Grassroots Campaign: Restoring Democracy

Grassroots campaign - Creations, Ltd.

Everyone tends to scoff at the idea of a grassroots campaign, at least at the federal level. After all, ‘corporations are people’. Money is speech. Unlimited money can be poured into elections. Huge financial entities have the same rights as individuals. Many big donations can be anonymous. Sounds like Orwellian ‘double speak’ doesn’t it? But these things are the law of the land in our democracy/republic. And not everyone is happy about it. Corporation are. Rich folks with a political axe to grind are.

We the people, of limited means, are not exactly delighted as we find our democracy turning into a corporatocracy, worse, a kakistocracy. We find our puny personal budgets unable to contribute enough to political campaigns to ever exert any kind of individual pressure on policy. We find ourselves losing ground in the policy wars. Tax cuts favor the wealthy. We see that people with money are avid to cut programs that benefit less fortunate Americans. People who need food stamps must prove they are working. Medicaid is always on the chopping block. Trump’s new budget suggest cuts to SSDI. Small wonder people are becoming tribal. There is power in numbers.

The mentality that has been trending for quite a while is that the safety net is being used by a bunch of deadbeats. Since the courts keep assisting these people in getting benefits so that the government cannot find the takers, indiscriminate cuts will please those Americans who insist they are being ripped off. The problem is that cuts to SSDI will probably end up hurting honest disabled folks who need help most.

Bending over backwards to protect the rights of giant corporations has given us a government that panders to giant corporations. As long as the Citizens United decision allows rich folks to dominate our democracy, we the people find that federal money is not making its way into our communities. Our corporations no longer act as benefactors. Although infrastructure is a recurring topic, nothing is happening to improve the aging infrastructure in our towns, villages, cities. Working parents find their wages stagnant, and they get no help with child care. Our medical system is still too random and does not help everyone. Medical bills are sending far too many families into bankruptcy. Many seniors cannot afford all the care they actually need. Corporate money has influenced state governments to bust unions that used to fight for citizen’s rights.

It often seems that corporations, who have abandoned America in droves, have more rights than citizens do. They have aggregate rights equivalent to their dollar value and their political contributions and their lobbying. How can we the people compete?

This is why I see great value in the current push by Democrats to fund candidates for 2020 with grassroots money. Overturning a court decision can be very difficult. It could take many years to reform the whole ‘corporations are people’ routine which brought us to Citizens United, a very bad ruling for we the people. Ignoring the ruling, blithely going about the business of a major election without big money donations would not be at all illegal and could take all the air out of a common complaint that ‘there is too much money in politics’.

Using grassroots funding is a brave thing to do, an act that is revolutionary in spirit but does not break any laws. If every Democrat agrees to run on a level playing field it could work. Joe Biden is clearly not willing to stake his presidential run on small money donations. He is asking for big money donations. If even one Democrat goes against the grassroots campaign model will that make the whole issue moot? Does it give Joe Biden an edge in the race or will it work against him? Are the Democrats who are running grassroots races being too unrealistic to compete against Republicans who have no compunctions about tapping big donors and who don’t mind promising favors in return. Didn’t we always find quid pro quopretty shady? There seems to be a lot of shade around lately.

We do live in interesting times and I find myself admiring the steel of the new Democrats who are taking the party out of the corporate sphere and back into the domain of the American people. It will be interesting to see if showing some ethical backbone will be a winning stance for the Democrats to take and if it will begin to restore some perspective in a society that has come to believe that money is all and that a good economy is enough to give us the democratic society our forefathers dreamed up. Hint: it’s not.

Dana Balter versus Citizens United

Dana v Katko

It turns out that I was wrong about Dana Balter when I called out to find a billionaire Democrat to assist in financing her campaign.

Dana Balter does not want to be beholden to any special interests. She wants to be beholden to we the people. She is a principled candidate and would like a grassroots funded campaign.

Democrats, for the most part, feel that the Supremes made a bad call when they decided on behalf of Citizen’s United over the Federal Election Commission. The original beef was about whether a film slanted against Hillary Clinton could be aired during a Presidential campaign and yet the way the case was framed it ended up as a decision that granted “personhood” to corporations. The court decided that this was a first amendment case and in their decision they extended first amendment rights to nonprofits, corporations, and unions.

“In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, however, the majority argued that the First Amendment purposefully keeps the government from interfering in the “marketplace of ideas” and “rationing” speech, and it is not up to the legislatures or the courts to create a sense of “fairness” by restricting speech.” Wikipedia

By extension “money is speech” is a concept that resulted from this court decision in 2010. Since then feelings about this equivalency have polarized American politics. Many, mostly Democrats, were aghast at a law that equated votes and money, giving public organizations essentially more than one vote, because of the ways powerful groups with access to beaucoup dollars could influence public opinion through spending. The main objection is that this removes elections even further from the sphere of we the people. It makes our Democracy even less representative than it already is (because of the Electoral College and things like Superdelegates). But Conservatives, currently beloved by a number of billionaires and courted by corporations because of their stand on issues like fossil fuels and environmentalism, rejoiced when the court’s ruling went “their” way. Since then the money we see in local elections has risen precipitously.

Can David win once again over Goliath? Can Dana Balter use small donations to triumph against John Katko who shows no compunctions about accepting and using dollars from big donors and Conservative PACs? We already know that Katko has a campaign war chest in the low 7 figures and Dana’s is in the low 6 figures. Dana not only has the money obstacle to climb over; she has the matter of incumbency to deal with. To beat an incumbent takes even more momentum and support than to compete against another “newbie”.


But we could use some politicians with principles in Washington, we could use some new energy and we could use someone who sees their loyalty as belonging to we the people rather than the party that places her on the ballot. If you want to watch a fighter with a very laid-back style and fine intellectual skills take on someone like Rep. Jim Jordan vote for vote with civility then you need to support Dana Balter, and not just with your words. You need to prove that politicians can indeed win without contributions from special interests with their quid pro quo strings attached. You need to send Dana’s campaign some of your hard-earned dollars. You need to vote for her in November. She, in turn, will truly represent the needs and rights of all of her constituents and of the towns, cities, and villages of New York District 24.