I'm writing this at my desk about eight hours before I plan to drive halfway across these United States to our nation's capital, where I expect to be arrested along with hundreds (if not thousands) of others for protesting the hijacking of our democracy.
Democracy is founded on the principle of one person, one vote. It is a radically egalitarian system of electing representatives that is meant to ensure that the immortal declaration embedded in America's founding document, "that all men are created equal," remains true. Ignore the patriarchal, chauvinistic language of that old, old document. It is the spirit of the phrase, the purest intention, that matters.
The vote of the lowest beggar on the filthiest street corner matters as much as that of the richest entrepreneur in the most lavish estate. Wealth, privilege, and status afford many things in this world: luxuries, a higher standard of living, a higher degree of personal freedom, and even better access to essential services like medical care. But even granted that, the hope of liberty never ceases, because the destitute and the dispossessed are not so in the political realm. Their home, their clothes, their life may not be as valuable as those of the rich man, but their vote is worth exactly the same, and through this great equalizer, there is hope that those other iniquities may be rectified.
At least, this is the way it would be in a perfect world. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world.
On January 21st, 2010, a date which will live in infamy, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United vs. FEC that the government does not have the right to restrict independent campaign expenditures by any corporation, union, or individual. This disastrous (we'll get to why in a minute) decision had its roots in the 1976 decision Buckley vs. Valeo, when the court essentially argued that money spent to influence the outcome of elections is protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.
And here we've already run into the problem: if money is speech, then no, the lowest beggar on the filthiest street corner has absolutely no countervailing power against the richest entrepreneur in the most lavish estate. The radical egalitarianism embedded within the Declaration of Independence is ignored as surely today as it was when written.
Look no further than this Washington Post examination of the measurable effects of Citizens United. It has so far mainly benefited the Republican Party, which is no surprise, as it was the five conservative justices that handed down the ruling in 2010. But this is an issue which affects and corrupts both political parties; just look at the staggering amount of money raised by these outside groups for Hillary Clinton in her primary challenge with US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt).
This is not about Bernie vs. Hillary, or even Democrats vs. Republicans. This is about the meaning of Democracy and the soul of America.
The fact of the matter is, money is not speech. The idea of 158 families providing almost half of the money in the 2016 election season is sickening (not least because they are disproportionately white, old, and male).
This is not Democracy. This is not equality. This is not what the Founding Fathers intended.
So I will go to Washington and sit in with countless others to demand that Congress act swiftly to rectify this situation. I don't want to be arrested; I want Congress to do their job and pass one of the several reform bills sitting on their desks that would make giant leaps of progress on this issue.
But I don't expect that to happen. Congress is bought and paid for by the very special interests we're fighting against. They will lock up thousands of us before they change the system that has given them power.
But I cannot do nothing. I have a daughter, the love of my life, only eighteen months old. She is going to grow up in a world where her vote doesn't matter. Where unless she's a millionaire, her opinion means less than that of a rich white man who inherited his wealth and uses it to buy his very own politician.
I cannot as a parent allow my daughter to grow up in this system without a fight. I don't know how much I can achieve, but I know that with millions of Americans joining together in this fight, we can do anything.
Democracy Spring is only the beginning. We're in this fight until we've won.
Help me save America for my daughter, or for your own children. Do it for your grandkids, your lover, or even for yourself. Whoever you do it for, get in on the fight. It's time to take our Democracy back.
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