Common Cause: Democracy Awakening Proves the People Will Prevail

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  • Scott Swenson
Facing Challenges, Finding Optimism: Together We Are Building a 21st Century Democracy that Works for Everyone

Washington, DC — Thousands of Americans gathered on the National Mall calling attention to the citizen-driven grassroots movement steadily gaining momentum and scoring impressive early wins in the six years since the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United. After allowing more secret unaccountable money to tip the scales more toward wealthy special interests, the court dealt democracy another blow when it made voting harder for many people in Shelby, dismantling parts of the Voting Rights Act. But as thousands gathered to fight the twin threats to democracy, the mood is decidedly optimistic.

In music, artistic performances, speeches from elected officials and movement leaders, the crowd stood as a representation of millions of Americans across the country who are part of more than 100 endorsing organizations. This movement, built town-by-town, state-by-state, started to emerge on the national scene during the 2016 election by framing the Fighting Big Money, Empower People: An Agenda for a 21st Century Democracy. Through a series of events during the past two weeks, the Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening, more than 1000 people have been arrested in acts of civil disobedience to call attention to the need for the reforms as captured in the Fighting Big Money Agenda and the issues endorsed by these actions.

This growing political force is demanding a debate in 2016 about the future of democracy, money’s influence, our right to vote, and the people’s desire for government that works for all of us.

Common Cause is the largest and longest-serving citizen-advocacy organization with 35 offices in states working on the frontline of democracy reform. A recent growth spurt in membership, now at 475,000 and climbing, suggests the issues of how our democracy works are as relevant to the New American Majority as they were to the generation that founded Common Cause. In 46 years Common Cause citizen-lobbyists held power accountable, no matter which party was in power, and passed the nation’s first open government and transparency laws; fought back against money’s influence starting with Watergate; elevated ethics in legislative bodies; expanded the vote to 18 year-olds. Today Common Cause is helping pass the first Automatic and Online Voter Registration laws; leading model reforms to reduce money’s influence, such as Connecticut’s Citizen Election Program, which shifted the balance of power away from lobbyists and back to the people. In addition, Common Cause is working to pass impartial redistricting commissions to fight polarization and end gerrymandering; working against the concentration of media and for net neutrality, and the full range of issues election related issues to reform, modernize, and create a democracy that works fore everyone in the 21st Century.

Statement from the prepared remarks of Miles Rapoport, Common Cause president, Democracy Awakening, April 17, 2016, Washington, DC. 

“As the challenges we face threaten the survival of democracy itself, we have reason to be extremely optimistic.” 

“We have come to this moment of Democracy Awakening — because people are realizing the system is rigged against most of us, for the benefit of a few wealthy special interests.” 

“The issues of racial equality and economic justice, and a democracy that works for everyone are now at the top of the agenda in this election. You made that happen — you stood on street corners protesting the Citizens United decision; you fought to expand access to the ballot in the face of the Shelby decision. Because you fought back against big money, every candidate for president, congress, and on down ballot will have to answer one question — “what will you do to reduce money’s influence so that everyone’s voice and vote are equal and we preserve democracy of, by, and for the people?” 

“By working together, town by town, state by state, we will win this our generation’s fight for democracy just as people before us won the rights for us to be here today. We will not be the generation that gives up on democracy, and the next generation, the New American Majority, they will be the generation that finally and forevermore secures a democracy reflecting and worthy of the rich diversity of ideas, experiences, and people that will define 21st Century America.” 

“You have changed the national conversation, and when everyday American’s change their conversations about what is important, the policies and decisions will change soon after. The politicians always catch up sooner or later.”


Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.