by Randolph T. Holhut
it take to get
people outraged about the selling of our
elections? The more than $50 million that
Texas Gov. George W. Bush vacuumed up so
far in his run for the GOP nomination? The
$500 million in "soft money" that both parties
are expected scoop up by next November? The
utter shamelessness of political candidates
great and small in sucking up to corporate
donors and the moneyed elite?
Maybe we've finally reached that point. Last month, for the second year in a row, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted for a bill that would place curbs on soft money -- the unregulated money that can be given in unlimited amounts to political parties to influence elections.
The Senate will take up the legislation this month, and Majority Leader Trent Lott, (R - Mississippi), is ready to again lead the effort to croak campaign finance reform as he did in 1998. The Republican leadership in Congress has no interest in changing a system that works well for them.
According to statistics kept by the Federal Election Commission, the candidates in federal elections that raise the most money win more than 90 percent of the time. And fundraising for the 2000 elections is running at more than double of the record-breaking take of 1996.
But the public outrage over big money in politics is starting to build. And the living symbol of this outrage is an 89-year-old great-grandmother from Dublin, N.H.
Doris "Granny D" Haddock started walking from Los Angeles on January 1. Her destination is Washington, D.C., and her goal is to show Congress that people are sick of dollars being more important than votes in our democracy.
She's been averaging about 10 miles a day, in spite of arthritis, emphysema and the rest of the aches and pains that comes with being nearly 90. As of this week, she's headed to Nashville, Tenn., and hopes to reach Washington by her 90th birthday on Jan. 24. Along the way, she's been hearing from people who are sick of the status quo.
"They tell me the concept of one person, one vote doesn't exist anymore," Haddock wrote in her online journal last month. "I try to encourage every jaded voter I encounter that politicians bank on the fact that voters become disillusioned, and are relying on increasingly shrinking voter rolls to insulate them from votes they cast to reward campaign contributors.
"Indeed, imagine the impact if every cynical, disaffected person who once felt invested our political process decided to voted again, to give our democracy another chance. I guess that's what I'm asking to do on this wondrous journey of mine. Get involved. You can make a difference. All it takes is the determination that you don't want you children and grandchildren to inherit a government that caters to the needs of the wealthiest few, and ignores the concerns of those who lend the sweat and hard work that makes this country truly great, but lack the financial cushion to cut campaign checks. I am walking and summoning all the energy my 89-year-old body can muster to insure that it's not the America my great-grandchildren inherit."
Haddock, a retired shoe company secretary, has been interested in campaign finance reform for some time now. It started with a current affairs discussion group in her hometown, the Tuesday Morning Academy. They tried to circulate a petition, but it went nowhere. When Congress voted down reform bills last year, she was incensed enough to decide that something more than petition was needed to call attention to the issue.
She's started out her travels as a pilgrim, relying on the goodness of strangers. But as she's made her way across the country, she has gotten no shortage of support. Common Cause, the public interest lobbying group, and the Reform Party, have both adopted her as their patron saint. The Reform Party went as far as to fly her up to their convention in Michigan in July to give a speech.
"On the road so far, I have seen a great nation," Haddock told the Reform Party convention. "I have felt it hugging my shoulders, shaking my hand, cheering me from across the way. I am so in love with it. (They) have taken me into their homes and fed me at their tables -- shown me the children form whom they sacrifice they working lives and for whom they pray for a free and gentle democracy. And I will tell you that I am with them. I am with their dream...
"We are all on this road and we must stay on it together, forgetting our minor differences until, together, we achieve the necessary objective of restoring democracy for individuals, and allowing each individual an equal voice in the civil discussions we have as a self-governing people."
There are two ideas that have polluted our democracy in the last century -- the idea that money equals free speech and that corporations are entitled to the same rights as individuals. Together, they have contributed to the increasing concentration of wealth in the U.S. into the hands of fewer and fewer people. With this wealth, the powerful can control our elections and our democracy.
"It is said that democracy is not something we have but something we do," Haddock told the Reform Party. "But right now, we can't do it because we can't speak. We are shouted down by the bullhorns of big money. It is money with no manners for democracy, and it must be escorted from the room."
To join her fight and find out more about her crusade, you can check out Granny D's Web site at: http://www.grannyd.com. There, you can send her a message of support and also sign her petition to tell Congress to support campaign finance reform. Maybe, just maybe, the good guys can win one this time.
October 2, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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