Invitation to a Dialogue: Democracy Gone Awry

Invitation to a Dialogue: Democracy Gone Awry

Each week the New York Times picks one letter to the editor to which they encourage responses. This week’s pick, Invitation to a Dialogue: Democracy Gone Awry, offers a great opening for all of us to make the case for critical fixes to our “democracy gone awry”: an amendment to revoke corporate constitutional rights and to allow limits on independent expenditures in elections, and legislation to put new teeth in the Voting Rights Act, to establish public financing of elections, to clamp down on gerrymandering, and to prevent restrictive voting laws that disproportionately affect women, minorities, seniors, and young people.

Submissions must be emailed to by Thursday to be included in this Sunday’s Dialogue. Send in your submission today!

The original letter is printed below:

Invitation to a Dialogue: Democracy Gone Awry

To the Editor:

Fifty years of Supreme Court tinkering with our political system has resulted in a democracy so dysfunctional that no rational person would choose it.

The people, through their elected representatives, gave us an effective Voting Rights Act to protect minority voters. The Supreme Court told us that we don’t need it anymore. The people gave us a campaign finance law limiting the expansive political power of the rich. The Supreme Court told us that unlimited campaign spending by the 1 percent doesn’t corrupt the democratic process.

The people gave us a practical way to allow underfunded candidates to compete with rich ones. The Supreme Court told us that it was unfair to the rich. The people walled off the vast trove of corporate wealth from our elections. The Supreme Court told us that unlimited corporate electioneering was good for us.

The people drew legislative lines to help racial minorities recover from centuries of political exclusion. The Supreme Court told us that it was a dangerous form of racism.

But when today’s politicians entrench themselves in power by putting hurdles in the way of poor people voting, gerrymandering district lines to assure the re-election of incumbents, and stacking the electoral deck in favor of the majority party, the Supreme Court just stands by.

In the dysfunctional democracy the justices have made, the Supreme Court can even pick a president.

The extreme wings of each major party control the nominating process. Poor people have to jump through hoops to vote. The party in power controls the outcome in too many legislative elections. And the superrich have turned too many of our elected representatives into wholly owned subsidiaries, and most of our elections into auctions.

Madison would weep.


New York, Nov. 4, 2013

The writer is a professor of civil liberties at New York University Law School.