Who will fight corporate America?

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By Steven T. Jones
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This morning’s U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision overturning a 103-year-old law limiting corporate spending on elections is a huge setback for the people’s ability to counter the power of Wall Street and multi-national corporations, a development exacerbated by signals that the Democratic Party is retreating from even its nominally left-of-center initiatives in the wake of Tuesday’s loss of its Massachusetts seat in the U.S. Senate.

If this morning’s front page San Francisco Chronicle story is to be believed, Democratic congressional leaders are essentially abandoning health care reform and climate change legislation, shifting instead to focus on “creating jobs and cutting the enormous federal deficit.”

And if Mayor Gavin Newsom’s recent initiatives here are any indication, job creation is synonymous with corporate tax breaks, while deficit reduction probably means the elimination of even more government jobs, further enabling private sector excesses. Yes, the political climate in this country is turning as bleak and stormy as the California weather this week.

But at least downpours provide needed water. With progressive institutions from the anti-war movement to minor political parties at their weakest point in many years, it’s unclear who will unite and lead a public that is growing increasingly frustrated with this country’s political dysfunction and uneven economic recovery (that is, corporations are recovering but most people aren’t).

There are a few faint glimmers of hope. The Chron reports on an alliance between UC students and administrators to push for a reversal of deep cuts to education spending. And spending by labor unions was also unshackled by today’s court decision, which could be helpful if that movement wasn’t in such disarray right now and was willing and able to help lead a broad people’s movement.

But the question facing the country right now is this: who can effectively fight corporate America, and who is willing to do so?