October 27, 2020

We owe it to the generations that came before, and the generations that will follow

We are facing the most unprecedented U.S. presidential elections in my lifetime so far. I wanted to let you—Corporate Accountability members, activists, and allies—know how we are approaching the weeks to come.

First, and very importantly, Corporate Accountability is a nonpartisan, 501(c)3 nonprofit. We are not endorsing any candidate, nor intervening in any political campaigning on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.

And, we recognize the stakes are incredibly high. They are especially high for Black and Indigenous people and people of color in this country. And because of the reach of U.S. policy, the stakes are also high for people in the Global South. So we must come together to ensure that every eligible vote counts and every voice is heard before the results are declared.

It could very well take weeks, maybe even months to know the final election results. Through that time, we must stay awake, engaged, and united in nonviolent action. And we must keep our eyes on the just and beautiful future we are building together.

Everyone counts

Whether we are Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x, Asian, Pacific Islander, white, or mixed race, most of us believe that everyone counts. Each of us has a voice. Each of us contributes to the fabric of our communities. This year has shown us how important it is to count on each other to keep each other healthy and safe.

Now, it’s time to show up for one another and to be voters in this election. We must turn out in record numbers. We can show that everyone counts.

It is going to take longer to count the votes and verify a winner in this year’s election. That is a necessary and important reality to this year’s process. Due to COVID-19 and health concerns, more people will be voting absentee, in advance, or by mail than ever before. Mailed-in ballots take longer to count, with security measures to verify the accuracy of those ballots. Some states can’t even start counting such ballots until after polls have closed on election night. Plus, due to the pandemic, election officials will be working with reduced staff.

We will need to be patient so election officials can take the time to make sure every eligible vote is counted accurately. A rush to declare results too soon could be a move to subvert the full democratic process. We have been trained here in the U.S. to expect instantaneous results. But this is not the norm in many countries where election results often take weeks or more. So we, like much of the rest of the world, must be patient.

We must fight for democracy

The truth is, U.S. democracy has never lived up to all of its ideals. And voter suppression and massive corporate and dark-money spending has threatened the integrity of elections for decades. There is enormous work to be done to build a democracy in the U.S. that actually represents all people—particularly those who have been systemically oppressed in our current system: Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, low-income people, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, and women.

But, deeply flawed as it is, our democratic system has the potential to create a government by the people, for the people. It is our responsibly to build a democracy that puts the lives and well being of people over corporate profit. We need a government that reliably and democratically provides basic services like water—for everyone.

Our actions in the coming weeks will determine whether we can begin to work toward that vision. Or, whether we will be on the defense for the survival of our democracy.

The reach of U.S. policy and the power of U.S.-based transnational corporations is vast. So the impact of this election and its aftermath also extends to the rest of the world. From the U.N. climate treaty negotiations, to the work of the World Health Organization, from immigration policies to trade agreements, the actions or the inaction of the U.S. government reverberates around the world. The outcome of this election will impact the everyday lives of people around the globe, from Louisville to Lagos to Lucknow to La Paz.

We also know that the threat to democracy in one nation is a threat to democracy globally. And so while we prepare to defend democracy here, we are also working in solidarity with the people of Nigeria.

As you may know, Nigerians have been taking to the street for weeks. What began as protests against police brutality has transformed into a national movement to reclaim their democracy. Our close ally, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has been at the forefront of this movement. As their Executive Director Akinbode Oluwafemi told me last week, the Nigerian government has been consolidating power and limiting public, democratic space for years. And that’s why the peaceful, nonviolent protests have continued across the country.

But last Tuesday, Nigeria’s government unleashed military forces on peaceful protesters in Lagos, killing and injuring unarmed citizens. We are standing in solidarity with CAPPA in calling for the International Criminal Court and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to open an international inquiry into the killing and maiming of protesters. And we will continue to partner with CAPPA to defend democracy and human rights.

Bold action in the face of fears

This is a moment for all of us to come together, united in the belief that everyone counts. Right now, many organizations across the U.S. are doing powerful elections work, led by Black and Indigenous people, people of color, and working people. From getting out the vote to ensuring that polling places are safe, these organizations are helping to ensure that everyone who is eligible and wants to vote, can cast a ballot. I hope you are stepping up to support nonpartisan get-out-the-vote organizing with your time, money, and social influence.

