My Turn: Voters must rise up and demand change

Last modified: 1/10/2015 1:27:05 AM
Our political system is in crisis. Much like the gilded age of the late 19th century, our leaders seem more responsive to the agendas pursued by modern day robber barons than the voices of the average citizen.

Five years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. the FEC opened up the political money floodgates, our elections are increasingly financed by a new breed of a small number of oligarchs. Our nation was founded as a republic, a representative democracy whose defining characteristic is that “supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives.” Our modern day reality is far removed from the intent of our founders and indeed much of the experience of our political history.

The era of “MoneyPolitics” has taken hold, and like the trusts of old, this corrosive system needs to be busted.

While some await the arrival of a present-day Teddy Roosevelt to provide the needed leadership to remove us from this morass, it has become increasingly clear that a true citizen-driven movement that demands action from our political leaders is the more effective path to restoring the political health of our republic. Political leaders need to know that they will be held accountable for their actions by the voters.

This month, hundreds of citizens from both here in the Granite State and from across the nation will converge on Concord to draw attention to a central truth facing our democracy – the erosion of public confidence that our political system works for the general benefit of the nation.

Instead, many of our political leaders are in the thrall of the narrow agendas of wealthy special interests and wealthy donors. The undue influence of money in our political system is in large part to blame for the overt disconnection that voters routinely express with our political system, as policy priorities and political influence are determined by campaign contributions, not sound evidence based judgment or even common sense.

Sadly, it has become the norm that we have a United States Congress that is dependent upon the funders, not the voters. As a result, policy prescriptions on critical issues like fiscal reform and climate change that command the strong support of voters are stymied by narrow ideological battles fueled by mega-donors.

Amid this darkness, there is a growing appetite for change – public opinion polling consistently shows that voters support fundamental reforms such as disclosure of political spending and small donor public funding of elections by large bipartisan margins. Even so, this strong support for change is accompanied by a cynicism that much can actually be accomplished in this time of political gridlock.

The New Hampshire Rebellion against big money in politics provides some light and some hope. Starting tomorrow, walkers will begin their journey to Concord from four locations – Dixville Notch, Portsmouth, Keene and Nashua – all arriving at the State House on Jan. 21 to raise their voices in support of fundamental change in the way that elections are financed.

Why a rebellion against “MoneyPolitics” here in the Granite State? Inspiration comes from a true New Hampshire icon, Doris “Granny D” Haddock, who at the age of 90 trekked across the nation in support of campaign finance reform. The 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary campaign will soon be in full swing, attracting candidates for national office and the attendant national media attention they bring.

We are proud of our political traditions, and New Hampshire voters are known for asking the tough questions, demanding substance over style. While we welcome the attention of those who would be our national leaders, we have a responsibility to demand action from them for fundamental changes in politics as usual. The walks that commence tomorrow mark the beginning of a sustained effort to keep the national political conversation centered on truly important priorities, such as the health of our democracy.

It is time to make some noise and raise our voices together by joining your fellow citizens in marching with the New Hampshire Rebellion. To learn more and to sign up to walk, visit nhrebellion.org.

We’ll see you on the trail!



(Rob Werner serves on the board of directors of Open Democracy, the parent organization of the New Hampshire Rebellion. He is also a Concord city councilor.)




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