2020 Candidates Finally Take Up the One Issue That Could Save our Democracy

[inaudible]. Hi, this is Lauren von Bernuth
news from Citizen Truth. Today we are speaking with Adam Eichen
from the organization Equal Citizens. If you aren’t familiar
with equal citizens, they are a fantastic organization because
they are working on actually fixing our broken political system and fixing
our democracy and fixing it at the root. Most importantly, we’re going to talk with Adam about how
Equal Citizens is going about achieving democracy, democracy reform, and in particular how democracy reform
is playing into the 2020 election and perhaps most importantly, which candidates have actually announced
support for new significant democracy reform measures. So thank you, Adam for talking with us and coming
back and talking to us again. Of course. It’s my pleasure. Thanks for
having me back on. Yeah. Um, let’s just start with the
first question. Most basic, can you explain what you mean by
democracy reform and why people, citizens believes it’s such an essential
issue? Sure, absolutely. I mean, there’s no question that the U.S.
Democracy, the United States is broken, uh, big money in politics hold
sway over who can run for office, what policies are enacted. Uh, you
know, there is an epidemic. You know, there is voter suppression is rampant
across the country and has only gotten worse recently, uh, denying, you know, people are being denied the right to vote. Gerrymandering is worse
than its ever been, that politicians are drawing the lines
such that we no longer have competitive elections in most
circumstances. And you know, we still have the electoral college, which is utterly broken unrepresentative
and makes a mockery of one person, one vote. So when all of
these different, you know, in all of these different
aspects of our democracy, we can see that we are not equal citizens, that some have more influence in
the political process than others. And that is unacceptable. And of
course, as you and I know and I, I’m sure many of the listeners know that
we cannot make progress on any of the issues that we care about
until we fix our democracy. First thing that continuously gets in
the way of US achieving meaningful reform that most Americans want is a
system that is unrepresentative. It does not represent the
majority of Americans. So it doesn’t matter whether or not the
majority of Americans want something like reasonable background
checks on guns or action on … , to prevent the worst of climate change. Until we make a representative government, those things will never get passed
because our system is not designed to actually mimic and produce policy
based on majority the majority opinion. And so an Equal Citizens what we do is
we find innovative campaigns and lawsuits that seek to promote more
equal citizenship. Try to, uh, make our democracy work
for all individuals despite
how much money they have, the color of their skin, their
age, et Cetera, et cetera. And so we’re fighting on
issues like to reduce, uh, the influence of big money in politics. There’s things like public
financing of elections. Uh, we’re working to combat voter suppression
by advocating for automatic voter registration, same day voter
registration vote by mail, ending the, the stain or, uh, the Jim crow stain on our nation of felon
disenfranchisement that few people in this country know that, uh, if you’re
convicted of a felony in some states, you may lose the right to vote
forever. And that is, as I said, a direct legacy of Jim Crow. Uh, and so
that is a key part about a democracy. You can’t take the right to vote away
from folks. Uh, and of course, uh, working on campaigns, both litigation and policies to
reform the electoral college. Um, and so really on all these aspects, it seems very broad and I agree.
But the problem is broad. We, we truly are in a crisis and so,
uh, there’s no silver bullet. And so we have our fingers in all aspects
of, of this reform movement because, uh, we need an overhaul and
we’re working with them. Yeah. So just to kind of rehash,
um, when I looked at your website, it looked like there were four main
issues that were kind of the key that you guys were focusing on for fixing
our broken political system, one being reducing the influence of big
money in politics, the other one being, uh, and Gerrymandering, another one being making voting easier
and more representative and more secure. And lastly, making every vote equal in
the presidential election
are those kind of the four broad general areas you
guys are focused on? Yeah. And there are many different innovative
policies that go into each of those buckets. But yeah, in general,
those are the four. Uh, that’s how we conceptualize the four
real key areas that we have to fix our system in which way to
fix our system. Okay. So I want to talk right about the 2020
elections since that’s kind of big news and we have, I don’t know how many
different candidates you know, running for the presidency. So in terms of the 2020 election, how is democracy reform coming up?
