Darrell Berkheimer: Dare we be optimistic on political reform?
I almost can’t believe it, but I’m experiencing a budding of optimism for our good old U.S. of A. after what I learned this past weekend.
It was after I attended a League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County event last Saturday that emphasized how big money contributors are distorting our democracy. Three speakers were there to report on different activities aimed at changing our governmental system — currently rigged in favor of the wealthy.
At first my cynicism was evident as I noted fewer than 50 people were attending the program at Peace Lutheran Church. The group appeared to be 90 percent retired, and 90 percent women.
So I wondered: Where are the younger ones who stand to gain the most from the needed congressional reforms? Although I provided for their excuse — by realizing they are more engaged with family and peer events on a Saturday — I also know we will see little change until our younger adults become more incensed with the current system.
The three speakers included Lee Lawrence, representing California League of Women Voters, and Charly Price of Nevada City, who talked about the Move to Amend organization aimed at overturning the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
But it was the middle speaker, Jerry Silverman of Auburn, who drew more attention — with videos that emphasize “Corruption Is Legal in America,” which is the title of one of the videos. Silverman was representing the Auburn group of Represent.Us.org, a growing national organization that’s pushing for adoption of the American Anti-Corruption Act by local communities, the states and, ultimately, Congress.
I had heard about the push for adoption of an anti-corruption act, but I knew nothing about the details and specifics. And the videos presented by Silverman — although extremely well done — presented too much, too quickly for my old ears and brain to record all of it. I wanted to see them again.
The next day I got on the Represent.Us website by doing a search on the gmail address provided by Silverman — email@example.com. There I could watch two of the videos again, as often as I wanted, by clicking on the “End corruption” listing, and scrolling down to the videos.
The second of the two is titled “Here’s a Plan to Fix It.” That video tells how to do end-runs around Congress by getting local cities, counties and states to either enact the Anti-Corruption Act, or to adopt resolutions endorsing its passage by the state legislatures; and then, finally, force Congress to enact it.
The video and information provided by Silverman cites the three-pronged approach of the Anti-Corruption Act — to stop political bribery, end secret money and fix our broken elections system.
On the bribery issue, the act would make it illegal for politicians to accept money from lobbyists, ban lobbyists’ bundling of contributions to political campaigns, and prohibit “elected representatives and senior staff from selling off their government power for high-paying lobbying jobs while in office, and … for several years” after leaving those jobs.
On ending secret money, the act would require immediate online disclosure of political money, “stop donors from hiding behind secret-money groups,” and “enforce the Supreme Court’s mandate that super PACs must be independent from candidates.”
To fix our broken elections, the act would end gerrymandering by requiring independent redistricting commissions, establish public financing of elections, let all voters participate in open primaries, and provide for voters to rank their top candidates.
All of that sounds quite good to me; but I remained a bit pessimistic as I returned to the “About Represent.Us” listing. I scrolled down to see the members of the organization’s board. Then I saw the long list of those serving on the Advisory Council and, below, an even more extensive list of folks on the Creative Council.
Those lists were beginning to catch my attention on the possibility of this organization actually accomplishing something.
But the real budding of my optimism occurred when I saw photos of the many young millennials serving on the “Our Team” list. It’s a group of well-educated and talented individuals who are adding their efforts to the Represent.Us Anti-Corruption Act. They are the up-and-coming movers and shakers.
But Represent.Us must continue to attract millennials. And if busy family folks can’t come to the program, then the videos must be taken to them wherever they meet.
Represent.Us also needs to attract the soaring numbers of women activists, and soon-to-be-voting youths such as those coalescing behind the anti-guns movement.
If they do that, then there is reason for my budding optimism to bloom.
I hope this column encourages readers to watch the short videos, both of which are a little less than six minutes, and then click on the About Represent.Us to see the same lists of those involved in the organization.
Oh, and I nearly neglected a key factor: The lists show it’s a nonpartisan movement attracting Republicans, Democrats, Independents — conservatives and liberals alike.
Perhaps this is the movement that can bring about proper representation to all our voters, and not just the wealthy 10 percent.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of five books, available through Amazon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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