Reprinted from Hightower Lowdown
The jig is up, and my time has come. I'm about to be arrested. They'll be hauling me away in mid-April.
Not for doing anything wrong, really. In fact, if the authorities arrest me, it will be for standing up for what's right. Or, more accurately, I'll be sitting down for what's right -- by participating in a peaceful sit-in at the US Capitol. I don't yet know the details of the process, but I am certain why I'm doing it: to help reclaim our People's democratic rights from the moneyed elites who have bought our elections and deeply corrupted our government in order to impose a corporate plutocracy over you and me.
I'm also certain I will not be alone in the paddy wagon. That's because thousands of mad-as-hellers will be converging on Washington to launch a nationwide mass mobilization of people power to halt Big Money's control of our political system. As I write this, more than 2,000 of us have already pledged to engage in the time honored tactic of peaceful civil disobedience by "sitting-in" for democracy.
But you don't have to go so far as to risk arrest to join this democratic moment, for the April mobilization will offer a wide variety of ways to protest the plutocrats without leaving your comfort zone. It begins April 2 with a patriotic rally at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Then for you hardier ones, there's a 10-day, 140-mile democracy trek from Philly to Capitol Hill. On Saturday, April 16, there will be teach-ins, workshops, and non-violent direct action trainings, and on the 17th a big, colorful protest march, followed by a "Rally for Democracy" on the Capitol lawn. The 18th will be a "Congress of Conscience," a day of direct action and advocacy during which we commoners can demand, in person, that our Congress critters expand voting rights and end their corporate money addiction.
Throughout this People-A-Palooza, there will be an energizing balance of seriousness and fun: how-to workshops, tub-thumping speeches, cultural exchanges, pop-up musical performances, art exhibits and shows, and other activities. And it won't even end in April. The convening groups and the rank-and-file people energized by the mobilization will be taking the demand for action back to the grassroots and directly into the myriad 2016 campaigns for public office. Two large coalitions, Democracy Awakening and Democracy Spring, each distinct but mutually supportive, are coordinating this pro-democracy rebellion.Democracy Awakening
What if America had an election and governing system in which every voice is heard and every vote counts equally -- a democracy that works for all of us? We can! If we build it. That's the message and motivation behind this potentially game-changing coalition of more than 100 issue-based, progressive organizations, including:
- Labor champions such as Amalgamated Transit Union, American Postal Workers Union, Communications Workers of America, and National Nurses United.
- Socially responsible businesses such as Ben & Jerry's and Main Street Alliance.
- Enviro stalwarts such as Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network, and Sierra Club.
- Public interest advocates such as Campaign for America's Future, Common Cause, Demos, Every Voice, Institute for Policy Studies, MoveOn.org, People For the American Way, Project Vote, Public Citizen, and U.S.PIRG.
- Media groups such as Brave New Films, Center for Media and Democracy, Daily Kos, ReThink Media -- and The Hightower Lowdown.
- Issue-specific constituencies such as the American Association of University Women, CodePink, DC for Democracy, Jobs With Justice, National Council of Jewish Women, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Organization for Women, NAACP, and Student Debt Crisis.
Most of these are large, Washington-based groups that have been rather territorial in the past, too often focusing on only their own issues, needs, and budgets. That has changed. Today, there is a shared recognition that progress on every one of our issues is hopelessly walled in by corporate bribery funds, K-Street lobbyists, crony capitalism, avaricious laissez-faire ideology, and nefarious voter suppression. From climate change to the Walmartization of our economy to racial justice, it is understood that none of us can advance until all of us team up to tear down that wall.
