposition is tantamount to treason.

Unfortunately, most of the (rare) attempts made to date seeking to encourage cooperation between political foes have focused primarily on a constitutional amendment. But an amendment is a long, difficult and contentious process, especially for people unaccustomed to working together in a civil and productive manner.

A better approach might be to find agreement on a simple solution that improves the situation in the short-term and which all sides can work towards together. This approach would pay immediate dividends by improving the quality of both public policy and political discourse, while paving the way for additional reform in the future.

Begin by identifying nonpartisan reforms which would shield government decision-making from special interest money. For instance, real and tangible change could be affected by combining a reform to greatly empower the Federal Election Commission (FEC), with a proposal to make Congress more responsive to constituents and expand elected official’s sphere of influence beyond just lobbyists and big money donors.

A beefed-up FEC would replace an agency policing elections about as effectively as Barney Fife would police New York City, with a powerful new authority to fairly oversee the rules of the road by which candidates and elected officials are expected to abide.

The second half of the reform would put constituents and representatives into closer proximity and contact. While not as powerful a change as remaking the FEC, it would nonetheless have a marked effect on people’s perception of the institution of government and their role in it.

Combined, the result is one reform for the head and one for the heart; both being necessary for success.

Whether it is this specific combination of reforms, or others which would achieve a similar outcome, no reform which could actually succeed in ending or abating systemic corruption will ever be made into law by the corrupted establishment. Not willingly anyway. Reforms of this magnitude require large-scale direct action and sufficiently broad popular support before a captured government will ever take action.

The anniversary of the Wall Street occupation reminds us that while perceptions can be altered without a demand, eventually we must take the wheel and steer the course if we ever hope to arrive at the destination we seek. The path to undoing the damage of special interest control of government begins with a demand delivered in such a way that it forces those in power to stand up and take note.

Imagine what would happen if activists from the Tea Party, Occupy movement, and every ideological in-between were to unite in a display of displeasure with the status quo and to issue a demand to repair what has been broken. In so doing, the normal workings of lawmakers and lobbyists in Washington D.C would become effectively paralyzed. Might that do the trick?

Will anything less?

Over the next several months, if reform groups of all stripes united to recruit people to ‘Occupy the Path of Corruption’ between K St. and the Capitol Building in Washington D.C…that would be something even our captured government and its mouthpiece media couldn’t ignore.

Begin the occupation on April 1st. By that point, voters will be awakening to the fact that whatever the outcome of the election, their lives haven’t improved one iota. Plus, the possibilities for April Fools’ Day references are endless (Won’t Get Fooled Again, Fools on the (Capitol) Hill, etc. etc.). Spring will be approaching and it will be a lovely time to occupy the roughly 2-3 miles of stretch of road including K St, surrounding the Capitol Building and the main thoroughfare in-between the two. Volunteers should plan to stay (or have people rotate in) until their demand has been met. Mostly the goal is to be an annoyance and constant reminder to lobbyists and lawmakers as they attempt to go about their business.

Occupy Wall Street correctly targeted a major player pulling the strings in Washington, but K St. is the conduit through which special interests of all stripes exert much of their control. By occupying the actual path of corruption, it makes it crystal clear to the average voter what it is really being targeted; not capitalism or success itself, but how those with money can buy elected officials and rig the system to work against the rest of us.

With government so deep in the pocket of special interests that it is now incapable of doing the people’s business… then ‘We the People’ have the duty to prevent those who have stolen our republic from continuing to sully our good name and act against our collective interests.

The only way this works – and this cannot be stressed enough – is if this is not simply a progressive effort purporting to speak for society at large. To succeed, it must be a broad alliance of people from across the political divide; a much truer representation of the 99.9% than we’ve seen up to this point.

Finding common ground and acting in cooperation on this critically important issue of shared concern would capture the attention of the media and the public in a way no one side can do by itself. It would rightfully strike fear into the hearts of hubristic special interests.

Solutions exist if we can somehow find the strength and will to seize them, even if they involve working with those we normally view as political enemies. If we do not, than we are as much to blame as the special interests taking advantage of the void our apathy has created and our stubbornness allows to persist.

