Election Reform and Occupy Wall Street
by Adrian Tawfik
May 24, 2012
As part of my efforts to get better acquainted with the diverse world of election reform, I have taken part in some of the events of Occupy Wall Street, conveniently located not that far from my workspace. Despite plenty of criticism from the right wing of American politics and a growing apathy among the left, Occupy’s diverse band of activists and reformers continues their fascinating journey into political history. Yet, within the vast diversity that includes everything from the free-to-all ‘People’s Kitchen’ and the ‘Environmental Solidarity’ group, there is need for more support for election reform and for the people who work on the front line of our democracy.
The American people have a right to be angry. The economic crisis that took place in 2008 was the result of greed and short-sighted policy on the behalf of our policy makers. After the Tea Party burst into the scene in 2009, clamoring for an end to government incompetence and indebtedness, the Occupy protesters representing the American left emerged with equally relevant calls for reform of the financial system and social justice. While the political terminology was different, in both cases they were characterized by a feeling of deep betrayal and mistrust of government. Yet, for either group to have real influence or lasting impact, the system of elections that select our collective American leadership must be the centerpiece to reforms.
Deep in the bowels of the Occupy movement, there exists a group of democracy reform activists who work tirelessly for election reform. Being buoyed by new recruits disgusted with spending in the Presidential campaigns skyrocketing to astronomical levels, this group of activists has stayed laser focused on their goal of removing money from American politics. The New York City Occupy Wall Street sub-group called Get Money Out of Politics (GMOP) is a fascinating gathering of hardworking individuals with a truly heroic dedication to meaningful campaign finance reform at all levels of government. The group’s mission statement describes the goals of the group as efforts to “eliminate the corrosive influence of private money on our public electoral systems and government”.
With more support from the public and from within the Occupy movement, this group has the potential to play a large role in gathering support for serious reform because public opinion on the issue of democratic elections is resolutely in favor of efforts to control the role of money in our election system. On top of national reform, the GMOP group has recently been part of the efforts in New York State government to institute a system of public funding of elections through protests and other campaigns targeted at State Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos, a Republican from Rockville Centre, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Occupy Wall Street is not the only organization fighting for election and campaign finance reform but it is out on the streets protesting everyday for reform with a dedicated and diverse group of citizens. If there is to be progress on reform during or after the upcoming elections, it will be because of activists like those at the Get Money Out of Politics group. While Occupy has taken up many important causes as its own, President Andrew Jackson had some advice that can shed light on the path to a solution to America’s current situation, “The great constitutional corrective in the hands of the people against usurpation of power, or corruption by their agents is the right of suffrage; and this when used with calmness and deliberation will prove strong enough.”
Also take a look at this Occupy Wall Street video: