The Bernie Sanders campaign recently released their platform to “Get Big Money Out of Politics and Restore Democracy”. To us at Democracy Matters, his language and framing of the issue is refreshingly familiar.
Our candidate pledge, which Senator Sanders signed in October of 2014 (and was joined by Martin O’Malley in August of 2015) states “I support restoring democracy and getting big money out of politics”. Democracy Matters college chapters nationwide (over 60 nationally with a strong concentration in Iowa and New Hampshire) have been organizing on their campuses, already collecting thousands of pledge signatures. Democracy Matters students are determined to make restoring democracy a voting issue in the critical early states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Sanders’ plan seeks to restore a democracy that is accessible to all Americans, not merely the donor class. Democracy, which has historically been at the heart of the American identity, has been threatened to the core by a political system which no longer responds to the needs of the American people. Sanders’ plan calls for publicly financed elections, restoring the Voting Rights Act, automatic voter registration and making election day a national holiday. All of these initiatives have been long time priorities for the non-partisan Democracy Matters.
In response to the Sanders plan, Director of Political Engagement Max Stahl stated “We applaud Senator Sanders for not only signing our “Restore Democracy” pledge early, but for making restoring democracy a core part of his campaign for President. Senator Sanders correctly understands that this is a necessary step to make America work for everyone, not just the big political funders. Meanwhile Secretary Hillary Clinton has refused to sign Democracy Matters’ pledge to restore democracy despite numerous contacts between the campaign and Democracy Matters. We however remain hopeful that Clinton will sign the pledge and make this issue a central one of her campaign. Democracy Matters students and young people everywhere are watching closely.”
A highly cited 2014 study conducted by Professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page (of Princeton and Northwestern, respectively) concluded that “ In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
Executive Director Joan Mandle concluded by saying “The well-researched Gilens and Page report makes it clear that America has drifted away from being the democracy we were all taught about in elementary school. This is a non-partisan issue and we call on all Presidential candidates to join Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley by signing the Democracy Matters ‘Restore Democracy’ pledge.”