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Who do you serve? Who do you protect? - Beltway Edition by @BloggersRUs

Who do you serve? Who do you protect? - Beltway Edition

by Tom Sullivan

A tweet from Marcy Wheeler caught my attention and one link led to another.

Greenwald may indeed be right. But the scandal isn't just about how Gulf States buy influence. It's also about how domestic players buying influence with lawmakers is de rigueur, and a source of the growing distrust Americans feel towards their government. We'll need an especially shiny distraction from that should Gulf State influence blow up in the press.

Case-in-point from The Intercept. Consumers are following animal rights activists in revolting over factory farming abuses. The Market (bless its holy name) is demanding humane alternatives. Eggs, for example:

But in response, the powerful poultry industry — which long invoked principles of the “free market” to justify their torture-derived products being available to consumers — have now reversed course. With consumers choosing more humane egg products, lobbyists for the poultry industry are pushing laws that would force stores to carry their products even if doing so offends their moral sensibilities and ethical judgments.
The poultry lobby in Iowa proposed and the state legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill requiring any store that participates in the Women, Infants and Children federal food assistance program to sell eggs from industrial caged egg producers.

Because principle, you know. "Now that consumers are choosing humane treatment of hens," The Intercept report continues, "that free-market principle has been kicked to the curb."

There is much more at the Intercept, which adds that California's ballot initiative to prohibit the worst hen confinement practices passed in a landslide. A followup measure required all eggs sold in California but produced in other states to comply. Responding to consumer demand, "100 grocery store chains and dozens of chain restaurants and food manufacturers — Nestlé, McDonald’s, and Walmart among them" pledged to abandon caged eggs over the next decade.

So "free market" caged producers have turned to laws to compel stores to carry their products. To pass those laws, they turn to lawmakers in state capitols and in Washington, D.C. who tend to hear the voices of industry before they hear the voices of consumers.

In Parkland, Florida, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School noticed something similar. The voices of the gun lobby are louder in lawmakers' ears than those of the victims of gun violence.

From The Atlantic:

The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are discovering that they can’t trust their elected officials to take action on gun control. And why should they? The Columbine massacre occurred in 1999, before any of these children were born. Legislators have had 18 years to ensure that American schools are safe places for students to learn. Instead, students are so familiar with drills to protect themselves from mass shootings that one enterprising high schooler, Justin Rivard, has designed a metal brace that can secure a classroom door from an active shooter who blasts off a lock. Tragically, Rivard’s clever hack has a much better chance of being adopted than legislation to institute universal background checks, which 97 percent of Americans support.
Meanwhile, parents feel they need to send their kids to school with ballistic armor in their backpacks to protect them from flying bullets. What kind of sane country tolerates that? [Emphasis mine.]
Watching the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students engage with their elected leaders is a crash course in understanding how people develop mistrust in representative democracies. The fear is that the experience will quickly teach the students that change is impossible. The hope, instead, is that they will learn that change can occur, but perhaps not through the methods they’ve been taught to use. While the Florida legislature prioritizes debating the health risks of pornography over considering gun control, online campaigns have convinced airlines, rental-car companies, and banks to cut their ties with the NRA. The uncomfortable lesson may be that corporations are more responsive to customer concerns than lawmakers are to their constituents. This may be good news in the short term for activists, but it should be a bright red flag for anyone concerned for democracy in the long term.
Don't offer merit badges to corporations, though. They respond to their bottom lines just as politicians do. It's just that corporations evaluate theirs every quarter, not biennially. They do what's right when it aligns with what's profitable.

Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland shootings writes in Harper's Bazaar:

We are kids, we are parents, we are students, we are teachers. We are tired of practicing school shooter drills and feeling scared of something we should never have to think about. We are tired of being ignored. So we are speaking up for those who don’t have anyone listening to them, for those who can’t talk about it just yet, and for those who will never speak again. We are grieving, we are furious, and we are using our words fiercely and desperately because that’s the only thing standing between us and this happening again.
The problem is, in state capitols and inside the Beltway, money speaks louder. But while there is still a smidgen of democracy left in this republic, votes speak loudly as well.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.