In just over one month, we will continue a march that New Hampshire’s Granny D began almost fifteen years ago.
On the morning of January 11, the anniversary of the death of my friend, Aaron Swartz, and at the place where the voting in America’s 2016 presidential election will start, Dixville Notch, we will begin a march across the state of New Hampshire recruiting citizens to Granny D’s cause — what she called “campaign finance reform, “ and what I call corruption.
Across New Hampshire.
We need your help (and I don’t mean psychological help!)
What Granny D understood when she began her march from LA to DC at the age of 88 is that our country faces a crisis — a crisis caused by the way politicians raise money to fund their campaigns. From the President on down, candidates spend an extraordinary amount of time — some more than half their time — raising campaign cash. But they don’t raise that money from all of us. Instead, they raise that money from the tiniest fraction of the 1%. Just over .05% of America— one twentieth of one percent — are the relevant funders of congressional campaigns. And as the politicians spend hours every day pleading with that tiny fraction of the 1%, they learn what they must do to keep those funders happy.
The result is the government that we have — one incapable of addressing any important issue sensibly. Regardless of the question — the debt, or climate change, or real health care reform, or the financial crisis — our government cannot lead because our government is not free to lead. What Granny D saw 15 years ago is that unless we change this political reality, our government will fail — both us and our future.
This is not a Left/Right issue. The corruption that she saw blocks reformers on the Right as much as it blocks reformers on the Left. Small government is not possible so long as large government makes it easier for politicians to raise campaign cash. And as Jim Hansen, the scientist who got the world to recognize the danger of global warming, put it: "the biggest obstacle to solving global warming is the role of money in politics.”
That fact is not just true about global warming. The biggest obstacle to solving any important issue in America today is the role of money in politics.
Politicians believe America doesn’t get this. As I was told by one DC insider, “Americans are just too stupid to connect the dots.” We all have issues we care about passionately. But we don’t step back far enough to see that what blocks our issue is the same thing that blocks reform on every issue: the lobbyists and special interest get their way because they are the way campaigns get funded.
We’re going to prove these politicians wrong. For two weeks in January — beginning on the day Aaron Swartz died, and ending on the day Granny D was born — we will march across New Hampshire recruiting citizens to her cause. And we will ask every citizen we recruit to help us by doing just one thing: At every event where a presidential candidate speaks, we want someone to stand and ask that politician just one question: How will you end the corruption in Washington?
We need your help.
We need people to march.
We need many more to support the marchers.
And we need many many more to know about and support us if we’re going to make this work.
So please do at least this: Share this email with as many as you can.
Help us get a thousand times the supporters this cause has, focused on this opportunity to make this issue central. And then please visit our site, to give us whatever additional support you can. March with us, even for just a few hours. Volunteer to help the marchers, by sponsoring their march, or by giving them a place to stay, or some coffee to get warm. And please stay connected to us, so we can keep you informed about how this project develops.
Granny D didn’t get to see victory in this cause. She died in 2010, at the age of 100, just a couple months after the Supreme Court decide the case that made SuperPACs possible — Citizens United.
But we will see victory in the cause that she championed. Because without it, our nation will fail. And we cannot fail, if our children are to have a future as great as our past.
Help us. Support us. And please spread this idea.
Earlier this fall Lawrence Lessig came up to Manchester to speak to a crowd of New Hampshire citizens about an age-old topic: corruption in politics. Many people in the room have worked hard to address this issue over the years. David Walker, a former Comptroller General of the United States, was also on hand to talk about the dysfunction in Washington, the damage caused by political polarization and why campaign finance reform is so crucial to every other issue New Hampshirites care about. Indeed, Lessig spoke in the past about how "this corruption" of our government is the "first problem," that no matter the many other vital issues we are focused on solving, none will be solved until we fix this first problem, first.
More importantly, Lessig made the argument for why New Hampshire is uniquely equipped to lead the way on combatting a corrupted political system in Washington. "This is not an exaggeration...only New Hampshire can save us!"
Check out the video below:
Please see the recent blog post from Lawrence Lessig about the #NHR.
For the past several days my thoughts have turned to the words of Lincoln, the impact they had on Doris Granny D Haddock and the road ahead. I've tried to come up with a catchy title, but it eludes me, so I'll simply summarize by captioning it:
Gettysburg, Granny D, and those who follow
Lincoln's remarks at Gettsyburg on November 19, 1863 are called by many to be one of the most loved and quoted speeches ever given. The brevity and eloquence of meaning are unequaled. Many of us learned those 270 words and could recite them by heart. Scholars have pondered and pontificated over them, analyzing from where the ideas and specific words came to Lincoln's mind as he prepared to deliver them, and more importantly, how they have inspired generation after generation since.
Before Doris Rollins was eight years old she had that speech memorized. At the cemetery in Laconia, where people had gathered on November 11, 1918, the first Armistice Day, an elderly man was attempting to recite the Gettysburg Address but was obviously struggling. Doris was thrust onto a dais to help him. He and she held hands while together they finished the words. She recalled later that what survived for her from that occasion was the thrill of participation, of standing up and she knew then what she wanted to do. Did she mean only becoming an actress, or did she mean honing those talents for speaking and dramatization to serve the common good?
You will find words from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in many of Granny D's speeches, including her remarks at the Lincoln Memorial on February 29, 2000, the last day of her 3,200 mile trek across America for campaign finance reforms..
