Despite growing up in what he calls “rural poverty” in a home that didn’t have a flush toilet, David Cobb later established a private law practice in Houston and ran for president on the Green Party ticket. These days, Cobb works on the law and research committee of Move to Amend and recently spoke at Wasatch Commons *. The Salt Lake City branch of Move to Amend (MoveToAmend.org/ut-salt-lake-city) is trying to collect 9,000 signatures by April 15 for a city ballot initiative that would ask voters in the November elections to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
What is Move to Amend?
Move to Amend is a multiracial, multiethnic coalition of groups of individuals from across the country that are coming together to demand a constitutional amendment to abolish both corporate constitutional rights and the legal doctrine that money is speech. Both of those two doctrines have become the linchpin for how the ruling elite have hijacked governing constitutions, as well as political and cultural institutions of this country.
How does the public respond to a platform based on abstract legal ideas?
The American people know that corporate America has hijacked our government; they just don’t know what they can do about it. We know that the majority of Americans want a different country than we are living in; polling data shows 80 to 85 percent of American people are against corporate constitutional rights. The American people are eager to participate—they are not apathetic. This is something that has given Move to Amend traction, and it is growing. We only came into existence in 2010, and we already have several hundreds of thousands of people participating. This movement is growing and growing quickly—quicker than any movement I’ve ever seen. The American people want to participate, and we welcome them.
Do you think your mission to amend the Constitution will be successful?
Our plan is to start at the grass-roots level to build a political movement that cuts across party lines and political ideologies that demands we have a functioning democratic republic where people rule. By taking that approach, we have been able to reach out to principal liberals, conservatives, moderates, independents; and we are getting larger, stronger and better organized every day.
What is the difference between Move to Amend and the Occupy movement?
I would never dare to say that I speak for the Occupy movement, but Move to Amend collaborates with the Occupy movement. It’s also worth pointing out that there are similarities between Occupy and the Tea Party, because the Tea Party, of course, is angry about big government and big governmental policies. The Occupy movement is angry at Wall Street and big, private corporations. The sweet spot of the intersection between those movements is the reality that Wall Street and big corporations have hijacked our federal government. Our federal government is passing laws and legislation that are only benefiting Wall Street and big, corporate interests. That intersection between Occupy and the Tea Party is where the Move to Amend effort is gaining ground. We are collaborating very closely with Occupy encampments across the country. I’ve personally been to about 50 encampments, and the call to abolish corporate personhood and get money out of elections is probably the single unifying call that is coming out of Occupy across the country.
You’ve said that we should not allow the Tea Party to have a monopoly on political anger. Why?
I think we should own the fact that we are angry at an unfair and unjust economic system. We are angry at political and economic institutions that are destroying the planet that we depend upon for life itself. We should be angry about the racist, sexist, class-oppressive and ecologically destructive forces at play. But anger alone is not an effective political emotion. Righteous anger requires action, and through the act of struggling for justice and struggling against injustice, we find joy. I would say that joy and joyful resistance is the most effective political emotion, but we have to start with acknowledging how angry and, frankly, how much despair so many Americans have about the political and economic institutions in this country.
What is the difference between anger and righteous anger?
Action. If you get angry and lash out in a destructive way, that is just anger. Righteous anger starts from a place of ethics; it starts from a place of morality. If you are angry at unfairness and injustice, it requires you, as a matter of ethics, to engage in resistance to those injustices and also to proactively create alternative institutions. That is why I say the abolitionist movement was provoked by righteous anger, and it fueled them to create the Underground Railroad system and, ultimately, create the political party known as the Republican Party to advocate the abolition of slavery. Righteous anger is unique because it requires positive action, and it is engaging in the positive action that becomes joyful. We are provoked by the initial anger and injustice, but just getting angry and staying angry is not positive; in fact, that is a very dangerous thing. We have to find our joy through struggling against the injustice and helping to create a change.
*This article has been updated from the version that appeared in print to correct the name of the venue where David Cobb spoke.