Based on intense and inclusive social media organizing and a very diverse network of community activists and "roots" groups, this vibrant coalition is leading the Liberty-Bell-to-Capitol-Hill march (April 2-11) and coordinating mass actions and sit-ins at the Capitol (April 11-16). The "Spring" (referring both to nature's season of rebirth and the physical act of leaping forward from a constrained position) will also enlist those who can't be in Philadelphia/DC. There will be call-in days, webcasts, Twitter storms, online petitions, local solidarity demonstrations in front of the district offices of lawmakers, and a basket full of other fun/ effective ways that lively imaginations will conjure up to amplify the message that our democracy is broken and that "we" (i.e., The People) now intend to fix it.
Five strong groups -- 99Rise, Avaaz, Democracy Matters, Energy Action Coalition, and the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union -- form the steering committee. More than 100 organizations, including the Lowdown, have endorsed the effort and are involved in a dozen or so working groups that are divvying up the numerous chores that must be done to create a successful mobilization. And hundreds of local volunteer leaders are connected to more than 50 "regional organizing hubs" set-up throughout the country to coordinate community outreach and serve as the organizing and mobilizing engines to generate mass participation for the more than two weeks of Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening events.
Among those who've pledged to put their butts on the line are Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, anticorruption Congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout, law professor Larry Lessig, food activist and author Frances Moore Lappe, Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center, core Occupy Wall Street organizer Winnie Wong, actors Gaby Hoffman and Mark Ruffalo, community activist Paulina Gonzales, and The Yes Men -- plus your spunky Lowdown contingent of "cat wrangler" Jay Harris, "internet emissary" Deanna Zandt, and me.
As Kai Newkirk, director of 99Rise and sparkplug of this spring protest puts it, we'll be "Standing up for democracy by sitting in." In other words, this is a huge and complex undertaking, but there is a serious buy-in and commitment of resources and staff from an impressive array of grassroots doers. The importance of the effort is underscored by the willingness of so many to risk arrest in what is expected to be the largest, non-violent, civil-disobedience action in a generation. The plan is to have peaceful sit-ins every day, April 11-16, under the dome of our Capitol--"the People's house."Why now?
The time has come. Six years after the Supreme Court's malignant Citizens United ruling, nearly every American plainly sees how our nation's historic, political ethic of citizen equality -- "one person one vote" -- has been buried in a roaring avalanche of corrupt, corporate money and voter suppression. Moreover, nearly nine years after Wall Street thieves wrecked our economy, the great majority also plainly sees that the court's turbo-charge of money politics has produced economic policies that richly reward the plutocratic robbers and coldly abandon the robbed.
The Republicans' threat to ignore their constitutional duty and block the president from appointing a successor to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ups the urgency and the ante. There's no need to convince the American people that they've been stiffed. As they reveal in poll after poll, they know it, for they're experiencing it personally, and they're furious at the business-as-usual/politics-as-usual establishment that has done it to them. A major, non-partisan survey taken last September by Public Policy Polling found:
- 80% of Republicans and 82% of Democrats "strongly agree" that special interest money has too much influence in political campaigns. Only 4% in either party disagreed.
- 85% of GOP primary voters and 86% of Dems agree that elections would be less corrupt if candidates focused on small donations from ordinary people, rather than on big money from special interests.
- 62% of Repubs and 72% of Dems agree that America needs public funding of elections. Similarly, a New York Times/CBS poll last summer found that across the entire political spectrum.
- 85% of Americans think that officeholders "promote policies that directly help" the special interests that funded their campaigns;
- 85% say that the present system of financing political campaigns must either be "fundamentally" changed (39%) or "completely rebuilt" (46%).
- 77% say the unlimited amount of money that wealthy interests can now give to candidates should be ... well, limited.
This powerful anti-Big Money sentiment is also part of what has fueled establishment-stunning Bernie and Donnie presidential runs, and it's why we democracy rebels should shift now from complaining about the plutocratic corruption of our country to stopping it. The people are ready, and this hyper-political year is the time to move, for (1) the presidential and congressional elections will focus public attention on the political system for months to come, and (2) corporate and political cash will be on full display (from the Koch Brothers' Billionaire Money Bash to the garish corporate sponsorship of both parties' national conventions).