Today there are many individuals and organizations, working separately or together, including all of you to whom I'm sending this, who are carrying on the work that those words imply must be done so that we again, and always will have, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Surely Lincoln must often have felt weary, as did Granny D, but they never stopped or gave up because they knew there was work yet to be done, and they could make a difference. Whether you engage in walking, performing, protesting, writing, running for public office, or a multitude of other actions and you have as your goal what is best for the common good, you will be succeeding, you too will be, in Granny D's words "Saving our dear Democracy".
Thank you for allowing me to vent these thoughts on each of you.
They are sent with a Granny D inspired hug.
To learn more about those still working to carry forward Granny D's message please visit the Coalition for Open Democracy.
Congressional approval ratings have reached astounding lows over the past several years. The American public has made one point painfully clear: faith in Congress, and the broader government, to move our country forward is lost. In it’s place a broken system spins further and further out of control, fueled by corruption and entrenched interests. This is where NHRebellion finds its voice. Formed to empower New Hampshire citizens to take action against a broken and dysfunctional political system, NHRebellion aims to be the tip of the spear in the growing effort to mobilize American citizens to acknowledge the first problem in our politics, and begin finding solutions that serve all of us . New Hampshire is poised to lead the way. Our unique mission is simple: Demand that each presidential candidate stumping in New Hampshire answer one simple question: “How are you going to end the corruption in Washington?” This is the first question that should be asked by every voter in New Hampshire. We will not make real progress on any issue -- be it global warming, second amendment rights, healthcare, education, military policy -- until we answer this first question of how to end corruption in Washington.
Our government and our economy can no longer afford to wait for one party or another. Instead, we will engage citizens at the grassroots level in New Hampshire. Our electoral system is built upon a foundation more focused on dividing than uniting America, in an effort to maintain power at the federal level. The likelihood of sweeping political reform–reform spearheaded by Congress that would lead to pragmatic problem solving around our most pressing fiscal and social challenges–is unlikely.
New Hampshire is uniquely positioned to lead this charge. First, the state is comparably small to other states, and its citizens are passionately pragmatic and think independently. Second, New Hampshire also holds the distinction of holding the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, allowing them to guide the national debate and shape the focus of the Presidential campaign. Third, the vast majority of New Hampshire voters are specifically registered as “undeclared” in order to be able to vote in the Presidential Primary they choose; whereas those voters that are, indeed, declared are limited to the primary they are declared to. Under this semi-closed primary system, the voters of New Hampshire give any and all Presidential candidates an opportunity to win. Last, New Hampshire was also home to Doris Haddock (Granny D) who at the age of 88 walked across the nation calling for comprehensive campaign finance reform. Granny D’s memory and her efforts have been kept alive by countless groups and individuals throughout New Hampshire, allowing the issue of political reform to have a sustained voice among Granite State voters. For these four reasons, and the understanding that this issue isn’t foreign to New Hampshire voters, we believe it is uniquely positioned to lead the effort to tackle corruption in Washington.
There is no doubt that Granite Staters know something is wrong. They simply need the right vehicle to take the necessary action. The NHRebellion gives citizens in New Hampshire this platform. Prior to formalizing the NHRebellion, we conducted statewide polling with the University of New Hampshire to test our theories for this project. (Results of this polling can be found on the University of New Hampshire survey center website.) Nearly all likely voters in New Hampshire believe that money and special interests influence Congress, not their constituents. In an age of extreme political divisiveness, corruption of our government is one issue most Granite Staters can agree on. We intend NHRebellion to be the vehicle with which to capitalize on this moment, allowing voters to find common ground while sending a message to both presidential candidates and the nation that corruption is indeed the first question that must be asked.
Additionally, we will work to recruit a small group of highly recognizable celebrities that would help capture their attention and draw more citizens into the effort. One name being considered is Jason Alexander–an actor who has shown deep interest in this topic.
We are planning to hold three walks in New Hampshire during each of the next three years. Each walk will occur during the month of January. Our first walk will begin on January 11th and finish on January 28th in 2014. This first walk will serve as the pilot to recruit support and volunteers for the ensuing years. However, the Jaunary walks are only part of a larger effort that will function year-round. Additionally, we will be working to collect resolutions from as many Town Meetings as possible, securing grassroots support at the local level. These resolutions will bring individuals into the cause more directly from across the state and will serve as a tool to educate and motivate thousands of citizens across New Hampshire. The January walks will serve as annual markers for broader state-wide engagement mirroring the work being done within Town Meetings. Online, the NHRebellion will work to expand its existing online presence using toolsets such as NationBuilder, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and others to provide a simple online home for supporters and activists. NHRebellion will also organize around the hashtag #NHR as part of our online presence. (Hashtags are used by social media platforms such as Twitter to better organize around a common mission and interest.)
The NHRebellion will be successful, as it will be organized and led by experienced organizers and volunteers from New Hampshire. Critical groups that will be involved include reform leaders, labor leaders, business leaders, local and regional media, as well as advocacy groups. These existing relationships will be critically important to the success of the NHRebellion. Additional details of the NHRebellion can be found here. (http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/65527936195/help-us-organize-a-new-hampshire-march-in-january). In addition, a preliminary itinerary can be found here. (http://wiki.lessig.org/NHR-March-2014-Itin)