This isn’t science fiction. Just the other day 30 Republicans voted in the U.S. Senate to deny justice to a human victim of rape in order to protect the so-called sovereign rights of corporations.
I’m not much for slippery slope arguments, but when we’re buried in mud at the bottom of a slope, it might be prudent to see what we slipped on. In this case, as Thom Hartmann and others have pointed out, it was a court reporter’s memo attached to an obscure 1886 Supreme Court case. The memo summarized the court’s alleged opinion that the 14th Amendment applied to corporations. Corporations were people, too.
The rape case of Jamie Leigh Jones was just a logical step forward in the long-standing Republican effort to lock Americans out of the nation’s courthouses, an effort undertaken on behalf of corporate supremacy. A woman is gang-raped by her fellow employees at government contractor KBR. The company says her contract prohibits her from seeking justice in court.
Thirty Republican U.S. senators voted to safeguard corporations from lawsuits in rape cases. You read that right the first time. The amendment they voted against, by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, would withhold government contracts from corporations that block employees from going to court when raped or sexually assaulted on the job.
The case – and the vote – stirred a little outrage, but not enough.
Jones, of Houston, was drugged and gang raped while working in Baghdad for KBR/Halliburton. She was locked in a shipping container by the company and warned to keep quiet. She didn’t keep quiet. Franken and Senate Democrats took up her cause.
The crimes of the rapists and their protectors in the Republican Party reveal “tort reform” as one of the great political cons in U.S. history. Tort reform is the not-missing link in the evolution of corporate supremacy and human inferiority.
The decades-long GOP campaign against civil justice was just part of the effort to place corporations above the law and corporatist elected officials out of the reach of voters. Republican voter suppression was another front in the war on popular democracy.
This is the populist issue of our time. Well, it was the populist issue of bygone times, too, but too damn few took up the cause and the GOP ran away with a victory built on fake field goals, double-reverses, stolen signals and rigged referees.
It sickens me that Republicans could generate faux-populist resentment of wealthy lawyers to seal the public out of the public sphere so corporatists could steal, maim and kill with impunity.
Also, too many progressive organizations stood idly by as the values at the core of democracy were attacked. Where were environmentalists, civil rights groups, women’s groups, consumer associations, and campaign finance reformers when Republicans campaigned to give corporations greater legal rights than people? They were sealed away in their silos, their consciences eased by their single-mind focus on their particular issues. It didn’t seem to matter to them that their ability to actually achieve anything was being undermined by the attack on democratic institutions and core American values.
Now that we have reached the point where Republicans can argue with a straight face that rape should be overlooked in favor of corporate protectionism maybe this will change.
I think American businesses are waking up to the excesses of the extremist assault on democracy. When all the courthouses are closed, they can’t get their business-to-business contracts enforced.
I fear, though, that in many places progressives and their allies are stuck in old habits and personal grudge matches. Moderate business Democrats should finally understand that lawyers did not cause any of the policy problems they care most about: the collapse of public education, support for higher education, a safe environment, a predictable regulatory environment. Progressive advocacy groups should wake up, too. When the public is sealed out of courthouses and capitols, all their earnest work for the environment, civil rights and health care will come to nothing.
It is a sign of our moral confusion that we are forced to have a conversation about whether a woman who has been gang-raped can go to court against her assailants. It is altogether disagreeable that we have to have it with inhuman entities that want us to grant them legal superiority in laws meant for humans.