Is it actually being taken seriously? Are there candidates that
have adopted significant, um, democracy reform measures? And is it
being talked about during the debates? Right. So I have good news and bad news. I will start with the bad news because
I like to end with the good news. Thank you. So the bad news is no, it is not that the moderators or the
debates have not seen or viewed this issue as important enough to
ask a question about it. So there has been not a single question. There’s been no question thus far
in the debates for president, uh, about democracy reform. Nothing about how to reduce the
role of big money in politics, nothing to ensure, uh, about ensuring
the right to vote for all individuals. Nothing. Now, some candidates have brought
this up independently unprompted, and that’s great. This was more of thing in the first
debate where you have someone like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York who really
made a compelling case that no issue is more important in some respect as
democracy or form because all the other issues rely upon that first step that she
said that we will not make progress on any issue, in a line that really could have been
said by Equal Citizens founder Lawrence Lessig until we fix our democracy first.
And she said that in the debate itself? She said in the debate and a, you know,
she highlighted a really innovative, uh, public financing program where, uh, every voter would get up to
$600 in democracy vouchers
that you could give only to eligible federal candidates, um,
that would be a radical shift in, in campaign financing that would really
elevate the voices of all Americans in our campaign finance system. It would
give it democratize political power. Um, other candidates like Pete
Buttigieg, uh, you know, said something very similar that
when he was asked what is the, his priority would be as president.
He said, democracy reform. Uh, and so there are these instances in which
the candidates themselves are talking about democracy reform on the debate
stage, but it’s been a real failure of, of the moderators to ignore
this issue. Um, I mean, the debates are farcical on
many different levels. Uh, but really and truly
from my perspective, uh, not a single question on democracy
reform was particularly egregious, especially considering on the second
night of the first round of debates. Uh, that morning the Supreme Court issued
a terrible ruling on Gerrymandering, essentially saying the federal courts
can’t adjudicate on the issue of gerrymandering. They can’t
do anything about it. And they also ruled on the census
question that the Trump administration was trying to score screw around with the
census by adding a citizenship question, which would’ve led to an undercount as
well as allowing states to potentially use citizen voting age
population. I digress, but the point is there were
two landmark rulings, uh, about our democracy on that day. It would’ve been the perfect news hook
for moderators to ask a question, um, about what the candidates would do in
response. And yet they did nothing. And in the second round of debates, it was in Michigan and Michigan has some
of the most gerrymandered districts in the country. And in 2018 there was a movement to end
gerrymandering that citizens voted on an initiative there overwhelmingly
so Republicans and
Democrats to take the power to draw the lines, the district lines out of the hands
of the politicians and give it to an independent commission – would been
the perfect opportunity to ask the candidates what they would do to help
support citizens in their effort to reclaim their democracy.
But of course they didn’t. Now that is all bad
news. But the good news, as I more or less alluded to is that
there are a number of presidential candidates that have released very
strong democracy reform platforms. That there is a level of sophistication
in terms of how these candidates are thinking about the issue. If they are recognizing that our democracy
is broken and that the key to having a successful presidency is predicated
on fixing that system because they will, they see that any sort of reform is
just going to be made impossible when special interests are gonna
try and block it at every step. Yeah. It’s interesting because to me this is
an important issue of democracy reform cause I think like you and a lot of
people, we feel like the system is broken. Um, and so I have felt hopeful that these
candidates are talking about measures and reform and addressing the
issue. Even though, as you said, it’s still in a lot of ways not really
being looked at by moderators and maybe being ignored in the media and so on. But it seems like there might be a hint
of it being taken more seriously than it has in the past, and that
something is building, which is why I’m a little bit excited
about that. It’s still going Right. Yeah. I think you’re exactly
right there that, you know, we have a long way to go to even get
to push the candidates even further. I think that while a lot of
their platforms are good, I don’t think enough candidates are
really making this part of their stump speeches. But you’re right. Just the fact that a lot of
these once seen as, as kind of, you know, real, not like radical, but radical in the sense of
getting to the root reforms, the fact that these are in their plan
and they’re talking about it at all is, is a sign of remarkable
progress. I mean, it, it truly is. You know, we
want reform now obviously, but you have to take a moment to recognize
just how far this movement for reform has come over the last, you know, for even three years. Um, you
know, we really incepted our, our talking points, uh,
into the mainstream. I mean the fact that presidential
candidates are even going up there on the debate stage and saying,
we can’t, you know, solve the crises in our country until
we fix our democracy first. I mean, that’s a huge victory for those of us
who have been in this reform movement for a little while. On your website,
you guys have a great page, um, where you ranked the 2020 candidates and
where they stand on democracy reform. Can you just give, I mean, I know there’s
about, I think there’s 25 candidates, so you don’t have to do all of
