Democracy's Dawn in Massachusetts?

With the state legislature wrapping up its session last week, another two years have been squandered. Two years we couldn’t afford to waste, down the drain.

In those two years, we inched closer to runaway climate change. Environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben has added another “a” to Earth to show that we have already fundamentally altered the ecological balance of the home upon which we depend for all things.

In those two years, the economic system upon which we depend for most things, unraveled to the point that our federal government has fundamentally transformed its role to a booster of private capital and private profits, while socializing the costs.

It wasn’t enough that we were spending $300 billion on a farm bill that benefits agribusiness, while soaking us with chronic disease and the planet with devastating environmental costs. Or spending over half a trillion dollars a year on the military and its oil-addicted adventures. The last two years saw unprecedented transfers of wealth, in the trillions, directly from taxpayers to the same bankers and speculators responsible for the crises that have crushed us.

The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Neil Barofsky, quietly released a report last month that shows that the “outstanding balance of overall Federal support for the nation’s financial system” jumped $700 billion over the past year to $3.7 trillion. The Globe didn’t cover that, but it did cover our governor’s cheery excursion to Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile most of what we’ve heard from Beacon Hill was the political showdown over whether or not the genius move by the legislature to bring casinos to Massachusetts would also bring slot machines to the racetracks. Now that we have our answer, I think it’s safe to predict they will prove to be no answer at all.

In this context, it’s hard to argue that democracy is dawning in Massachusetts. The backroom dealing, legalized bribery, and general lack of responsiveness, transparency, and accountability that permeate state government are discouraging indicators. Even in revolutionary Massachusetts, democracy seems to be dying as the economy and the environment deteriorate.

But there is a candidate running for governor whose aim is to resuscitate and revitalize the dying-but-vital concept of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. While the Globe has largely marginalized her campaign — either because they don’t like her politics (my guess) or because her campaign warchest is a miniature one — Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein is offering Massachusetts voters badly-needed vision and timely, meaningful solutions. It’s no coincidence that Stein is the only candidate refusing to take campaign contributions from corporate lobbyists and the executives who hire them — making her campaign coffers small, but also making her immune to the influence-peddling of big money donors.

And while Stein is the most effective champion Massachusetts has for a strong Clean Elections law, there’s a tasty irony in 2010 that her grassroots supporters are trying to exploit. Stein is the only candidate to opt in to the limited public financing system that survived when the legislature killed the popular Clean Elections law, because the Beacon Hill Boys Club of Baker, Cahill, and Patrick don’t want to abide by spending limits.

If her supporters can raise $125,000 of qualifying contributions (anything under $250/person) by September 22, she’ll get $125,000 in matching funds. If they raise another $625,000 by mid-October, all of it will be matched. In other words, Stein could theoretically be running a $1.5 million campaign, and her opponents won’t know what hit them.

Pro-democracy advocates in Massachusetts (and beyond) are tired of the constant battle to hang on to what little remains of our supposedly democratic institutions, and fighting for tiny steps forward between giant leaps backwards. But there’s a new dawn and a new day for democracy.

August 10th is Democracy Day for Massachusetts, where hundreds of people will be giving $10 to the one clean-money campaign in the contest. This series of single-day fundraising events borrows from Ron Paul’s successful “money bombs.” Consider Democracy Days the people’s Clean Elections, where 75,000 $10 contributions by mid-October could propel Stein’s candidacy right into the heart of the election, and tip the balance towards democracy. She got over 76,000 votes in 2002 in a starkly different political atmosphere. Now that she’s being invited to the debates, this 4-way race in this independently-minded state, full of frustrated voters, means all bets are off.

Could this be democracy’s dawn?

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[ed_note]To participate in the Democracy Day fundraiser go to http://www.democracydays.com[/ed_note]

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4 Comments

  • G Lowell
    August 5, 2010 - 11:21 pm | Permalink

    I could not agree more with this and have recently become a supporter of Stein after becoming disillusioned with Cahill.

  • thegreengrass
    August 6, 2010 - 2:35 pm | Permalink

    As someone who was really disappointed when the supreme court ruled that companies can spend an unlimited amount of money on candidates, I’m excited to be involved in a grassroots effort to fund Jill’s campaign. Please join us and let Beacon Hill know you don’t have to be a millionaire to get elected in Massachusetts!

  • thegreengrass
    August 6, 2010 - 10:35 am | Permalink

    As someone who was really disappointed when the supreme court ruled that companies can spend an unlimited amount of money on candidates, I'm excited to be involved in a grassroots effort to fund Jill's campaign. Please join us and let Beacon Hill know you don't have to be a millionaire to get elected in Massachusetts!

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