Free Speech For People Democracy Honors Fellow, Jasmine Gomez is published today in Truthout with a new op-ed on democracy, the power of the people, and why the Supreme Court is not the best option for overturning Citizens United.
There is something many of us take for granted: democracy was not a right most people in the United States were given. Initially, only white, property-owning males could vote or run for election, leaving the nation to be run by, and for, the few. Throughout history, people in the United States have worked together to fight for a true democracy — the participation and representation of all people in the political system. While our nation’s vision of democracy has expanded dramatically, our work to ensure everyone has equal access to democracy is not done. Citizens United and similar court cases allow people, corporations, and unions to donate unlimited amounts of money in politics. These cases have limited our ability to provide equal representation and have given an elite wealthy few more say in our political systems than ordinary Americans. This prevents anyone not wealthy enough to compete in money-based politics from having full access to democracy in the United States.
Our history is filled with people who have understood the struggles of living without equal access to democracy in the United States. It was often those people who fought hardest to expand democracy for everyone. Frederick Douglass pushed to end slavery in America. Since Douglass himself was a slave, he understood the importance of his voice and saw how slavery limited that voice. Alice Paul and Mary McLeod Bethune were both women who lived in a time where neither had political power. They both fought hard for women’s rights, including the right to vote, because they understood that in order to have policies that took women into consideration, women needed political power. As a black man who lived in the deep south during segregation, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood the need to enact the Voting Rights Act to ensure states did not engage in discriminatory practices to prevent people of color from voting. It was people who understood disenfranchisement, not the Court, that pushed for amendments that made federal poll taxes illegal, established the direct election of United States senators by popular vote, lowered the voting age to eighteen years, and gave DC electors in the electoral college.
Today, many people feel as though the wealthy few have more power in our democracy than ordinary citizens. Polls show that people understand we no longer have a system that works for everyone. Rather than stay silent and wait for the Supreme Court to change its mind, people are fighting back for political equality – the idea that everyone has an equal say in all levels of the political system.
To read Jasmine’s latest post, click here.