Fortunately for any of us who believe this country should be about fair play and justice, Saru Jayaraman [co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which has helped organize fast-food-worker protests for higher wages] and those waiters, busboys, and cooks reinforce our faith that organized people can counter organized money. But they are going to need all the hope and heart they can muster.
And so we are, because the fight to save our democracy from the clutches of plutocrats just got harder.
Here in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo, of the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party, and legislators from both parties killed a commission investigating political corruption. They also killed a promising plan for a more level playing field in state elections. And they did so while handing wealthy individuals in wealthy communities – those are the biggest contributors to elections – some very big tax breaks.
And in Washington, as you’ve heard by now, in the McCutcheon case, the Supreme Court five, the pro-corporate bloc, struck down limits on how much money can be given to candidates, parties and political action committees.
One prominent right-winger says the justices merely “reinstated the First Amendment for all Americans.” Sure. By doubling down on their earlier ruling in the infamous Citizens United case equating money with speech, the justices have actually decreed that you’re entitled to all the free speech you can buy. You’ll be on equal footing with the Koch brothers if you have their money.
The prevailing myth in America has been that the rich have a right to buy more homes, more cars, more gizmos, vacations and leisure, but they don’t have the right to buy more democracy. The Supreme Court just laid that myth to rest, and the new Gilded Age roars in triumph.
But we, the people, shouldn’t cower or give in to despair. Those restaurant workers — they’re not quitting. And they’ve summoned a spirit from deep within our past, when those early insurgents stood against imperial authority, convinced that when injustice becomes law, defiance becomes duty.