them off the top of your head, but can you just give an overview
of what candidate, candidates, are at the top of the list and some of
the key platforms that they support? Sure. So I think the key thing
to understand about our website, which we call POTUS one, it’s a, it’s
a little bit of a play on HR One, which the day was a, that was the omnibus democracy reform
bill that the Democrats prioritized as their, the very first bill introduced in the
new Congress when they took it over, uh, earlier this year that are, they called
it the HR One because it was a sign, a signal that this was the most
important issue and it contained just a multitude of all the reforms that we
fight for. I mean, really what is, is this amazing reform package
that would revolutionize the, you know, just how
inclusive our democracy is. And so we call it POTUS one
because what we’re looking, the reason that we can pile this list
is we wanted to know what the candidates are saying about reform, but also
which candidates are prioritizing. Have agreed to prioritize democracy
reform as their number one priority. So we, we divide our,
our this page into two. It’s we give them a grade for
how strong their platform is, but we’re also we’re also keeping a tally
of those who are committing to fix the system first. And if candidates
meet both of those criteria, we call them POTUS One
certified candidates. Uh, and so we have a couple of those
certified candidates. I mean the, the, you know, Kirsten Gillibrand
who I mentioned earlier,
really has an outstanding, outstanding platform. We give her an A
Plus. She’s also POTUS One certified. Andrew Yang, uh, has another extraordinarily
extraordinarily strong
platform and has also agreed to fix democracy first. Uh, indeed
both, uh, Gillibrand and Yang. Uh, we are holding, uh, what we’re calling democracy town halls
across New Hampshire this year. Uh, and we’re inviting presidential
candidates. We have held one with, uh, Senator Gillibrand and Mr. Yang,
uh, at both of those events, they have both agreed that democracy
reforum as a top priority. Uh, Andrew Yang all actually, you know, revised his statement in the course
of our town hall. And he said, my number one, you know, my number one priority has long been
giving every individual one a thousand dollars in universal basic income. Uh,
but I would amend that statement to say, first off, fix democracy and then I
will get everyone the money because he, he recognized that the democracy
reform has to come first. Um, you know, Bernie Sanders has an extraordinarily
strong platform, especially on, on voting rights. Um, Beto O’Rourke
likewise has an A and Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bennett are another two candidates
along with Marianne Williamson, uh, who has a strong platform. And from there the list goes down a bit
and we’re looking to see a bit more, someone like Elizabeth Warren has a very
strong democracy reform platform. Uh, but she doesn’t mention public
financing of elections. And in our view, any democracy platform without public
financing, uh, is inadequate, uh, because that is the only way to really
democratize the way campaigns are funded. And until we do that, all
policy priorities are going
to be skewed. Um, and, and the list goes on from there.
But the, the, that’s really the, the top of the pack. Um, you know, the real thing that’s
keeping some candidates from
getting higher rankings, uh, you know, the criteria we use
for this list is essentially, if it’s not on your platform, we’re not going to give you credit for
it unless it’s really easily found. Um, because that’s a baseline. If it’s not
important enough to put on your website, then it’s not important enough for
us to give you credit for it. Uh, and so the real thing that’s keeping some
of these Democratic candidates down is that their websites don’t mention
democracy reform. Um, and, and, and we hope that will change as
the primary season goes on. Uh, and it’s another reason why we are having
these town halls and we were hosting a podcast where a Lessig interviews,
um, you know, these candidates, because we do want to give them
the space to, to raise their grade. We’re not looking to hit any candidate
over another. That’s not the point here. We want every, we want every candidate running for
president to get an A plus and to be POYUS certified. That’s what we want. We want every candidate to have a baseline
democracy platform that we believe would truly fix our system. I was surprised that, um,
Biden was so far down, um, give kind of an overview of, I mean,
maybe it’s, you know, he said some things, but like you said, he’s not putting it on his website and
he’s not coming out strong enough. Yeah, that’s exactly right. That, you
know, the, the vice president, former vice president,
uh, you know, and, and I, I believe it’s pretty exciting
that he, on his website, uh, he does support public
financing, but, you know, there’s no real detail about
what that would mean. Uh, and everything is just kind of a
platitude on his website. Now. Again, it’s still very early. Uh, you know,
this is this, we’re still, you know, multiple months away
from the, um, you know, from the Iowa caucuses and you know,
someone like Mr Biden may well be in, in the race for awhile. And so
there’s a lot of times, you know, campaigns often take time to roll out
their platforms. We’re still seeing that. We’re still seeing, you
know, Bernie Sanders just
released his climate platform, you know, uh, others
have, have released, uh, I think Andrew Yang just released his
climate platform that the campaigns are still evolving as the season goes on. Um, so these rankings aren’t definitive,
but again, until we see more commitment, uh, especially on the website, I mean, I, I know that websites are often
seen as kind of vague and, and not super important, but you know, it is a signal to us about
which candidates think
this is important enough to articulate that vision,
um, to voters. Yeah. Yeah. Put it down on writing. And that’s
our form of putting it down in writing. Right, exactly. And it is a pledge,
right? I mean, in some respects, what, what putting it on the website
is, is it’s a public pledge. It’s, if I’m elected, this is what I’ll do.
