http://almanacnews.com/print/story/print/2011/02/02/guest-opinion-lesson-in-democracy-lost-at-rally


Almanac

Viewpoint - February 2, 2011

Guest opinion: Lesson in democracy lost at rally

by Henry Organ

I recently attended a rally at the Old Courthouse in Redwood City. The purpose of the rally was to mourn on the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

In summary, the decision held that corporate funding of political campaigns in elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment, thereby giving corporations the same rights as persons. In my opinion, this decision harms the election process, and was duly criticized by President Obama during the State of the Union address last year. The details of and lack of jurisprudence in this decision are really not the point of this article, however.

As a participant in the civil rights movement, I have attended innumerable rallies. In this one, there were the traditional trappings: handmade signs expressing grievances, informational leaflets, petitions, a coffin representing the death of democracy, and singing (a la "Raging Grannies" style). But this rally was different.

As the demonstrators were assembling in the Old Courthouse plaza, a group of about 30 third-graders who had been visiting a museum in the Old Courthouse, came out on to the plaza to have lunch. One of the rally organizers went to an adult in the group, presumably a teacher or chaperone, and offered leaflets on the event. The adult was quite emphatic in declaring that he didn't want the class to have "any of that stuff," and said that the students "...wanted to have a quiet lunch."

In my opinion, the teacher or chaperone missed an important civics lesson. Two weeks prior, a tragic event happened in Tucson, Arizona, where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, and others killed and wounded. One of those slain was Christina Green, a third-grader. Christina was heralded for her interest in public service, having been elected to a position in her school. In fact, this honor prompted her to attend the "Congress on Your Corner" event organized by Rep. Giffords.

In this case, a much broader issue than solely the Citizens United case per se was taking place. The critical issue was not just "why" the demonstrators were there, but "how" they were able to be there.

What was so evident right before these students' very eyes were important human rights and principles of a democracy in force: to assemble and to petition the government when citizens feel government is not serving their best interests. To ignore such an important lesson for the youngsters in favor of "a quiet lunch" was sad, if not plain irresponsible — and certainly short-sighted.

Hopefully, one day, these young students will be taught that it is their civic duty to engage in these events when warranted. In a democracy, they will always be warranted.

Henry Organ lives in Menlo Park.

Comments

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 2, 2011 at 9:24 am

I completely agree with Mr. Organ's statement

"What was so evident right before these students' very eyes were important human rights and principles of a democracy in force: to assemble and to petition the government when citizens feel government is not serving their best interests".

However, it is quite unfortunate that the left feel that only they have the right to assemble and when conservatives assemble it is a mob out of control about to inflict serious harm to the public.

Also as an observer of the Civil Rights movement I read about Republican Chief Justice Earl Warren rallying the Supremes in a 9 to 0 decision to maintain Oliver Brown's right to send his daughter Linda to the closest school in topeka Kansas. I watched on TV as Democrat Governor Ross Barnett tired to block the entrance of African Americans at the University of Missippi; Democrat Governor George Wallace trying to block the entrance of African Americans at the University of Alabama; Democrat Mayor Bull Connor brutally attacking African Americans with fire hoses and police dogs in Birmingham Alabama; and Democrat Governor Lester Maddox (before he was Governor) block the entrance of African Americans at his Pickrick restaurant with an axe handle. Apparently the Democrats of Georgia thought that was a good qualification to become governor.

I enjoy watching the left demonstrate because it is a source of amusement. I enjoy watching conservatives demonstrate because they are advocating maintaining our rights as given under the U.S. Constitution, oppose encroachment of the Federal Government upon States rights and oppose ludicrous interpretations of the Constitution.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I absolutely disagree with both Mr. Organ and Mr. Lawrence in this instance--and Hank, I am a proud conservative. What I see going on here was a rally organizer approaching an adult who has responsibility over a bunch of 9 year old students whose parents likely signed a consent slip to allow their child to go on a museum trip--NOT A POLITICAL RALLY-and the adult in charge met his/her obligations to the parents and the school. To have done otherwise could have prompted the anger of some of the parents, if not lawsuits. The rally organizer, whom I'll assume was an adult, should have known better.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 2, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Mr. Organ -

Instead of mourning the Citizens United case, suppose it was a pro-life rally and the protesters wanted to hand out their pamphlets to these third graders. Would that have been appropriate?

