Inside the Struggle Between Plutocracy and Democracy

    Media Contact
  • Scott Swenson, Dale Eisman
Common Cause "Blueprint for a Great Democracy" Conference Set for March 8-9 in Downtown D.C.

In the midst of a campaign that is challenging long held assumptions about national politics, Common Cause will convene some of the nation’s leading political and social thinkers and activists next week for a two-day conference on the future of American democracy.

“Plutocracy and its Consequences: The Fight for Democracy,” the third in a series of “Blueprint for a Great Democracy” conferences, will focus on the nation’s gradual shift toward plutocracy, its impacts on American families, and burgeoning movements for reform across the country. Common Cause is hosting the March 8-9 event in the auditorium at the National Education Association in downtown Washington, D.C.

 “There is a sense across the political spectrum in this election year that our democracy is near the breaking point,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport. “We’ve asked some of the brightest minds in politics, academia and journalism to examine the gradual but now obvious push by a handful of wealthy special interests toward plutocracy and away from a democracy that works for every American.”

The agenda includes sessions on the role of money and race in the 2016 elections, systemic racism in the criminal justice system, how partisan and racial gerrymandering are distorting representative government, the threats to democracy posed by “big data,” and the “perfect storm” of governmental failure at the heart of the water quality disaster in Flint, MI.

“While examining the threats to democracy, we’re also going to spotlight reforms that push back against the plutocrats,” Rapoport said. “In a growing number of states and localities, innovative campaign finance systems are empowering small dollar donors, campaigns are underway for disclosure requirements to bring hidden political spending into the sunshine and there are major efforts on behalf of voter registration reforms that could add millions to the rolls.”

Speakers and presenters at the conference include:

  • Sayu Bhojwani, founder and president, The New American Leaders Project
  • Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer and editorial board member, The Washington Post
  • Derek Cressman, author, When Money Talk$
  • Caroline Frederickson, president, American Constitution Society
  • Ian Haney-Lopez, professor of law, University of California, Berkley, author of Dog Whistle Politics
  • Frances Moore Lappe, co-founder of the Small Planet Institute
  • Walter Olson, senior fellow, Cato Institute
  • Norm Ornstein, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute
  • Edward Snowden, whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor, in conversation with Malkia Cyril, Center for Media Justice (both appearing by satellite video hookup), moderated by Dan Froomkin, senior writer at The Intercept
  • Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, fellow, Brennan Center for Justice and Associate Professor of Law at Stetson University

Next week’s conference and others in the Blueprint series are hosted by Common Cause, with the generous support of the WhyNot Initiative and its George S. McGovern Great Government Endowment. The next “Blueprint” conference in the ongoing series will be in December, so democracy reform leaders can assess the 2016 election results and plan strategies to preserve democracy of, by, and for the people in 2017 and beyond.

A complete agenda is available at:

Seating is limited. Reporters and editors interested in attending any or all sessions should RSVP by 5 p.m. Friday, March 4, to Scott Swenson, or Dale Eisman,