And that is, that was a problem with, uh, our former president,
President Obama, you know, Obama did go into office and he was
going to fix the system. But honestly, you know, we never held him to
specifics and he didn’t do anything. Um, so this is a situation where you may
elect someone with the best intentions, but unless you have something to
really hold them to the fire, uh, yeah, this is not a fight that’s easy. This
is not a fight for faint of heart. Uh, you know, this is going to require
not just electing a reformer, but once that reformers elected, there’s still going to have to be a
massive movement to get them to actually prioritize it and then get
congress to pass reform. So this is just the first step. But
even to get to those subsequent steps, we have to get these
candidates on record. Yeah. Um, what you mentioned at a couple of times,
but public financing of elections, and you’ve said Kirsten Gillibrand had
a really had adopted a pretty exciting, um, uh, platform. Can
you explain what her, the details of what her public financing
looks like for elections? Yeah, and so this is, this
is really exciting. Um, so it’s modeled after the
system that Seattle approved. The voters approved it in Seattle in 2015. It went into effect in 2017 for
municipal elections in Seattle. Every resident gets four $25 democracy
dollars that they can only give to eligible municipal
candidates for office. Uh, and so essentially it’s money that
you can contribute that you need. It requires no out of
pocket contribution, uh, and you can just give it and help support
financially that candidates that, uh, you support and the,
the candidate, you know, it allows people to have a voice even
if they don’t have, uh, any wealth. And so in Seattle, you
even saw, uh, you know, folks experiencing
homelessness give money, that candidates actually
went to folks who, who were homeless to ask
for their support. I mean, I imagine the radical difference in
who’s included in our political community when anybody, regardless
of wealth or income, especially in this era where, you know,
uh, income inequality is that, you know, dangerous levels. Imagine a system where everybody has a
baseline that they can support to help, uh, make their candidate viable. So Senator Gillibrand has taken this
idea and scales it up that every American would get up to $600 to
donate to a federal election. So for House Senate and president, I
think it’s $200 in each of those races. Um, you know, and so, so that would
be, it’s a, it’s a lot of money. Oh, you know, in the course of giving
that to every, every voter. But how much is our democracy worth? You
know, our democracy is a public good. And giving people that ability to, to support the candidate
regardless of income, would revolutionize, you know, who
politicians are, are, you know, beholden to, uh, you know, one of the
things, uh, when, when Senator Gillibrand, uh, went to our town hall, I spoke with
her and she’s, you know, she said to me, she was like, you know, none of us want to go to these swanky
fundraisers and talk to people who are totally, you know, uh, kind
of out of touch with reality. We don’t want to do that. We don’t want to spend 30 to 70%
of our time dialing for dollars. You know, if the system were in
place, I would, you know, she said, I would be out there every day, you
know, connecting with my voters. And, and, and that’s the, the vision of a better democracy
that we’re fighting for. Uh, and, and that’s what, um,
public financing can do. Would her plan would that
eliminate like PAC contributions, would it only be public financing? So, so this, this is the, I, um, I would have to go through
the specifics of her plan. Generally with public financing plans
to enter into the system to receive government money. You take voluntary
restrictions on what you can raise. So one of the things that complicates
our campaign finance structure and our ability to reform it is the supreme
court that there are limits the supreme court has put on what government
can do to regulate free speech. Uh, so, you know, Equal Citizens is engaged
in some litigation to try and open up, uh, the, the, the toolbox of reformers
to try and abolish SuperPACs for example. But, you know, if you
don’t opt into a system, you can still raise privately financed
money in the same way that you currently could. Um, that, that, that is a
trickier issue. But, but again, we don’t need constitute a constitutional
amendment to make significant change. Like public financing is
a very significant step, the most important step to actually
democratize a political influence. And it requires no constitutional
amendment. And you see this in, in areas where it’s been passed
that in a state like Maine, they have a different system where I
think it’s a, if you’d like to $5 from a, it used to be $5 from 50 people, I think it might be now $5 from 60
people or maybe a little bit more. And you want to run for the State House. The state won’t give you a block grant
of money to just run your campaign. No private financing whatsoever. And that way you have someone like Deb
Simpson who was a waitress and all of our friends thought she’d get in, you
know, she’d be great to run for office. And she said, I can’t run for office,
I can’t raise money. They said, Deb, collect $5 and 50 people and you’ll
have all the money you need to run. So she said, I’m a waitress, I’m a
waitress. I talk to 50 people every day. And so she did. She collected
the public financing money, they call it clean elections,
and she won her race. I have up, she was a five term legislator. Uh,
