Why I'm Risking Arrest to Demand Congress Fix Our Democracy

Last week in Maryland, I met a man named John who had driven nearly 3,000 miles from California to march 140 miles to protest our broken political system. When he learned online about Democracy Spring -- a march from Philadelphia to Washington DC, culminating with civil disobedience on the steps of the U.S. Capitol -- he knew he had to be there. So he started training, walking three miles a day and working up to 15.

John was just one of the people I met when I joined the march for 20 miles outside of Baltimore. Nancy told me she was marching because government wasn't working for every citizen. Daniel said it was because he hadn't served two decades in the military to protect on oligarchy instead of a democracy. Monica told me it was for the children in her home state of Michigan.

The marchers reached Capitol Hill and hundreds of people have been arrested to send the message that every voice should be heard in our politics and every vote must be counted.

Or, as one protestor told Mother Jones last week, "I think it's become apparent to a lot of us that the whole political process in our country is really under the control of a handful of people, and by the time we get to make a choice in November, the fix is already in, because all of the candidates, typically, are ones who are going to do what the establishment, the oligarchy, wants from them."

Most Americans agree that the political system is broken and that their voices aren't heard. Three-quarters of Americans think corruption is widespread in our government, according to Gallup. But despite this broad public consensus, Congress has refused to enact reforms that would move us closer to a "one person, one vote" democracy that lives up to our cherished values of fairness and equality.

There is a long-honored and successful tradition in this country of non-violent civil disobedience as a tool to break intransigence on the part of the powers that be. And that's what's happening today. With a Supreme Court that has too often sided with the wealthy against common sense and everyday people, with a Congress that is so gridlocked and captured by big money, it's time for everyday citizens to press forward in a way that our elected officials will find harder to ignore. That's why, after nearly 25 years of working in the democracy reform community -- I'm risking arrest for the cause too -- joining the Johns and Monicas who are leading the way.

I'm doing it as part of the Democracy Awakening, a three-day program of teach-ins, rallies, and civil disobedience that is building on the work of Democracy Spring to harness public support for policies that will to break down the barriers in our political system for everyday people. Whether through voting restrictions or campaign finance laws that benefit the wealthy, these barriers keep everyday people from running for office and being heard in the process.

And once the excitement in Washington D.C. is over we need to bring the energy back home. That's where winning will happen first. It has already begun.

Last November, voters in Maine and Seattle voted overwhelmingly to change the way their elections are financed. And in states across the country, voters are working to fight restrictive voting laws. Only two weeks ago, voters in Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wis. joined hundreds of cities, states, and localities in support of a resolution to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.

Across the country -- from Washington to Arkansas, Arizona to Miami -- voters are coming together this year too to bring important money-in-politic reforms directly to the ballot.

I'm risking arrest this week to bring the fight to Washington, D.C. -- and then I'll fight to make change across the country. It's time for the people to stand up and say we deserve a democracy that truly represents us.