How about leaving the kids out. They were there to visit the museum, not received political propaganda from either side of the political spectrum.

PS - I'm not saying I agree with the Citizens United decision, but we treat corporations like citizens all the time. They can be sued, they pay taxes, the go bankrupt, etc.... but they can't vote. And a union isn't "a person" either. Should they be prohibited from contributing to political campaigns, too? And I thought the SEIU and law firms contributed the most to political campaigns. Aren't these organizations as much "people" as a corporation?


Posted by anonymous, a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2011 at 8:27 am

"And I thought the SEIU and law firms contributed the most to political campaigns. "

That part, along with public donations by corporations, is easy to track. The harder part is the funding that weaves through other fronts.

For example, Koch Industries donated $10.8M over a couple decades, but that amount pales in comparison to what the Koch brothers donate privately to libertarian and right wing causes (daddy co-founded the Birch Society.)

A list of think tanks that are funded in part by the Kochs:
Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Center, the Institute for Humane Studies, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Institute for Justice, the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, the Institute for Energy Research, the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, the Reason Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

And the right has their bogeyman in Soros, though I don't know how he compares to the Koch brothers, let alone Richard Mellon Scaife, the Walton family and so many others that contribute to right wing causes. Their money is well spent, though, recovered in the tax cuts alone, I guess. How many billions do the Waltons make if the estate tax gets cut again?

I'd be interested in seeing both union and corporate influence on elections contained. But it will take more, especially in this era of growing wealth inequity, the largest inequity since the Gilded Age.

Money to individual candidates is limited. Unlimited union, corporate and individual donations to PACs are a different matter.

Democracy as we knew it is at stake.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 3, 2011 at 9:00 am

anonymous said "...for example, Koch Industries donated $10.8M over a couple decades, but that amount pales in comparison to what the Koch brothers donate privately..."

I thought the whole idea of protesting Citizens United was that a corporation was not a PERSON. Well, neither are unions or trial lawyer associations or MoveOn.org are they?

But Koch and Soros are PEOPLE and they are free to make individual political contributions. I didn't think anyone on either side of this argument was trying to limit the rights of individuals to expression... or are you?

By the way, the largest political contributor in 2010? By far, it was AFSCME Web Link "We're the big dog," said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME's political operations. "But we don't like to brag."

Yes, I'm sure the Koch brothers and Mr. Soros will make political contributions to promote their own self interests. But doesn't the fact that public employees are contributing the most money to the people sitting on the other side of their bargaining table bother you even a little?


Posted by anonymous, a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2011 at 9:13 am

"I didn't think anyone on either side of this argument was trying to limit the rights of individuals to expression... or are you?"

Uh, actually, yes. I am.

It's not just a good idea....

... it's the law.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2011 at 9:14 am

FEC


An individual may give a maximum of:

* $2,500 per election to a Federal candidate or the candidate's campaign committee.2 Notice that the limit applies separately to each election. Primaries, runoffs and general elections are considered separate elections.
* $5,000 per calendar year to a PAC. This limit applies to a PAC (political action committee) that supports Federal candidates. (PACs are neither party committees nor candidate committees. Some PACs are sponsored by corporations and unions--trade, industry and labor PACs. Other PACs, often ideological, do not have a corporate or labor sponsor and are therefore called nonconnected PACs.) PACs use your contributions to make their own contributions to Federal candidates and to fund other election-related activities.
* $10,000 per calendar year to a State or local party committee. A State party committee shares its limits with local party committees in that state unless a local committee's independence can be demonstrated.
* $30,800 per calendar year to a national party committee. This limit applies separately to a party's national committee, House campaign committee and Senate campaign committee.
* $117,000 total biennial limit. This biennial limit places a ceiling on your total contributions, as explained below.
* $100 in currency (cash) to any political committee. (Anonymous cash contributions may not exceed $50.) Contributions exceeding $100 must be made by check, money order or other written instrument.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2011 at 9:17 am

"But doesn't the fact that public employees are contributing the most money to the people sitting on the other side of their bargaining table bother you even a little?"

