November 7, 2018

Wresting democracy from corporate power

Stand for corporate accountability

This year’s hard-fought midterm elections indicate a bellwether for change.

Whether you knocked on doors, phoned, or text banked in the lead-up to yesterday’s election, donated large or small, or simply had conversations with your friends, family, and neighbors, I hope that you have had some time today to sit with the results and see the big picture.

In the face of enormous and entrenched power, people across the country moved the dial toward a more democratic and compassionate government wrested free of corporate control.

So many local, state, and national candidates who called for a different kind of government were elected, or came very close. These candidates ran on platforms that centered the dignity of people — from immigration issues to criminal justice reform, women’s health and rights to education reform, and more. With their votes, millions of people said no to corporate infiltration of government, no to fear mongering and hate, and yes to respecting people, human rights, and policies that advance democracy. People like you made sure there are now more than 100 women representatives in Congress — more than ever before — including the first Muslim women, the first Native American women , and the youngest Black woman to run.

Rejecting corporate influence

And a common thread that ties many winning candidates together is their emphasis on representing people, not corporate interests. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, for example, committed to “clean campaign finance,” recognizing “the corrupting influence of corporate fundraising on legislative policy.” And Ilhan Omar (MN) and Rashida Tlaib (MI) ran on platforms that called for overturning Citizens United, among other pro-people policies.

Even as corporate-backed powers waged a full-scale assault on democracy, human rights, public health, and the environment, people rose up. People like you took it into your own hands to seize democracy from the clutches of corporations. From Missouri to Massachusetts, New York City to North Dakota, you declared enough is enough when it comes to corporate money in our elections. Baltimore became the first city to ban water privatization. In Oregon (though not, unfortunately, in Washington), people rejected a measure backed by Big Soda that would have prevented soda taxes — a public health measure that has proven to reduce soda sales. In Florida, Amendment 4 passed, restoring the voting rights of a million people — and almost 20 percent of potential Black voters in the state. And states and municipalities around the country, including Michigan, Utah, and Colorado, passed anti-gerrymandering initiatives.

The work that lies ahead
Despite the bright spots for democracy in the election results, we also know there is so much more work to do. The entrenched power of corporations and systemic racism did not disappear last night. There were disappointing losses on this front around the country. We saw voter suppression and voter purges. And the fossil fuel industry poured a mind-boggling $81 million to defeat important environmental ballot initiatives in three states. These results will have real and painful consequences.

So we are rolling up our sleeves to build on the renewed focus on grassroots organizing and movement building that we saw in the lead-up to yesterday. Powerful local and national grassroots organizing — often led by women, Black people and other people of color, and LGBTQ people — helped get many of these newly elected officials in office, and many important ballot measures passed.

People around the country have been mobilized. More and more are seeing that social change comes not just from turning out to huge marches and protests, but from doing the person-to-person organizing that all successful grassroots movements are built on.

Now, corporations and those in power would have us believe that the ballot box is the only place to exercise our civic duty. But we know true democratic engagement requires daily work to challenge the entrenched corporate control that has warped our system of governance for so long. We know the next moment for action is not the lead-up to the 2020 elections — it’s tomorrow.

There is deep work to do to dismantle the roots of corporate power and systems of oppression that have allowed someone like Trump to hold the office of the presidency and enabled some of the election results last night.

That work looks like taking action to rein in Big Polluters’ power at the U.N. climate treaty meetings in December. It looks like showing up in the next months to support people’s right to clean, safe water in Pittsburgh, Flint, Detroit, and Lagos. It looks like deepening partnerships across the progressive movement. And it looks holding newly elected officials accountable to their campaign promises.

Our long-term vision

Yesterday’s election results give me great hope that millions more people around the country are ready and willing to engage in that deep and consistent work.

I am excited to continue partnering with members like you to advance democracy. Today, we have the opportunity to go further and deeper in building the kind of world we all deserve. A world where:

  • Corporations pay their taxes instead of starving government of the resources it needs to provide essential services.
  • Corporate think tanks and front groups shut their doors and cease to interfere in democratic policymaking.
  • Truly just climate policy is freed from the junk science and lobbying of Big Polluters.
  • There is community control of water resources, instead of Nestlé and Veolia’s profiteering.
  • We have social policies that level the playing field and address systemic inequities between white people and people of color, rather than laws that boost corporate profits off the backs of low-income people and people of color.
  • And public health policies are put in place that save millions of people’s lives rather than being compromised in the name of Big Tobacco and Big Food’s profits.

I know that together, we can shift power in ways that go far beyond the election cycle to realize a far better and more just democracy.

Corporate Accountability
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