But the work won’t end next Tuesday.

If there is an attempt to stop counting votes or to not follow the results of the votes, we must use all of our tools of nonviolent organizing to counteract these attempts. As an organization, we are committed to advancing and improving democracy through our work. And so we will respond strategically, in alignment with our values of justice and nonviolence, if there is an attempt to subvert the democratic process. This is not about who wins or loses the election, it is about defending the integrity of democratic systems.

We know those who will be most targeted in any kind of crackdown are Black and brown people. It is vital that we follow the leadership of these communities and support their strategies toward transformative change.

We also know that mass peaceful protests have been the most effective in countering efforts to subvert democracy. So if we need to take to the streets to demonstrate nonviolent people-power, we will. The uprising in defense of Black lives over the summer showed just how effective this tactic can be in creating massive cultural shifts.

As a member-powered organization, Corporate Accountability is connected to hundreds of thousands of people. We can help mobilize our community to nonviolent action, centering the safety and leadership of those who are most at risk. In the coming weeks, we have an important responsibility to do so if needed, toward the realization of a truly just democracy.

Keep pushing for visionary change

Now, while this is certainly a critical moment to play brilliant defense for the sake of democracy, it is also critical to keep the bar high.

We have a vision for the future: a world where government is accountable to people, not corporations. A world where everyone can live a thriving life of dignity, joy, and connection. As we help build collective power in this moment, we will continue to hold on to that vision and push toward it.

Even in this moment of upheaval, Corporate Accountability is committed, in deep partnership with our allies, to go on the offensive to hold abusive transnational corporations accountable.

We’re not slowing down in demanding that Big Polluters pay for their role in the climate crisis. Right now, we are organizing members in the U.S. to call on their local elected officials to support the liability roadmap and implement measures to hold Big Polluters liable. We are also collaborating with the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy to mobilize support for the Gulf South for a Green New Deal. This work will continue through and after the election. It will be important to demonstrate that local officials in the U.S. are committed to holding Big Polluters liable—no matter who is in office.

Additionally, in the coming months we will continue to collaborate with CAPPA to defend democracy and challenge corporate power. CAPPA’s campaigning to challenge water privatization as well as to make Big Polluters pay has played a vital role in opening up democratic space in Nigeria. We will support them as they work with organizers from across the African continent to strategize a collective approach to resisting privatization in their communities. Corporate Accountability and CAPPA are providing essential tech, organizing, and research support for this regional work.

Even if we must mobilize to ensure every vote is counted, we will keep these campaign priorities on track. This includes ensuring that our teams in Latin American and Africa can continue their powerful organizing without missing a beat.

Exposing disaster capitalism

At the same time, we know, transnational corporations have seized every opportunity to exploit the many crises we have collectively faced recently. Just a few examples:

  • Big Polluters demanding bailouts and liability wavers through COVID-19 stimulus packages.
  • As police continue to kill Black people, corporations declaring “Black Lives Matter” on one hand and funding police organizations on the other.
  • Online retail giants exploiting workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Corporations will once again seek to exploit whatever the outcome of this election for their gain. We are closely monitoring and exposing the ways in which corporations are seeking to profit from the tumultuous political situation in the midst of a pandemic.

Democracy is an ongoing process

As critical as this election is, it is also one moment in the long road of bending the arc of history toward justice, to paraphrase Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. No matter what happens after November 3, we will have built enormous power as movements for social justice.

And even as we harness that movement to defend democratic processes, we must also keep our sights set on building a true democracy in the U.S. We will remind ourselves and each other that participating in democracy is an ongoing process—not a once-in-four-years event. We will continue to hold corporations and elected officials that advance their interests accountable. And in so doing, we will help create transformative change.

The systems that have enabled corporations to amass such power are the same systems that have brought us to this moment: white supremacy and extractive capitalism. We must remember that we cannot settle for bringing things back to the way they were. We must keep fighting to change the very systems that have brought us to the many crises we face in this moment.

The generations of organizers before us, in their struggles and victories, have gifted us with wisdom, strategies, and tools to continue the fight. And what we do in this moment—individually and collectively—will make all the difference for the generations that come after us.

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