No matter what our specific issue passion, we now see that we can’t move it forward without fixing the rules of our democracy itself.
“The system is rigged!” is now an angry, bipartisan cry, intensifying as Trump bows to big-donor interests and deepens distrust of government.
But here’s the worst part. Not only has big-donor influence blocked life-saving public actions, from worker safety to climate change, but in recent decades political donors have gotten savvier. They’ve been able not only to bend policy for their own benefit, but, increasingly, to remake the rules of democracy itself to serve their interests.
Here’s a taste of what we mean.
Since 2010, when a big-money-empowered Tea Party swept Republicans into Congress and statehouses, twenty-three states have enacted laws making it harder to vote. To solidify gains, they’ve gerrymandered state and congressional districts so thoroughly that in many state and congressional races competition for office—the heart of democracy—is effectively dead.
Democracy shrinks further as those elected by relying on huge sums from the top 1 percent form a political class with little need to respond to the real concerns of most Americans.
Citizens, however, are not sitting idly watching our democracy go under. A citizens movement, what we call the Democracy Movement, is pursuing all angles to fight back and to take our democracy forward.
In Wisconsin, for example, teacher-turned-lawyer Wendy Sue Johnson and eleven other Wisconsin citizens became plaintiffs in a case now before the Supreme Court that could spell the end of partisan gerrymandering. The practice, said Johnson, allows “elected officials to choose their voters instead of the other way around.” Legal challenges in other states are targeting voter identification laws, proven to lower voter participation in vulnerable communities
Increasingly, it’s dawning on Americans that “issues” they once thought of as wonky or dry touch the heart of it all: whose voice can be heard on the biggest questions of our time.