Voters wait on Election Day in Nevada. The adoption of universal voter registration and other measures would help reduce lines at polling places. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson.)
It’s time to stop moneyed conservative interests from trying to buy or steal our democracy. We know the problem—let’s get to the solutions.
Since the 1880s we’ve seen how money shouts, and since the 1980s we’ve watched regressives seek to restrict the freedom to vote, culminating last year in the explosion of Super PAC spending and voting rights restrictions. This time, the efforts of the Adelsons, Kochs and Roves largely failed (at the federal level). But the economic elites will be back to attempt their hostile takeover of our democracy with even more money and sophistication.
Hence MoneyOut/VotersIn Day in some sixty cities on January 19. That’s when a large coalition of public interest, labor, voting rights and faith groups are aspiring to a “more perfect union” on the confluence of the third anniversary of Citizens United, the weekend celebration of MLK and the Presidential Inauguration.
Generations of traditional campaign finance groups have worked against a democracy-for-sale. And heroic voting rights groups have long sought to fulfill Dr. King’s plea at the Washington Monument in 1957: “Give us the ballot! Give us the ballot!” But rarely have these two communities worked together to stop the rigging of the political system. Until we ensure that popular majorities become public law, it will be hard to accomplish so much of what is urgent—a more progressive tax code, immigration reform, climate change legislation, a living wage, labor reform and gun violence reduction.
So on January 19, scores of groups and thousands of people around the country will organize around a three-part Democracy-for-All program: a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United; public funding of public elections, in Washington and state capitols; and guaranteed voting rights so potentially 50 million more Americans can vote before or on a National Holiday in November.
First, reverse Citizens United. A momentary five-justice majority in this case tried to assure that a plutocracy of donors supplant a democracy of voters. As for the view that, well, both capital and labor will now be able to spend without limit in elections, the reality is that capital has 3,000 times more wealth than labor, the Koch brothers alone with a net worth more than all unions in America. Senator John McCain is right when he calls the decision the worst in a century. How can “originalists” like Justices Scalia and Thomas ignore the historical reality that the founders intended the First Amendment apply to actual people, not corporations, which never appear in the Constitution? How can Justice Kennedy make believe that “the appearance of influence or access…will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy” if Sheldon Adelson spends, say, $40 million on someone’s behalf and then calls the winning candidate with his ideas on lowered capital gains rates? How can big interests and their apologists hide behind the First Amendment when money is literally property, not speech?