One of the goals of this blog is to provide information on policy and politics that the mainstream corporate media fails to provide. One of the most blatant examples of news ignored by the corporate media is last month’s Democracy Awakening protests.
The Democracy Awakening protests were undertaken to highlight the issues of money in politics and abridgements of voting rights. Starting on April 2 under the banner of Democracy Spring (http://www.democracyspring.org/), over 100 people marched the 140 miles from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, where our democracy was founded, to Washington, D.C. In conjunction with Democracy Awakening (http://democracyawakening.org/), a week of protests, meetings with Congress men and women, and civil disobedience in Washington followed. By the end of the week, over 1,200 people had been arrested for civil disobedience, the largest such protests in decades.
The coverage of any of this in the mainstream corporate media was minimal at best. The most covered element of it was that Ben and Jerry (of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream) were arrested for civil disobedience. This warranted one story each on CBS, in the New York Times, and in the Boston Globe. This was the only coverage that showed up in a search of their websites, other than a letter to the editor in the Times. NBC had one story and ABC had three.
Democracy Awakening is a broad coalition of over 100 groups, including organizations representing campaign finance reform efforts, labor, environmental issues, students, and the racial justice and civil rights movements. They have coalesced with a shared belief that progress on the broad range of policy issues they care about will not occur until we combat attacks on voting rights and the corruption of our elections and democracy by big money.
The reason for civil disobedience at the Capitol was that Congress has refused to act on the issues of voting rights and campaign finance despite the overwhelming support of the American public across party affiliation, even including many in the “Tea Party.” Presidents Obama and Clinton made campaign promises to address these issues but did not follow through.
This lack of action by Congress is not because there aren’t bills that would address these issues. Ninety members of the House have signed a letter demanding action on four bills and a resolution that reflect the Democracy Awakening agenda:
- HR 12: Makes it easier for citizens to vote and increases the verifiability of voting results. It would require on-line and same-day voter registration, along with early voting and voting by mail. It would require voter-verified paper ballots and audits of voting results.
- HR 2694: Makes voter registration automatic.
- HR 2867: Restores some of the protections of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court voided in 2013.
- HR 20: Provides incentives for small contributions to candidates for Congress and takes steps to reduce the influence of big money in our elections. It establishes a 50% tax credit for small contributions, bans the joint committee fundraising that has led to contributors giving checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates, and improves disclosure by requiring candidates’ financial reports to be electronic.
- Resolution 22: Proposes a constitutional amendment that would reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United and other cases that have allowed unlimited campaign spending by wealthy individuals and corporations, and have also given corporations and other organizations rights under the Bill of Rights that were meant for human beings.
Democracy Awakening is part of a broad effort to mobilize voters and increase participation in our elections. In the 2014 Congressional elections, barely a third of eligible voters voted. The current paralysis in Washington, hyper-partisanship, and negative campaign ads have left voters so disillusioned and cynical that they see no point in participating in our democracy and, therefore, disengage.
We need to re-awaken participation in our democracy. Without informed and engaged citizens, and without high levels of participation, our democracy will not be of, by, and for the people, because special interests will take control and bend public policy to their benefit.
I encourage you to learn more about the Democracy Awakening effort and to sign-up to be informed about this effort at its website: http://democracyawakening.org/. I also encourage you to “Follow” this blog (if you haven’t already) and to sign-up for Bill Moyers’ newsletter, where much of the information for this post came from (http://billmoyers.com/; click on “Newsletter” and enter your email address to subscribe).