These Shoes Were Made For Walking

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These Shoes Were Made For Walking

Marchers yesterday began their walk from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. (Photo: Democracy Spring)

What ever happened to the days in which Congress members listened to their constituents? Or when the people, not corporations, decided our elections?

These are the questions Americans are asking themselves. People on both sides of the political divide realize that what happens in Washington does not reflect their beliefs and desires.

And, many no longer feel compelled to contact their political representatives to voice their opinions — because what’s the point? Will their staff actually let them know you called? And, even if they do, will it matter when multinational corporations are on the opposite side?

People feel powerless. And they are.

So should we just give up? Should we throw in the towel and stop trying?

Faced with a similar situation seventeen years ago, a New Hampshire woman gave a compelling answer to these questions: absolutely not.

In 1999, corporate spending plagued US politics and no one was talking about it. Then-eighty-eight year old “Granny D” took it upon herself to start a conversation about this and the role of money in politics more generally. For this she needed to do something to grab the media and the public’s attention.

So she decided to walk across the United States.

Yes, that’s right. An eighty-eight year old woman walked over 3,200 miles to draw attention to money in politics.

And when she arrived in DC fourteen months later, 2000 people and dozens of Congress members marched alongside her in solidarity.

Moreover, less than two years afterwards, the McCain-Feingold Act, the most significant campaign finance reform package in a generation, passed both houses of Congress and was signed by President George Bush.

Granny D did not singlehandedly push Congress to act, but her march served as a wake up call to many. On her journey, she talked with countless Americans, explaining why money influences our elections and politicians. When she was finished, thousands of people became aware that money in politics — long thought to be an irrelevant insider issue — deserved their attention.

As she said in 2000, “Sometimes, I think it was a fool’s errand, but I think there are more people in this country who know what campaign finance reform means since I started.”

One person sparked a small movement of passionate citizens demanding reform. Only one.

Unfortunately, things have taken a turn for the worse since Granny D finished her walk.

In the last decade, campaign spending has increased drastically, leading to what is likely to be a five billion dollar presidential election cycle in 2016. Corporations are now able to spend unlimited amounts (thanks, Citizens United). And, voting rights have systematically been infringed, through voter ID laws and the closing of polling locations.

Nevertheless, in the face of this depressing reality, a group of people has decided to rekindle the legacy of Granny D, hoping to ignite a new movement to save our democracy once and for all.

Yesterday morning, hundreds gathered in front of the Liberty Bell to kick off Democracy Spring, a two-week non-violent protest to spur action to stop the influx of money dominating our elections. And, after hearing speeches from well-known public figures such as Lawrence Lessig and Gaby Hoffman, approximately 150 attendees began a ten day, hundred forty mile march to Washington DC.

Like Granny D before them, these dedicated Americans are ready to endure intense physical exhaustion in order to talk to every person possible, attempting to convince them that the time to take back our democracy is now.

Over the course of their journey, Democracy Spring marchers will walk through Ridley Park, PA; Wilmington, DE; Newark, DE; Perryville, MD; Joppa, MD; Baltimore, MD; Elkridge, MD; and Beltsville, MD.

When they arrive in DC, they will be welcomed as patriots liberating American democracy. And Congress, if they have any sense, will greet them just the same by passing the meaningful election reform they are demanding.

Spring is coming. History is happening. Will you join them?

Adam Eichen

Adam Eichen

Adam Eichen is a member of the Democracy Matters board of directors and a fellow at the Small Planet Institute. He is the co-author, with Frances Moore Lappé, of the new book, Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want. He served as the deputy communications director for Democracy Spring. Follow him on Twitter: @AdamEichen

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