President Obama returned to the University of Chicago on April 24, the place where he once taught Constitutional law, to address an audience composed largely of students. The list of things on his agenda included gerrymandering, money in politics, and low rates of participation in politics by younger Americans.
“What is the most important thing I can do for my next job? What I’m convinced of is that although there are all kinds of issues that I care about, and all kind of issues that I intend to work on, the most important single thing I can do is to help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and take their own crack at changing the world,” Obama told his audience.
Leadership will be needed to tackle society’s most urgent challenges, including climate change, economic inequality, and criminal justice reform. Obama said, “All those problems are serious, they’re daunting, but they’re not insoluble. What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life.”
“When I said in 2004 that there were no red states or blue states, there are United States of America, that was an aspirational comment,” Obama said, but went on to note that “it’s not true when it comes to our politics and our civic life, and maybe more pernicious is the fact that people just aren’t involved. They get cynical, and they give up.”
Where does that cynicism spring from? Much of it can be explained by the following: young people know the deck is stacked against them by corporate interests that have invested billions to gain access to the levers of power. John Deere just told the US Patent Office last week that only corporations should be allowed to own intellectual property. The best people can hope for is to be allowed to license it.
The US Chamber of Commerce, funded by America’s largest corporations, now spends more on campaign contributions than the two major political parties combined, according to Bill McKibben. 90% of its contributions go to Republican candidates. Greenpeace and The Sierra Club, among others, have just composed a letter to Disney, Pepsi, and The Gap, urging them to stop funding the Chamber of Commerce because of its opposition to climate change action, reports The Guardian.
It is no wonder young people are jaded. Thanks to the conservative wing of the US Supreme Court in its Citizens United ruling, which should have been called Extremely Wealthy Citizens United Against Everyone Else In America, corporations are now free to purchase the best government money can buy and have proceeded to do so — with a vengeance. America is now a corporatocracy, not a democracy — a place where what’s in the best interest of business takes priority over the what’s in the best interests of actual people.
Gerrymandering has been around since 1812, but the conservative movement in the US, heavily funded by wealthy Americans like the Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel industry, have raised it to a high art. A federal court recently struck down the voting maps drawn by the Wisconsin Republican Party after hearing testimony like this from one political operative: ‘The maps we pass will determine who’s here 10 years from now. We have an opportunity and an obligation to draw these maps that Republicans haven’t had in decades.”
Will Obama’s appeal to young voters have a positive effect? Words are wonderful but in America today, money and only money rules the roost. Until America finds a way to take the money out of politics, corporations will continue their “greed is good” philosophy down the throats of the people. Is it any wonder young people are jaded and unwilling to participate in a system they know is hopelessly corrupt?
Source and photo credit: Politico
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