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ABOUT Jeremy Peters

Jeremy Peters is a part-time writer, sometimes activist and full-time participant who believes a worthy cause is never hopeless. He often goes by the pseudonym CommonSenseMan – part homage to Thomas Paine, but also a reminder common sense isn’t extinct just because our government (in thrall to political money) never exhibits any. His focus on the nexus of public policy, political strategy and what unites and divides Americans offers a unique perspective on familiar topics and creative solutions to familiar problems.

According to Jeremy Peters'

According to Jeremy Peters' comment, corruption cannot be solved in real time (or maybe at all) 'using elections and the normal legislative process'. Quite correct!

Actually, we shouldn't be trying to make ANY public decision using old fashioned 'elections and the normal legislative process'. These whimsy-driven processes inherently lack deliberation, let alone scientific-age reason. They also will actually promote (rather than help solve) corruption - for a key reason pointed out already - and famously - by Lord Acton in 1887.

As Acton noted correctly [but almost always to disregard by would-be 'radical' reformers]: 'Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely'. In other words, by concentrating political power in an oligarchy - elected or appointed - a relative few long-term legislators and high executive officials and judges - you automatically breed corruption: would-be big-time corrupters need deal with and pay off only a few readily identified long-term decision-makers.

So a necessary condition for solving corruption problems in a given jurisdiction is to de-concentrate political (i.e. public decision-making) power. Break up big long-term decisions into many small and short-term decisions, and hand off different decisions to utterly different people, not to the same entrenched specially elected or appointed long-term-serving poohbahs.

We could do this and at the same time inject two needed ingredients into public decision: reason and participatory democracy. Namely, give each decision over to an ad hoc short-term deliberative team ('jury') of randomly selected ordinary citizens - who thereby perform a manageable amount of satisfying public service.

I'm up for amendments. I'm up

I'm up for amendments. I'm up for legislative change. I'm up for a proper functioning political system that push's aside the heavy handed police tactics used, bought, and paid for by the exclusive branch of government that used to be labeled the legislative and executive branch... come on readers...Jeremy has hit it on the head. The corporations controlling our destiny know you better than you know yourselves... give those Lemmings someone or something to follow.. anything. Then add the black and the red Lemmings. Make them all believe that there is more than one agenda they face! Pit the Tea Party Lemmings against the Green Lemmings.... the pro gun against the anti gun, the pro life against the free choice, the good against the bad... as long as they forget to take a good look at where the real power and money is. Now, to help you out. First off.. once most of the apple is rotten is does no good to trim the bad part... you have to throw it away and start with a new one. History has shown us that to get rid of a rotten apple you need about 30 to 35 percent participation. You then have to get that 35 percent to do something that truly effects that guy that keeps holding the rotten apple. They have to do something so drastic as to make that apple holder want to toss away that apple right now so that what ever they are doing stops.... To get rid of all the apple hoarders all one has to do is take a short glance back in the past... not to far now.. just a little ways. We know if we spray that apple and the apple hoarder with some weapon of destruction, we just might loose all the apples there are. We don't want that. We just want the apple hoarder to stop controlling everything related to apples.... Remember a man by the name of Lech Walesa? What he might have proposed was to begin closing the gates of the apple fields. To start limiting the movement and hence apple commerce until the apple hoarders were to relent and allow that 35 percent to have a voice in the governance of their apple orchards. Beyond this it would be up to that 35 percent to forcefully implement a method of legislation that would involve the remainder of society by not allowing legislation to be bought and proposed by the apple hoarders but by the populace at large by way of a popular vote on anything involving the apple fields. You would make one entity, maybe someone like the FCC, responsible for implementing a new standard of self governance and have them under the scrutiny of the temporary power base set up a means of electing and voting on proposals electronically. Next would be to amend the constitution by 2/3's popular vote to allow this new form of governance and then start trimming away the waste that has been allowed to accumulate over the last 200 years. Now in all honesty, an action such as this wouldn't be that far fetched, even if the apple hoarders say it is. You could implement such a change in about the same time we give the head of the apple hoarders to act as the apple hoarders exchange and boards president every 4 years. The apple hoarders won't like it.. in fact, they might even do something drastic to prevent it. We have seen how they are able to control whole nations by tossing in a bad apple here and there. I think you could expect about the same..... but the biggest point to be made here is the simple truth that a good apple farmer doesn't just sit around and complain. He doesn't wait for a neighbor to make a proposal! He doesn't keep allowing the apple hoarders the chance to open his gates and take what they want. He becomes pro active, he locks his gates and he decides for himself just what kind of protection he's willing to work for to make sure his apples turn out the way he wants..... he becomes a true American Apple Farmer

