Friends, please take a moment to read the recent entry to my Executive Director's Corner. I look forward to your thoughts:
The public typically spends the first few months after every election sizing up the President to see if he will keep his campaign promises. But this year, it's the voters I'm holding accountable.
November 6th was certainly another historic election, with voters sending the most women to Congress in history, and non-white voters turning out in droves. It marked a promising future -- but only as far as voters promise to engage in public debates, actions, and advocacy consistently.
I'm asking voters to fight against the quick amnesia that settles like a thick fog after every election and uphold these five promises:
1. Hold Elected Officials Accountable -- It's one thing to elect the officials who we think will get the job done in office; it's another to actually make sure they do it. Voters need to be diligent to pressure elected officials to deliver. In the face of so much corporate influence, voters need to become tenacious lobbyists for their communities' interests.
2. Elect Women and Women of Color -- As the male-dominated Congress waged a war on women and reproductive rights, voters put their trust in women. We elected the first openly gay female senator, the first openly bisexual female senator, the first Asian-American female senator, and the first ever all-female congressional delegation in New Hampshire. This can't be an anomaly; voters need to commit to putting more women in office who represent the growing electorate.
3. Vote, Again and Again -- We have to build a sustainable block of voters who don't let up, ever. Women, people of color, young people, low-income people and immigrant voters are part of the Rising American Electorate that is voting at ever higher levels in presidential cycles. We need these voters to promise to participate as resoundingly in municipal elections and special elections. I don't want to see the story written that Black voter participation waned after the end of President Obama's term. We need a heavy-hitting block of voters in every cycle who build political capital and force politicians to vote in their interests.
4. Work to End Money in Politics -- Thanks to Citizen's United, our presidential election was the most expensive in history at a staggering $6 billion. The Sunlight Foundation reported $213 million of "dark money" or anonymous money was spent to influence the election (as of Nov. 1), with Republicans spending 81%. We have to pressure our lawmakers to overturn Citizen's United and create a new model that leads to fair elections.
5. Protect Voting Rights -- While many of the troubling voter ID laws were overturned in courts or in ballot initiatives, there were issues of voter suppression across the state and in the country. Expect voter ID laws to be introduced in Massachusetts and other states around the country in coming legislative sessions. We can't back down. We must fight these laws in every venue using our voter power.
If we can uphold these promises, then we can elect the right leaders who oversee our school systems, keep families from getting hungry, pass policies that protect small businesses, and pave our streets. And we can build a large, loud and lasting voting block that can turn the tide from corporate power to people power.
Kelly Bates, Esq.