All Hands on Deck!

All Hands On Deck  –  Create a United Front to Move the Election Reform Agenda

Summer 2017: If anything about America approaches the sacred, it is our belief in Democracy. Americans consider it our most precious heritage. We go to war to promote it worldwide. We claim to be its standard bearer in the world in terms of Democracy but in fact, these days, we are nowhere near reaching that title.  It is time we did, and with sense of urgency.

This is an idea to create the power and attention to our cause that can push at least some of the important legislation needed into being before the 2018 midterms.

I propose for that for a two month targeted period during 2018 or 2019, all electoral reform issue groups throughout the country, large and small, focus all of their public relations, communications, and outreach budgets in a massive coordinated media campaign to develop a united front and an organized, high profile national movement for strengthening and protecting our democracy and elections.

If we want to win we have got to go massive, and the public has never been more ready to get on board.  According to a statistic shared by Marta Steele at the Left Forum in NYC, a full 90% of Americans have lost faith in our elections.

I think it is clear that currently there is no significantly comparable unified national movement for electoral reform as can be found with the labor, environmental, racial and economic justice movements, etc., all of which, by the way, stand to benefit from a strong democracy.  We simply have not built a unified movement.

All the parts and pieces are there but there is no identifiable “unified national Electoral Reform movement” because, other than in a few tenuous efforts, fraught with insider politics, we have not yet come together as a massive, popular United Front demanding to work on commonly agreed upon legislative goals and best practices to achieve electoral reform legislation in the states and at the national level. To be sure, the groups all talk to each other, but other than the Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening  events last year, there has been no Unified Front that the entire nation can point to and say, ”Hey, the time has come! Let’s get together as a nation and fix our democracy!”

Again, if anything about America approaches the sacred, it is our belief in Democracy. Let’s get together and drive a unified movement that rivals any movement the country has ever seen.  Is the health of our democracy any less important, for example, than healthcare!? The nation spent 6 months riveted to healthcare news as Obamacare was developed.

We know the problems. We have been studying them for years. The biggest problem, as best I can tell, is that our institutional identities get in the way of unifying a movement large enough to demand attention.  If we want to win we have got to go massive, and the public has never been more ready to get on board.  Our elections are in really, really bad shape. The voters know it and are concerned about it. Now is the time to build a unified national movement!  We don’t have to build it around sharing precious mailing lists and donor lists. It will be recognized by the public as one movement but individual groups will keep their identities.

We need to build the United Front of the Electoral Reform Movement around ideas, all of which we have been studying for years. We know the issues from A to Z.  But the majority of Americans don’t know the issues because the importance of integrity in elections systems has only recently been impressed upon many of them, and certainly not by the mainstream press, with any clarity.  We need to educate the broad American public with a focused outreach as to our Unity as a movement across the full spectrum of electoral reform issues  – – in a push to achieve legislation of recognized best practices well before the November 2018 midterm elections.

If “we”, those of us deeply involved in electoral reform, can pull together we achieve amazing things.

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It is the idea that we “pull together” that leads to a second strategy, behind the focused, unified media campaign suggested to run next February and March.

The second strategy is that we take existing and proposed legislation in each of the states, consult with the sponsors and craft unified, singularly focused, “omnibus” election reform legislation in state after state.

Omnibus legislation, as opposed to multiple stand alone bills, does several important things for us. #1 it gets us all, as a motivated and powerful movement, singing off the same sheet of music, building our unified power. #2 it simplifies and creates interest in the process. People will know that we are serious and that we have unity. The term “Omnibus Bill” is unusual enough that people sit up and take notice. It sounds important. It is important. It signifies an organized, focused purposeful effort. #3  As we create interest, and educate, we create and build a movement that has lasting power in the years ahead.  By no means will we accomplish everything we need by 2018. But if we focus on building a unified movement now it will launch us into a new era where our democracy is taken seriously and upheld with great pride, by everyone.

I can hear some concerns already, mostly about insider politics and institutional identity. All our groups are happily moving along, doing their own thing, at their own pace, in their own comfort zone.

TIME OUT! We haven’t been getting anywhere!  I have been observing and involved primarily in the arena of election reform for 20 years and we have hardly made any progress in all those years. Indeed, we have even been sliding backwards as the “Chiselers” continue to undermine the foundations of a healthy democracy. Progress had been made, but not in a way that can overcome the well paid efforts of the Chiselers, not in a way that can even hold them at bay, unless we to gear up for a massive rebuild.

It is time for all hands on deck!  It is time to gather all groups and chapters, large and small, far and wide. It is time to get the country focused on best Elections practices. It is time to tap the power of the Labor, Environment, Healthcare, Education movements and get them to realize that a strong democracy benefits us all, but that we can only achieve it if we work together in a United Front for consensed upon legislation based upon identified best practices.

Let’s not worry about “winning so much we get tired of it.”  If you are like me, we are all tired of losing.  Neither do we have to worry about success curtailing our careers. No matter our success, we have many years of work ahead of us safeguarding and strengthening our democracy. Our effort will not stop with success in 2018, but future efforts will come more easily because we have done the work of unifying a powerful movement as big and important as any other in the country.

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What do we have to do to create a Movement powerful enough to successfully force legislation that begins to correct the many flaws in our electoral system?

We have to unify around shared goals and best practices. We have to simplify and streamline our goals.  We have to publicize and educate on a massive scale. We have to force the issue. We have to focus demands upon legislators in ways they cannot ignore.

Democracy will always be undermined by those who wish to connive against the will of the people, and it has been undermined for years without a unified popular effort to restore the respect of the world. That must change now!

The plan in a nutshell:

  1. Coalesce by national, state, and local groups around best practices and needed legislation before the 2020 cycle

2.  Present massive and sustained media focus on election reform by all groups, large and small during a targeted 2 month period, preferably in 2019 so effects will be felt in time for the 2020 election cycle

3.  Build a movement to create strong political pressure. A unified effort to protect and strengthen our democracy will inspire more citizens to respond and participate with more motivation than ever before. Look at the 1,400 who got arrested at the Democracy Spring/Awakening rallies in 2016.  Look at the outpouring of support for Sanders. Look at the incredible support for Jill Stein’s recount efforts.  The public has never been more ready.

4. In each state consolidate multiple bills into single, comprehensive omnibus legislation so it is simple for the public to find and to understand.

5. At the national level also combine multiple achievable bills into consensed upon, focused, omnibus legislation.

6. Omnibus legislation adds simplicity and importance to the effort and builds our power by getting us all singing from the same sheet of music.

I do not have the last word; others will change or embellish my proposal. What I want is a unified mass movement that will last, and to see the passage of important legislation in 2018.  The current methods are not working. We need to build power. Starting now!  I will be happy to correspond with anyone providing feedback.

George Ripley

george@grassrootsunity.org

202-986-5977  in DC