Jeremy, I have been saying

Jeremy, I have been saying since before Occupy was born that if the Left reaches out to the Right to confront government corruption that we could force the politicians to do what we agree must be done to un-fix the rigged system.

What you are proposing is yet another twist on the idea of making a demand or set of demands non-negotiable. The only way to do that is to make it an election issue. There is no reason that we could not do the same thing with a constitutional amendment, which is what I have been advocating since 2010 when I ran for the US Senate.

Before you try to start another movement you should know that Move to Amend is going to launch its own version of what I call Pledge to Amend and make pledging to support their version of an amendment a campaign issue in every Congressional race where they can get a candidate pledged in 2014. It's not hard, I got 20 pledges this year with just a few phone calls and emails, but couldn't get any nationally recognized groups to help promote it.

The problem with working with MTA is that the steering committee wants to set the agenda and they screwed up when they told all the organizations they supposedly represent what the wording of the amendment was going to be. For those of us who think it poorly worded, that made it difficult to work with them.

United Republic has come up with a new twist. They have a comprehensive legislative reform package they are going to aggressively publicize and ask citizens to take to their representatives, letting them know that this will be their single issue when they are up for re-election.

There is no reason that people cannot support both attempts, though in the end I think it will be easier to make a campaign issue out of an amendment that will get special interest money out of politics. I hope that I am wrong on that, since the UR package is quite sweeping in its effects if the package can be passed.

You can read about Pledge to Amend at the Soldiers For Peace International website:

Really more legislation to

Really more legislation to change more legislation wow what a concept and lets not forget that all the power is frought with ammendments and sub sections to get around all that you propose. The only thing that will change our system is the pitchfork and guillitine everybody needs to hit the streets and show our disgust we all want to throw up we are all disgusted we all want new leadership why cant anyone deliver as I demand more form our elected officials. If Obama says he is fighting for middle class Americans guess what Obama you havent won one fight yet so why are you even there and the alternative is just as weak as a chicken in a vending for a year theyjust keep pouring hot water over the same dam chicken.

Rick, I really appreciate the

Rick, I really appreciate the response - a lot of good information.

People are of course free to make their own decisions about what approach is best. I myself have come to believe that attempts to solve this problem using elections & the normal legislative process cannot succeed (at least not in an acceptable time-frame) if they are not preceded by this sort of direct action.

It seems to those of us paying close attention to politics that this issue is gaining a lot of momentum, and it is. But it is still a far way off from being something that becomes a determinant in how people actually vote. This is especially true for the huge bloc of voters who don't pay nearly as much attention and who are only connecting a few dots re: money & corruption; not all of them.

It's also a long way off before a pledge is anything other than symbolic. Any reform with teeth would be a long-shot to even be considered, much less passed. Any politician who felt political advantage could be gained would sign such a pledge with little fear of actually having to follow through, and risk his/her access to special interest money.

Using just the electoral process is a slow process, and we no longer have the luxury of time. Direct action - whether successful in having a demand met or not - would force the media and 'average voters' alike to pay attention to the problem. Maybe the effort alone would lead to enough dots being connected that doors currently closed to reformers (such as those you mentioned) would open and we could actually fix this horrendous mess.

The most important thing is to keep working despite the enormity of the task. Hopefully the proper strategy will become apparent sooner than later.

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