I spent last Thursday with the wonderful people from Stamp Stampede. They were kind enough to reach out to NY Rootstrikers and several other local groups who share the common goal of getting money out of politics. We spent the day at Union Square Park stamping dollar bills with catchy phrases like, “Not to be used for bribing politicians”. Participants were rewarded with free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Did I mention that Ben Cohen was there in person to hand out his iconic frozen treat? What a fun and effective way to increase awareness.
So, what did I learn by engaging with people from other groups? We may have different approaches and preferred solutions for combating government corruption but we share a common obstacle, which is a lack of awareness. More pointedly, we lack a national dialogue. The media continues to cover reactions to Citizens United but this focus has blurred the edges of the problem at large. The national conversation must be steered towards the greater injustice of a political system that relies upon and affords great influence to a tiny fraction of its citizens.
In July of this year, a Gallup poll found that 87% of Americans feel it’s “Extremely or Very important” to “Reduce corruption in the federal government”. Personally, I doubt the 87% realize they enjoy such a healthy majority. In this country, many people equate a lack of coverage to a lack of public interest. In a world where content drives ratings and ratings drive dollars, why aren’t we hearing more about this?
When the media uncovers a politician’s personal scandal, it’s splashed all over the 24-hour news cycle. When a politician accepts more than public funds and small campaign donations, we need to experience this same sense of outrage. What could be a greater threat to America than the undermining of democracy? It appears that most of us are complaining privately. Why aren’t more complaining publicly?
We’re more likely to speak when we can presume we’ll be listened to. I spent my day approaching people about our campaign and I was encouraged by how many truly wanted to talk about this issue. Some people were more excited to have their money stamped than get free ice cream. So, beyond giving people facts and statistics and history lessons (all of which, I happen to love) we need to spread the awareness that people will be heard. I think that, as financial corruption activists, the best thing we can do is listen and engage. This is how we’ll gain support for whatever solution we’re championing.
Some of us are hesitant to actively devote ourselves to this fight. I don’t think anyone likes the idea of trying only to find that change isn’t possible. But I would argue that, not only is change possible, change is inevitable. The system will improve or worsen. If nothing else, Citizens United has proved that much. Stasis is not really an option. Can that change be in our favor? If we don’t stake our claim to this republic, we’ll never know.
***You can meet Rebecca and NY Rootstrikers as they Remix the Election on November 6th. For more information, click here.