By Ralph Nader
November 20, 2018
Let’s get down to the all-important matter of Congressional performance. No matter how pollsters ask the question – “do you approve of Congress…?” or “do you have confidence in Congress…? – less than twenty percent of people respond positively. Four out of five Americans disapprove of what Congress has been doing and are presumably disappointed about what Congress is not doing. That’s an overwhelming unhappy majority. There are many changes, reforms, and redirections for our country that conservatives and liberals both agree on, (See my book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, Nation Books, 2014). There would be more agreements were we more alert to the divide and rule tactics of our political/corporate rulers and reject such manipulations outright.
For decades, I’ve argued that it is easier than we think to change what comes out of Congress – the smallest yet most powerful branch of government under our Constitution.
Our history demonstrates that if one percent or less of citizens, reflecting majority public opinion, roll up their sleeves and focus together on their two Senators and Representatives, they can prevail. I and other consumer and environmental advocates did just that years ago with far less than one percent of the people actually engaged in moving our agenda (which is about two and a half million adults). Together we championed laws that reigned in the auto industry, the corporate polluters and other industries to save lives and prevent injuries and illnesses. Because, majority public opinion supported us.
Our approach then was to put out factual documentation of these corporate harms and perils and get our research covered by the news media and programs like The Phil Donahue Show. People would feedback their demands and concerns to the Senators and Representatives of Congress, where we were pushing member by member. Reforms followed. I’ve given numerous examples of these citizen endeavors in my book, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think.
It still can happen, even though the news media hardly covers conventional civic activity anymore and great shows like Donahue’s are no longer on the air. We shouldn’t be discouraged, however; we just have to shift strategies and find new ways to get more Americans revved up to feel and focus their own sovereign power exclusively rooted in the Constitution. “Corporations” and “companies” aren’t even mentioned in that storied document. As the Constitution says, “we the people… do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.”
So here comes my new Fable, How the Rats Re-formed the Congress replete with examples of how little it took to change Congress beyond our greatest expectations. Once the rats stormed up the toilet bowls of these smug solons and shook up the place from the bottom up, action followed. When the American people found out how the Congressional biggies tried to cover up their embarrassment – their ineptitude at not even being able to control a rat infestation– massive public derision flooded the televised and radio airwaves and social media.
Suddenly, people all over our country – at home, in the bars and restaurants, at their clubs, snapped to attention and began believing that, “There are only 535 of them on Capitol Hill, many misusing our sovereign power delegated to them, but we’re millions.”
In “civic” waves from the hinterlands, the people move to take control of Congress away from the giant corporations and their greedy lobbyists. You’ll laugh yourselves serious as you turn page after page and start feeling, believing, thinking that “we can do this, let’s go America!”
Enough of not paying hard-working impoverished workers a livable wage, enough of people being denied health insurance, and ripped off by the credit sharks, enough of our children being directly assailed with junk food and violent advertising bypassing parental authority, enough of trillions of our tax dollars not coming back to us for superior public services in our crumbling communities but instead going to corporate welfare (crony capitalism), and the infernal, very profitable corporate war machine in addition to more tax escapes for the wealthy.
Enough of the fossil-fuel industry poisoning our soil, our water, and disrupting our climate. Enough of the corporate bosses and their indentured politicians; enough of the big time crooks and their dirty elections. Enough, enough already!
A few early readers found How the Rats Re-Formed the Congress to be “disgusting,” or “revolting,” to use their words. Reading the back cover presents indictments of the “disgusting” and “revolting” Congress whose majority lets American men, women, and children get sick and die in great numbers from preventable perils in hospitals, in toxic workplaces, and in toxic products and environments.
Other readers have called the book “uplifting,” “optimistic,” and “empowering,” the growing rumble from the people and the leaders they generate break out in rallies and support for progressive agendas nationwide. The huge numbers of people surrounding the Congress night and day, week after week, until the peoples’ pressure becomes unbearable for recalcitrant Members of Congress.
This external pressure permeates the Congress with specific calls for reforms backed by the dramatic demand that the politicians get it done in an election year or else! The faster these long overdue changes come, many long installed in Western European democracies, the more the corporate big boys reel on their heels, unable with their tired bullying and intimidating ways to block the will of the people.
Wall Street and its lobbyists warn about “economic collapse” and “mass layoffs” if the citizenry’s agenda passes Congress. Corporate front groups are created to disrupt the peaceful crowds. These corporate tactics don’t work anymore. The agitated media publishes story after story about the corporate crime wave, the rip-offs of consumers and the wasting away tax monies that Congress allowed.
Backing up the book is a helpful website on organizing Congressional Ratwatchers Groups in every Congressional district. The material is readable, accurate, and relieves your feeling that such an effort is too difficult and won’t produce results.
You can get an autographed copy of How the Rats Re-Formed the Congress, or discounted autographed books in bulk for your circle of friends, by going to ratsreformcongress.org. See how the rats led the way until the people, just like you, entered the fray.