and you know, in our current system, it’s just not feasible for a
waitress to run for office. Now you have a couple of exc…,
You know, a couple of exceptions, but those exceptions are,
are not the rule. You know, someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
was a bartender, you know, she ran a fantastic
grassroots campaign. Uh, but, but that’s not realistic in most cases. We still have a gatekeeper class. If you don’t have access to the old
boys club of well, you know, you, you just can’t really run
an effective campaign. So public financing would change that.
And there are many ways to do it to, not to belabor the point, but
in New York City for example, a, every small dollar donation from your
constituents is matched at a rate of eight to one. So a $10
contribution, for example, is matched by $80 and becomes $90. And so that way allows candidates
to raise just small money, but then compete against those
who are just taking big money. I think what’s important to that, I feel like a lot of times
people overlook is that, um, sometimes you just need to open the
door to doing something a different way because we’ve always done things a one
way and you can’t get anyone to try something different. And this is, we need
to pivot and try something different. And this is opening the door to doing
things a better way. Yeah, absolutely. And we just have to, you know,
look in ourselves as Americans. Do we really want our political class
to only be those who can afford it? And, and I think that if
you ask most Americans that, they would say absolutely not. Because I want people like me
running and winning office. Well, we don’t want to an aristocracy. I’m
pretty sure that, uh, you know, that is, is absolutely not what
most Americans want. I see. I want to talk about was
just kind of the bi-partisan, hopefully bipartisan nature versus the
partisan nature of the whole idea of democracy reform. I mean
it, it’s a, you know, if you look at the approval ratings in
Congress, it’s consistently, you know, abysmal it’s, I don’t know, anywhere
from 18 to 30%. So it seems like, uh, you know, the one thing everybody can
agree on is that our system is broken. Um, and so do you have you found
as an organization going
through this [inaudible] process of democracy reform that you’re
able to approach it with a bipartisan, um, team in nature and that
there is bipartisan support
or how have you managed to kind of balance if there is partisanship
creeping into some of it? Right. So, yes, and you’re touching
on one of the, I think, most encouraging parts of this fight, which is that it really doesn’t
matter your political belief. Everyone in this country
thinks our system’s broken. Uh, everyone feels that they have too
little influence in Washington D.C. and poll after poll backs it
up. Um, but, but you know, there’s this really interesting
phenomenon, right? Which is, there’s no question that the Republican
party elites, those who in state, in the, in, in the Senate, for example, with Mitch McConnell or even state
legislators across the legislatures across the country, uh, you do
see this profound, uh, distaste for democracy reform that
the Republican Party is really pushing against at a place like
Florida. For example, I mentioned felon disenfranchisement. Uh, they had a law on the books for
over a hundred years since Jim Crow, which permanently barred those who were
convicted of felony from ever voting, uh, again, unless individually,
uh, pardoned or get granted
clemency rather, uh, a statewide movement, uh, passed
an initiative to overturn the, constitute that constitutional
provision by about 65%, uh, to get rid of the ban
on, on, you know, uh, uh, felonies or to get rid of felon
disenfranchisement in that state, the Republican legislature
immediately moved to, sure, okay, but you have to pay your fines, fees
and restitution first. In other words, it became a poll tax, and that’s
the current law right there. And that’s gonna disenfranchise, a number of those people who accrued
fines and fees and restitution while in jail. So that’s an example of of a case where
immediately and you see this again and again and again, where there republican
elites are pushing back. However, and this is usually this is that’s where
the media narrative stops, which is, oh well the Democrats
are pushing to reform. Republicans are trying to appeal it. But actually if you cut deeper,
take that Florida example. It was a constitute…, The ballot initiative was for
a constitutional amendment. That means it had to pass
by over 60% of the vote. Now you don’t have to know much about
politics to know that Florida is a swing state. Florida is pretty evenly divided. It’s contentious in terms of the
two parties and independence. And I just said that Florida passed this
provision by about 65% so in the same year in 2018 that the Florida electorate
voted for two very conservative statewide politicians, Rick Scott for
Senate and Ron DeSantis for Governor. They approved the enfranchisement
of up to 1.4 million Floridians. That’s how many people were
disenfranchised or who would
be disenfranchised with this. Uh, by repealing this,
a constitutional provision, 65% voted in favor of it. So that inherently means basic math that
a fraction of those who voted for very, very, very conservative politicians
also voted to expand democracy. The largest expansion of
the franchise, uh, you know, probably since we granted the
right to vote to 18 year olds, and you’ve seen this again and again
and again. In Michigan, as I said, the voters went to the ballot in
2018 to end gerrymandering to pass an independent redistricting commission.
