Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., March 31, April 1 or 2
The report – written with support from the Communications Workers of America and Every Voice Center, which advocates to reduce the influence of money in government – examines how everyday Americans’ voices are being silenced in three pillars of our democracy:
* Mounting attacks on unions and workers by state governments and Congress. The collective voice of working Americans, unions help level the field when workers negotiate with employers; reduce economic inequality; raise wages; and ensure adequate health care, paid sick leave, and retirement security. Recently, however, state legislatures have passed laws compromising workers’ ability to organize and bargain, and Congress has been hostile to pro-worker legislation and has made federal enforcement of labor laws difficult.
* Restricting voting rights. Between 2008 and 2015, 22 states have imposed voter-ID laws that disproportionately affect working Americans, communities of color, seniors and young people, cutting back on early voting, election-day registration, and reforms that increase turnout.
* Gutting campaign finance laws. In the past four decades, campaign finance laws have come under fire at state and federal levels, especially in the Supreme Court. Opponents of campaign finance regulation have dismantled meaningful contribution limits, eliminated many restrictions on moneyed, special-interest campaign spending, reduced disclosure of sources, and weakened enforcement of remaining laws.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for Americans to have their voices heard as attacks on our democracy have continued to erode their ability to participate fully and freely in the democratic process,” said Tova Wang of the CWA’s Democracy Programs. “Attacks on voting rights, campaign finance laws, and unions are taking place at every level of power – state legislatures, Congress, federal agencies and the Supreme Court – to shift power away from average Americans. Using this [report, people] will be able to understand what is at stake and fight back to build a democracy that is of, by, and for the people.”
Such attacks on American values are the result of an organized effort to shift political power away from everyday citizens to a small, wealthy elite, the report shows. This elite group is using vast resources to influence policy makers, the media, and the public to protect its position. The report lays out how this cabal has taken aim at the foundations of our democratic tradition, undermining principles of equal representation and civic participation that sustain the nation.
“People often look at the set of issues and think of it as the Right versus the Left; Republicans versus Democrats; management versus employees,” Every Voice Center president Nick Nyhart told Salon reporter Elias Isquith. “But it’s really an attack on people’s ability to have their voice heard within our society and in impacting public policies. It’s not simply a partisan game. It is our democracy that’s being challenged here.”
Elsewhere, Mike Lofgren’s new book “The Deep State” describes the challenge as a thread “linking linking the ‘ideological syndrome’ of McMansions; DC's culture of careerist strivers; the financial-ization, deindustrialization and ultimate mutation of the U.S. economy into ‘a casino with a tilted wheel’; the burgeoning of government secrecy even as individual privacy has been demolished; the consistency and persistence of unpopular policies regardless of which party wins elections; militarized foreign policy, ‘defense’ and ‘security’ establishments that thrive on failure and enjoy essentially unlimited funding whatever nostrums about the national debt and the necessity for austerity are being peddled; the prevalence of incompetence and ineptitude in government response to crises; unequal justice, including impunity for the wealthy and corporations, a corrupt Supreme Court and a strikingly punitive criminal legal system for ordinary people; legislative gridlock; perpetual war; political extremism and other ruinous epiphenomena.”
However, a pro-democracy movement is pushing back, said DIEF’s Sean Trambley.
“Polls show the majority of Americans favor stronger campaign finance laws and restoring the Voting Rights Act,” Trambley said. “Most also oppose weakening peoples’ voices in the workplace. Across the country, citizens have fought to block restrictive labor and voting bills, to expand access to the ballot box, and to pass laws making small campaign donations more important than big money.”
The report concludes by outlining policies and examples of how to place power back in the hands of the American people – which is where it belongs in a democracy.
[PICTURED: Graphic from cwanextgen.org.]