By Brad Walker, Rivers Director                                                    September 25, 2017

Over the last 40 years the average citizen’s income, security, education, health and prospects for their children’s future has eroded. It has become increasingly difficult to protect the environment and the rights of the majority of real people to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in this country. During the same time, corporations have become more monopolistic, powerful, large, and politically influential. Is there a correlation to these diverging paths?

Figure 1: Convention Agenda and Attendance Pins

Between August 3 and 6, 2017 MCE staff members Caitlin Zera and Brad Walker attended a Democracy Convention in Minneapolis, MN along with hundreds of other people from across the country. This was the third such convention since 2011. Thirteen organizations convened the convention that was broken into eight topic conferences covering a wide range of topics:  including Community and Worker Power, Democratizing the Constitution, Earth Rights & Global Democracy, Democratizing our Schools, Colleges & Universities, Media Democracy, Peace & Democracy, Racial Justice, and Voting Rights & Open Government. The underlying theme was how to address the increasing negative impact of overwhelming corporate influence on all layers of government. Over 140 presentations with 150 speakers were offered, typically on 75 minute tracks with ten concurrent presentations.

The one significant difficulty with the convention was that too many interesting topics were offered concurrently; meaning we had to chose to attend one presentation from up to ten topics we may have wanted to learn about. Presentations were not recorded so there is no opportunity to watch the ones that were missed.

We each attended several presentations. Among those were:

  • Can Capitalism Be Reformed?
  • Plenary: The 28th Amendment: What Should it Say and How Will We Make It Happen?
  • Caring for Mother Earth: Profiteers vs. Protectors: Land, Trees, Water and Seeds. Next Steps
  • Rebel Cities: Transforming Civic Engagement into Electoral Power
  • Big Ag, Pesticides and Rural America: It’s Not Just an Environmental Issue Anymore
  • Labor Organizing in the time of Robots
  • Exploring Direct Action As a Tactic to Amend the Constitution

The MCE presentation, one of ten on the last day and during the final time slot, was surprisingly well attended by 18 very engaged people. We split our time into three segments.

First Brad talked about how MCE had began to explore two contentious but related issues – real sustainability and corporate personhood – which have an impact upon our ability to effectively work on environmental issues. This was framed around issues regarding the Upper Mississippi River in a report MCE released in 2012 called Our Future? A Vision for a Land, Water, and Economic Ethic in the Upper Mississippi River Basin.

Figure 2: Caitlin Zera presenting on the MCE Democracy in Action Program

Next Caitlin described the activities that MCE, primarily through our Democracy in Action interns, which had occurred over the last several years. This included our Reclaiming Democracy website, Corporate Personhood Timeline, and the People’s Guide to Environmental Action.

Finally we closed with an enjoyable Q & A session, with some very good questions from a highly informed group of people from all across the country.

Both of us believed the convention was a meaningful and inspiring event to participate in and we were honored to be selected to present. The awareness of the need for a 28th Amendment grows throughout the country with about 80% of all people polled supporting it.