Defend and Uphold Democracy
Abolish Corruption and Restore Democracy
Corruption is legal and rampant in America. Our political system is awash in corporate and billionaire money. We no longer have elections, we have auctions. Politicians say what their voters want to hear and do what their donors want to see. The problem is not a lack of honest politicians. It is a system that structurally incentivizes and rewards corruption. Politicians will serve donors and special interests as long as that is the way to win.
Money in politics is the issue that is most hampering progress today. Donations from the pharmaceutical industry keep drug prices high. Donations from the insurance industry block the adoption of Medicare for all. Donations from the prison industry keep harsh drug laws in place. Donations from the military industry keep us in a perpetual state of war. Donations from the fast food lobby keep wages at starvation levels. Donations from the oil lobby prevent us from taking on climate change. Money in politics is the bottleneck that is preventing the dam from breaking on the many progressive policies that the public desperately needs.
The issue has grown so severe that a 2015 study conducted by Princeton found that the preferences of the American public have a “near-zero, statistically insignificant” impact on public policy. Whereas the preferences of economic elites virtually dictate public policy. As a result, the study concluded that the U.S. no longer meets the definition of a democracy and has become an oligarchy.
To reclaim democracy, we must seal off all avenues of undue influence that the oligarchs have over our politics. Ban super PACs, independent expenditures and dark money, shutting down unlimited and untransparent outside spending. Close the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street, whereby corporations reward politicians for doing their bidding with cushy jobs and high salaries once they leave office. Prevent corporate executives from holding elected office or being appointed to regulatory positions, where they presently oversee the industries they just departed and collect big bonuses for regulating favorably. Bar politicians from taking lobbyist money and gifts while in office or on the campaign trail. Our mission must be to abolish corporate money and influence from our politics once and for all. It is the principle upon which all others hinge.
We must pass anti-corruption laws by referendum where possible and fight for a constitutional amendment that declares that corporations are not people and money is not speech. We must ban bundling and switch to the full public funding of our elections. We must reverse the Citizens United decision that flooded politics with big money.
Most importantly, we must build a major new people’s party that stands with 93 percent of Americans in soundly rejecting money in politics. The establishment parties are so intertwined with corporate dollars that the money and parties are no longer distinguishable from one another; big money pervades the organizations down to their DNA. They are inherently highly-centralized, undemocratic and unaccountable to the public. They are corrupt by design and impervious to internal democracy at a fundamental structural level. The establishment parties lack the internal democratic mechanisms and channels that are necessary to come to power within it. In other words, just like Congress at large, the will of the base is irrelevant to the management and direction of the organizations. The organizations are not democratic enough to be taken over. They are controlled through unofficial channels to the donor class. Which is why our first imperative is the formation of an internally democratic and genuinely progressive people’s party.
We must also fight for a national referendum power to give the people the means to bypass Congress and put laws on the books directly. We will also explore ways of instituting greater direct democracy, soon to be enabled by secure online blockchain voting. If successful, we could vote on broad policy strokes like free public college vs. high tuition, and single payer health care vs. private insurance. Politicians would cease to be decision-makers and become glorified administrators of the public’s preferences, as democracy should work.
Secure and Transparent Elections
Recent elections have proven that our voting system is broken and needs a complete overhaul. Americans have lost confidence in an electoral system rife with Jim Crow voter suppression schemes, un-auditable voting machines, voter purges, closed primaries and awash with billions in big money.
Switch from first-past-the-post to ranked choice voting, and from single-member districts to multi-member districts. Enact automatic voter registration and open primaries. Make election day a national holiday and allow early voting by mail. Do away with the archaic electoral college, which distorts the weight of people’s votes. Abolish gerrymandering and use independent commissions to draw districts to favor competitiveness.
Lower ballot access requirements for independent candidates and parties and equalize the requirements for all parties. Switch from our patchwork of state and local election and ballot access rules to national standards that promote access, fairness and competitiveness.
Restore integrity and trust in our democracy by switching to hand-counted paper ballots with routine post-election audits. Mandate the retention of paper ballots and scanned ballot images. Require that all election hardware and software be open source and secure. Hold election officials and processes accountable.
Ensure that all precincts are equipped with ample polling stations to handle capacity without long lines. End voter ID provisions, often used to suppress the vote in communities of color. Halt voter roll purges and interstate cross-check programs, which exist to combat the statistically non-existent issue of voter fraud and end up disenfranchising thousands of honest voters. Implement a systematic exit polling system to monitor the vote according to U.N. guidelines.
After decades of bipartisan establishment politics, many working people have concluded that Democrat or Republican, nothing ever changes and their votes don’t matter. Create incentives to vote for poor and working people to help restore confidence and broaden democratic participation, such as a $20 tax rebate for voting, which will have much greater significance to the poor than it will to the rich.
Abolish legalized corruption by getting corporate, billionaire and dark money out of our politics and switching to the public financing of elections. Ban lobbyists from making contributions to parties, politicians, their staff, and their families. Lobbyists should only be allowed to persuade politicians on the merits of their arguments, not the size of their bribes. Prohibit politicians from fundraising during working hours. Strengthen the definition of a lobbyist and eliminate other lobbyist loopholes. Strengthen enforcement at the Federal Elections Commission. Enact congressional term limits.
Presidential debates are presently hosted by a private corporation owned by the Democrats and Republicans. The establishment parties work together to block independent and third party candidates from the debate stage and prevent Americans from learning about political alternatives. Return the management of presidential debates to a nonpartisan independent commission and invite all candidates that get on enough state ballots to be able to win the presidency. Restore the fairness doctrine and equal time rule in media coverage of politics. Elections should be contests of ideas, not dollars.
Defend Civil Liberties
Americans are the most surveilled people in human history. Studies have shown that mass surveillance suppresses our freedom of speech and freedom of thought, undermining the fabric of a free society. By preemptively subjecting everyone to surveillance without a warrant, these programs presume guilt instead of innocence, reversing the foundation of our legal system.
Reassert the human right to privacy and the Fourth Amendment. Repeal the Patriot Act and abolish mass surveillance. Affirm the right to free speech and free assembly. Strengthen protections and rewards for government and corporate whistleblowers, and increase penalties for those who conceal government crimes and negligence. Abolish government torture, indefinite detention and extrajudicial assassination. Defend habeas corpus. Protect the Freedom of Information Act and mandate a higher government response rate. Without transparency there is no accountability.
A democracy is only as strong as its freedom of information. People need access to free and uncensored information in order to make informed democratic choices. Access to the internet is no longer a luxury; it is essential to 21st century democracy, commerce, education, telemedicine and public safety. Protect net neutrality, classify the internet as a public utility and bring the country online with high-speed community broadband. Expand public parks, libraries and community spaces.
Far more Americans are killed by guns than terrorism, which is used to justify multi-trillion dollar invasions of other countries. We must protect our families’, friends’ and citizens’ rights to life. Ban assault rifles, armor piercing rounds, bump stocks, and high capacity magazines. Initiate a federal buy-back program for these weapons, which has seen success in countries like Australia. Institute universal background checks. Prevent the accumulation of private arsenals and close the gun show loophole, which allows the private sale of firearms circumventing background checks. Require waiting periods to get firearms and allow hospitals to collect statistics on gun violence. Other developed countries have much stronger gun laws that save lives. We must also strive to understand why our society drives so many people to terrible isolation and violence.