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Mourn Granny D.; Then Organize for Clean Politics

John Nichols

 by The Nation

Doris "Granny D" Haddock, whose 3,200-mile walk across the United States at the age of 90 drew thousands of activists into the movement for political reform, has died Tuesday evening at the age of 100.

The Dublin, New Hampshire, grandmother's death came ten years and ten days after she finished the remarkable two-year walk, which she undertook to promote the passage of campaign finance reform legislation (in particular the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform law).

On March 1, 2000, when she finished that walk in Washington, Granny D. told a crowd of more than 2,000 cheering supporters -- including a dozen members of Congress -- who had gathered on the Capitol steps:

This morning we began our walk among the graves of Arlington -so that those spirits, some of whom may be old friends, might join us today and that we might ask of them now, Did you, brave spirits, give your lives for a government where we might stand together as free and equal citizens, or did you give your lives so that laws might be sold to the highest bidder, turning this temple of our Fair Republic into a bawdy house where anything and everything is done for a price? We hear your answers in the wind."

Former President Jimmy Carter hailed Granny D. as "a true patriot" and declared that "our nation has been blessed by her remarkable life."

Haddock's walk made her a national celebrity, who was hailed by presidents and senators. Yet, she did not rest on the laurels. Rather, Granny D. ramped up her activism, spending her 90s as one of the most outspoken critics of the war in Iraq and a passionate advocate for holding former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney to account for the lies that sprawned the invasion and occupation.

Granny D. even ran for the U.S. Senate, earning the Democratic nomination as an anti-war challenger to U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire.

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who mounted an anti-war presidential campaign in 2004 and appeared frequently with Haddock said Wednesday: "Granny D was a great American. She had a powerful vision for an America in which every citizen has a voice in a government free of corporate control. She will be missed, but her powerful spirit will live on."

I have covered Granny D. since she started her walk. We have appeared together at forums, rallies and events across the country. The annual Fighting Bob Fest chautauqua in Baraboo, Wisconsin, which Ed Garvey and I have have a hand in organizing since 2002, frequently featured Granny D. as a mainstage speaker. Even as she approached the century mark, she could bring a crowd of 10,000 to its feet with oratory that was part William Jennings Bryan, part nurturing grandmother, part scolding schoolmarm -- and all good.

Here's a great New Hampshire Public Radio interview with Granny D. regarding her cross-country walk on behalf of campaign finance reform.

Here's a piece I wrote Granny D's her Senate bid, which was principled and delightfully run even if it came up short on election day.

Here's a link to the documentary Run Granny Run" by Mario Poras.

Here's how to find her book, You're Never Too Old to Raise a Little Hell (Villard), with a forward by Bill Moyers, who told reformers "the tracks to follow are those of Doris Haddock, Granny D."

Here is her response to the Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down limits on corporate abuses of the electoral process:

Doris "Granny D" Haddock was honored at a birthday party in the New Hampshire Governor's office this afternoon. An amazing turnout. Here is what Doris had to say:

Thank you. That you would take time from your busy life to be here is a great gift to me, and I thank you for it.

People have been asking me how I feel about the recent decision by the Supreme Court to strike down some of the campaign finance reforms that I walked for and have been working on for a dozen or so years.

When I was a young woman, my husband and I were having dinner at the Dundee home of a friend, Max Foster, when a young couple rushed through the door breathless to say that they had accidentally burned down Max's guest cabin, down by the river.

Max stood up from his meal. He set his napkin down. He smiled at the young couple and he said,

"Thank goodness. You have done me a great favor, and you don't even know it. We have been wanting to completely redo that old place, and now it will be a clean start. It will be better than ever the next time you come to stay."

Well, I guess the Supreme Court has burned down our little house, but, truth be told, it was pretty drafty anyway. We had not really solved the problem of too much money in politics. Not hardly. And now we have an opportunity to start clean and build a system of reforms that really will do the trick.

I think one of the wings of our new house will be the public financing of election campaigns. I think another wing will be a dramatic expansion of our conflict of interest and bribery laws. I think all of us, left, right and middle, will enjoy living there without the special interests stealing us blind any more. I intend to be around long enough to see this new place built.

As it happens, there is still some rebuilding to do.

But as we build that system of reforms that will really do the trick, we will do so with the faith that Granny D. is cheering us on -- every step of the way.

© 2017 The Nation

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