And that passed by about 65%. Again, Michigan Trump won Michigan by a
handful of votes and it’s pretty split. I mean, it’s still leans democratic, but still 65% inherently cuts
into a lot of conservative things. And you see this again
and again, you talk, the voters approved an initiative to
reign in Gerrymandering, Colorado, et cetera, et cetera. You know, you have more and more of these places
where when, when it goes to the ballot, Americans of all political stripes of
all id ideologies on the grassroots level are actually standing up for democracy. So the narratives correct
that on the elite level, the Republican Party is trying to roll
back and block progress on democracy. That’s just a fact. But actually
on the grassroots level, this movement is incredibly bipartisan. And I would go further to say it’s
nonpartisan. It’s cross partisan. It extends across all ages,
across races, across, you know, partisan preference. It really,
is it an American movement, maybe kind of a, a quintessentially
American movement because, you know, time after time, uh, each generation is
called to push our democracy forward. Our democracy was, was always flawed.
It has been flawed from the start. It’s actually been extremely flawed
from the start, but every generation, there is a group of, uh, of Americans who push that ball
forward and we’re in this other, we’re in a new moment where Americans
are rising to that challenge. They’re rising to the task, uh,
to, to, to push our democracy, not just to restore our democracy, but, but to push our democracy to a place
where it’s never been to a place that’s closer to one person, one vote to a place that’s closer to
full enfranchisement because we’ve never been there. Uh, but
Americans are, you know, our democracy is backsliding in, you
know, the past couple decades. I mean, our institutions have really
been under assault, uh, but in some respects that’s encouraging
because it’s gotten so bad that again, most Americans just no longer see
the facade of a functional democracy. Most Americans know that. And again, poll after poll shows that that’s
super majority of Americans. And so the question for
us then is, how do we, how do we mobilize Americans who
recognize the system is broken? How do we mobilize them and get them
to believe that reform is possible? And I think that is through
conversations like this. And again, also going back to the, what
we were talking about earlier, that also is why it’s so important that
the presidential candidates are talking about this because they have a bully
pulpit. They can show people, they can, they can inform the electorate in a way
that very few can outside of the media that change is one possible and that
we have the reforms to actually make a difference. I think the, you know, in all the conversations I’ve had
with Americans across the country, when I give public lectures,
when I speak on the radio, the thing that I consistently get, which is both really discouraging
but also profoundly encouraging as contradictory as that sounds, is that most Americans don’t know these
policies exist its discouraging because it means that we have failed to
show people that reform is possible, that we have the solutions, but it’s encouraging because it means
that if we show people that reform is possible, that we have the
tools in our tool belts to, to fix the system, that we can
mobilize those individuals. And I’ve seen this again
and again and again. It’s not apathy that is keeping
people from acting. It’s hopelessness. And so our task as Americans
who see it as crisis, who see and who see the
solutions to getting us beyond
that crisis to a place of a full and, and, and, and just democracy. Our task is then to spread the word that
reform is well within our grasp if we just articulated, if we fight
for it and if we, you know, come together and uh,
and, and pass it. Oh, that sounds very inspiring. No, that’s um, that’s also great why you guys attack it
in so many different fronts is I think that gives it, as you learn that there is this movement
out there for democracy reform to see it coming on so many different fronts
gives you hope that, um, you know, there’s, there are actual many different tangible
ways to go about achieving democracy reform. You know, that it’s not just
one issue. There’s rank choice voting, public financing of elections, getting,
you know, talking about Gerrymandering, whatever, Citizens United and so on.
