CHALLENGE: Declining Democracy
The Coalition for Open Democracy was established in response to one unavoidable fact: American government no longer works for the American people. Citizens of all stripes agree that Washington is now incapable of addressing our nation’s most important problems because special interest money has infected the political process. On climate change, healthcare, education, taxes, poverty, the deficit and more, ordinary people are paying the price for systemic corruption and declining democracy in Washington.
Corruption is written into the way we fund campaigns. Four years after Citizens United granted corporations and unions the right to spend unlimited money in elections, private interests on both the Left and Right have invested billions of dollars to shape the national debate and determine who gets elected to public office. Public officials, in turn, must focus their attention on the task of raising money–and the needs of the wealthy few who fund campaigns–rather than completing the job for which they were elected. Meanwhile, the majority of American citizens are effectively excluded from politics because they cannot afford to fund campaigns or seek elected office, and tens of millions more working poor people face outright disenfranchisement at the polls.
Although New Hampshire enjoys a vibrant political tradition, the state has seen a widening gap in political voice and economic opportunity in recent years. Fewer than half of low-income citizens are registered to vote while thousands more impoverished residents are legally excluded from politics and just two percent of wealthy individuals and special interests fund state campaigns. Left unchecked, the growing influence and opportunity gap will leave large numbers of Granite Staters behind on the issues that matter most to their daily lives.
While 96 percent of Americans agree that the influence of money in politics is a serious concern, fully 91 percent have little hope that the problem will ever be addressed. Our job is to restore their hope and harness their energy to help build a national movement for reform in 2016, beginning in New Hampshire.
RESPONSE: A New Hampshire Rebellion
Reform of money in politics will never come from inside Washington: the states must lead the way. New Hampshire, with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary, independent and engaged electorate, and bipartisan history of supporting comprehensive reform, has a unique opportunity to shape the national debate and grow the democracy movement in 2016.
Utilizing the presidential primary as a launching pad, Open Democracy’s NH Rebellion campaign will stage mass-participation walks, candidate bird-dogging, and grassroots mobilization to make money in politics a leading bipartisan issue in 2016. Inspired by the “rebellion” clause in the state constitution, NHR citizen activists will challenge the presidential candidates to declare independence from special interests and commit to ending the system of corruption in Washington. To sustain the NH Rebellion, we are building a grassroots movement of “50,000 Missing Voices” to “walk the walk” for reform by exercising their democratic rights and responsibilities.