More than 200 organizations and hundreds of thousands of people will come together on April 16-18 in Washington D.C. to demand a representative democracy. That means an inclusive systems where all votes matter and money does not buy you access to power. The egregious interference of special interest, redistricting and legislation like the Citizens United Supreme Court decision are undermining America’s democracy.
This broad coalition of organizations is calling for a democracy that is “of and by the people.” This famous line from the Gettysburg address was delivered by US President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg.
The speech was a plea for the survival of America’s representative democracy: that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The Democracy Awakening protests will involve a wide array of actions including demonstrations, teach-ins, direct action training, music and a rally for democracy. The goal is to pressure a “Congress of Conscience” through “non-violent direct action and advocacy” to build a nation that is truly “by and for the people.”
Democracy is a bi-partisan issue. Both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about the state of the US democracy and campaign finance in particular. However, if you follow the money trail, the GOP is largely to blame for putting the interests of corporations and the fossil fuel industry ahead of citizens. They have also been the party that has made it harder for people to vote and through a process known as redistricting they have further redrawn electoral maps to serve their partisan political interests.
When it comes to undermining democracy, the Supreme Court’s ruling, referred to as Citizens United allows corporations to provide unlimited campaign spending and ultimately opens the door to unbridled corporate influence. The system invites interference from wealthy corporate interests including the Koch brothers. Corporate organizations like ALEC currently control many state legislatures across America. Because the GOP is doing everything in their power to avoid having Donald Trump as their presidential nominee, The Donald has been saying that the system is fixed. This resonates with the conspiratorially minded anti-government factions that have hijacked the GOP.
On the Democratic side, Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has been saying that the US desperately needs campaign finance reform and he is leading by example by refusing money from the fossil fuel industry and getting his financial support from ordinary Americans. The failure of America’s representative democracy undermines progress on a host of issues including climate action, racial justice, workers’ rights and fair pay, safe food and water, health care, immigration reform and improvements in education.
Restrictive voting laws are antithetical to the protections provided by the Constitution. The US democracy has been diluted by these laws which contradict the fundamental idea of “one person, one vote” that is spelled out in the Constitution. Under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, legislative voting districts must be the same in population size. The idea behind the rule is that one person’s voting power ought to be roughly equivalent to another person’s within the state.
Here are the demands of the Democracy Awakening event:
- We need a Congress that stands up for democracy rather than stands in its way. Here’s the agenda we’re calling for Congress to pass:
- Fair consideration of the nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, including timely hearings and a vote by the full Senate.
- The Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 2867, S. 1659), legislation that would restore the protections against voting discrimination that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in itsShelby County v. Holder decision, and make additional, critical updates to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
- The Voter Empowerment Act (H.R. 12), legislation to modernize voter registration, prevent deceptive practices that keep people from the ballot box and ensure equal access to voting for all.
- The Democracy For All Amendment (H.J.Res. 22, S.J.Res. 5), a constitutional amendment that would overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and allow elected representatives to set commonsense limits on money in elections.
- The Government By the People Act/Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 20 and S. 1538), a small donor empowerment measure that would encourage and amplify small contributions from everyday Americans.
Click here to endorse the mobilization.
To see a full summary of events click here.