Yeah. And I think just very quickly, you know, that that’s also the thing
that all, all of these aspects, I mean, all the, in all these areas, reform is happening that
for better or worse, we live in a very federalized country,
meaning that states have a lot of power. And so in states and
locales across the country, that there are areas where these reforms
have been implemented and implemented successfully. So when something
like public financing, for example, we can point in New York
City, we can point to Maine, we can point to Seattle and say, look
at how this works. Here’s the data, let’s try and expand it
forward. Or something like
automatic voter registration. It started in Oregon in 2015 uh, while it was passed in 2015 went
into effect in 2016 and, and, and now there are 16
states and Washington D.C. that have implemented automatic voter
registration. A really simple fix, uh, that has major consequences that whenever
someone interacts with an eligible governmental agency, they
are automatically registered.
Uh, you know, I mean, that’s lightning fast pace
for something like this. Uh, a real meaningful democracy reform. It starts in one state in 2015
and now we’re at 16 and DC. Uh, and there are numerous other places
that could pass it as well. So, so the more we can show that it works, I think that the easier our job is
to be the messengers that there are solutions. So if people want to support
the issue of democracy reform, what can they do? Can they get
involved in Equal Citizens, other organizations contact
their legislators or, you know, what do you recommend? Yeah,
I mean, certainly go to our, our website EqualsCitizens.US a we have
many ways to plug in, but there are, there are groups in every state. And that’s also what’s incredibly
exciting that there are, have been, there are democracy
groups in all 50 states. There are movements in all 50 states. Uh, and then if there isn’t one
in a particular issue that
you’re passionate about, start one. Uh, you know, my,
my, one of my favorite stories, and she is such a remarkable
woman, is that of Katie Fahey. Uh, she was 25 or 26. Uh, right
after the 2016 election. Uh, and she was so frustrated, she was so anxious about Thanksgiving
dinner about having to talk about politics. And she decided to post on Facebook and
said right before she went to work and she wrote who wants it to
end gerrymandering with me? And then a little smiley face. She
always makes it clear that, uh, the smiley face is very important. And when she checked Facebook
at the end of the day, um, there were dozens upon doze dozens
comments saying, I do what’s next? What do we do? And basically from that Facebook post
inspired a statewide movement that actually ended gerrymandaring in
the 2018. Um, so I mean there, there are numerous examples of everyday
Americans stepping up and creating a reform movement out of nothing because
again, the, the issue is the catalyst. We don’t need to do the convincing. The issue is just showing people that
there’s a solution and that we can fight together if we come together.
And so Katie Fahey’s, but one example of
someone who just stood up, stepped up and fought
for reform and won, um, so if there’s not something
that you’re, you’re, you know, there’s no organized effort of what
you know in an issue area that you’re passionate about, you start
your own. But again, there, there are numerous organizations, amazing organizations who are working
day in and day out to fix our democracy. Um, and I also want to just be very
clear that none of these issues are more important than, than the
other. That whether it’s
voting rights, gerrymandering, money and politics, again, the assault
on our democracy has been so broad. It has attacked every, all of our institutions that our response
has to be equally as broad based. Uh, so, so, you know, we also
can’t have infighting here. Uh, everything is important that the
right to vote doesn’t mean much if, if politicians are
influenced by big money. But then getting rid of big money doesn’t
mean much if everyone can’t vote. Uh, you know, it cuts all always here. So, uh, it’s really about finding what you’re
the most passionate about and just fighting, like hack, uh, because then that those who benefit
from the system are not going to give up that power easily. So our job is to just never take no for
an answer to just fight like heck and, uh, you know, win back our democracy
and people are doing it now. This is a very interesting time in
our country, which is great. Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you for
talking with us. Um, you know, I’ll keep in touch and I want to keep
abreast of what Equal Citizens is doing and maybe we can get an update when
we get closer to the election to, to see who that kind of final top five
or whatever candidates and how they’re talking about democracy
reform. Sounds good. I am always happy to come on back
on the show. All right. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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