And the Koch's, Soros', and Waltons, etc.. bribing, errr, contributing, to those who can rewrite tax law is different in what way?

Or an Exxon contributing $40M in the 2000 election cycle, and Big Oil ending up with $15B in subsidies is different in what way?


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 3, 2011 at 10:04 am

You've demonstrated that it all depends on whose ox is being gored.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2011 at 10:47 am

Ours. Unquestionably.

So when will we do something about it?


Posted by Daveo, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 3, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I totally support the chaperone of the group.

FCS, these are 3rd graders! They do not need, and "should not be permitted", to interact with strangers and/or accept "anything" from them.

Even though I completely support the underpinnings of the protest...LEAVE THE KIDS ALONE. IN FACT, the protesters should have moved further away, if possible, AND held their signs AND pointed their voices directly away from them, allowing them to enjoy the public space freely. Just for courtesy's sake. Should any of them asked for information then it would be ok (I guess) for you to provide them with it. Get it?

When a parent puts their child in the care of others, it is totally prudent for that responsible individual to make even the most extreme decision, in terms of limiting their exposure to something for any number of reasons they see fit; among them: possible danger, exposure to strangers, avoiding confusion...even simply avoiding his/her having to answer questions of interested, confused, or curious kids. It becomes his total responsibility to make that decision and CANNOT be scrutinized, other than by the parents.

They're 3rd graders. They do not need lessons foisted on them!



Posted by sue, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm

The teacher was right. If parents want their kids at a demonstration, let the parents take them. The kids were there for the museum & distracting the teacher responsible for the group by engaging her attention elsewhere was irresponsible & inappropriate.


Posted by Ethan, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Ah, come on. Those kids aren't going to read a flyer anyway. Tweet or text it to 'em, or forget about it.


Posted by Frances, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Feb 3, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Well the kids were in a public place and most of the people in our group were gray-haired women, so it would be hard to construe us as a threat. I think the teacher should have turned the occasion into an educational experience by explaining to the kids what was going on. As a retired teacher and mother of two I know that is what I would have done.
In fact, ever the dedicated educator, I mentioned to the children at the table closest to us who were staring at us, that what I was doing was called satire. I mentioned that they would later learn about it in English class and that in satire you do the opposite of what you mean. That is all I said
The chaperone's reaction was so angry that I imagine that he probably upset some of the children by his demeanor. I cannot imagine any of my former colleagues losing their cool as easily as he did and I would just about bet that he is not an experienced teacher. For lack of adequate funding day care organizations do sadly hire a lot of unqualified people.

p.s. Yes, I know the definition of satire leaves a lot to be desired, but that is about what my own children could have understood at that age.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 3, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Sorry, Frances. Just because you have gray hair, are female and a former teacher gives you no right to approach a group of third graders on a field trip and opportunistically relate your political propaganda. In this case, you are NOT the teacher of these third graders and you were not charged with that responsibility for their welfare.

As I said earlier in this thread, I suspect you would feel very differently about a group of pro-lifers approaching this group of third graders.


Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Pogo,

The moment you enroll your children in a public school in California you are exposing them to political propaganda. It is the teacher's job to indoctrinate the children in leftist political dogma. They teach children about "Global Warming" even though the Earth has not warmed since 1998. And do you think the teachers educate the children about the East Anglia University rigging of the climate data? In a pig's eye.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 4, 2011 at 7:30 am

I don't disagree with you, Hank.

But in this case, the teacher did the right thing by shielding his students from some activists who stupidly put their politics ahead of common sense by approaching a group of 10 year old children.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2011 at 8:51 am

Francis -"I know thats what I would have done" And repeating the point I made in my previous post--had I as a parent signed a consent slip for my child to go on a museum field trip, only to find out that the teacher in charge allowed my child to be unnecessarily exposed to the material being distributed at a nearby political rally (regardless of the subject matter) I believe I would have grounds to sue both the school and the teacher, personally. Why?, because parents are entitled/deserve to know their children are protected even if they are in "a public place". They are not fair game-even for gray haired women.