A challenging moment

A challenging moment

Our new political reality shows that the work we do -- together -- to preserve and strengthen our democracy is more vital than ever.

This is a challenging moment for our work to strengthen our democracy. After an unprecedented and unpredictable election, Donald Trump has been elected President, and Republican majorities control the House and Senate.

As a non-partisan good government watchdog, Common Cause supports the peaceful transfer of power after an election. As the winner of the election, President-elect Trump has the political power to pursue his agenda. But with that win comes the enormous responsibility on him to serve all Americans, including respect for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and the fundamental equality to which every American is entitled.

Throughout his campaign, Mr. Trump has used divisive and hateful rhetoric that makes many people nervous about his understanding and commitment to these responsibilities. Whether this was just rhetoric or promises he will keep, we will be fighting front and center to stand against any abuses of power, watchdog government ethics, and we will continue our fight to break down barriers to participation in our democracy and defend the civil and voting rights of all people.

We have been outspoken on the huge conflict of interest challenges that this new President faces. As a businessman with more than 500 businesses in the real estate sector, hotels and branding deals all over the world, President-elect Trump needs to develop a strong ethics plan to develop a firewall between his business empire and the work of his Administration so that the public can have confidence that his actions are not benefiting his own or his children’s private interests. To date, he has said he would simply hand over the reins of his empire to his children, which is a completely inadequate solution.

Many are furious that for the second time in five elections, one presidential candidate won the Electoral College and the other won the popular vote. That is why Common Cause has been working for many years to pass the National Popular Vote compact. This plan, which we have helped pass in many states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Illinois, would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. These structural reforms can and do garner bipartisan support and have a real impact on our elections and our lives.

Exit polls showed a large majority of voters said they wanted to take the country back from the rich and powerful. President-elect Trump capitalized on this outrage, with pointed attacks on big money donors and promises to “drain the swamp.” This was strong talk with little in the way of concrete proposals to back his talk up.

To win real democratic reform, we must hold President-elect Trump accountable. And we must demonstrate that concrete reforms like disclosure, small donor public financing, and strong enforcement can and do work at the state and local level.

That is why we need your support and activism at this critical time. We know that when people take on power, they can win. We know that when we have your support, we can win.

This election saw voters passing more than a dozen innovative, pro-democracy reforms in places like Howard County, Maryland and Berkeley, California, where voters approved a fair elections system that includes small dollar public financing of campaigns. We also helped pass initiatives to create impartial redistricting commissions and strengthening ethics reforms.

We can move real reforms at the state and local level that truly take aim at the corrupt establishment and that break down barriers to participation and give people a voice in their democracy.

But our new political reality shows that the work we do — together — to preserve and strengthen our democracy is more vital than ever.

Common Cause has been fighting against abuses of power and for our democratic principles for 46 years. Today begins a new chapter in that fight. In the letter John Gardner wrote as he founded Common Cause, he said “We want public officials to have literally millions of American citizens looking over their shoulders at every move they make.” That was our mission after the Watergate scandal upended our politics and when we lead the movement for reform. It has been our mission ever since, holding presidents of both parties accountable, making sure they use public power in the public interest.

The work of democracy is messy and it is hard. But it is more important now than ever before. Common Cause needs your ideas, your voice, and your activism at this critical moment in our history. We welcome your feedback on issues you are concerned about and ways you would like to help.

Yours in common cause,

Karen Hobert Flynn, President
Common Cause