Public Citizen News / November-December 2022
By Robert Weissman
This article appeared in the November/December 2022 edition of Public Citizen News. Download the full edition here.
As I write, the results of November’s election — one of the most consequential in our nation’s history — are not yet final.
But it’s clear that we avoided a worst-case scenario. Aside from small issues, the election and the count went smoothly. Election deniers did relatively poorly and most of the newcomer election deniers running for key state positions lost.
Progressives won some crucial victories. A host of new, exciting progressive voices will join the next Congress. Pro-democracy ballot measures passed in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maine, and Michigan. Measures to secure abortion access won in California, Michigan, and Vermont. Voters in Nebraska passed a $15 minimum wage, and a number of other important ballot measures prevailed.
But for all that, it’s equally clear that our democracy remains in grave danger. And the risks will be even more severe in 2024 with the White House up for grabs.
The fact that things worked relatively well yesterday shows that our democracy *can* survive.
But with a fascistic movement continuing to gain steam across the country — a movement that will make it harder for people of color to vote, will sabotage our elections, and has already demonstrated its willingness to use violence — there is no guarantee that our democracy *will* survive.
That’s frightening, but true.
How things play out depends entirely on us.
Obviously, things are still shaking out from the election. Control of the House and Senate will make an enormous difference.
As we look forward, we see two overarching themes and areas of work: advancing a progressive populist agenda and mobilizing to protect democracy.
Advancing a Progressive Populist Agenda
Far too many people in our country feel left out and left behind. They think the system — politics and the economy, both — is rigged. And they are not wrong.
Some of them have been lured by fake populists. Some have given up on politics. A great many of them are frustrated and despairing.
To speak to this despair, we need to present an aggressive, progressive populist appeal.
We are going to use all of our advocacy tools to advance — and to encourage the Biden administration to embrace — an agenda that speaks directly to the problem of corporate power.
Here’s what that means:
- Facing down Big Pharma and its inhumane profiteering. Yes, we need far-reaching legislative action. But the administration also has tools it should use now to tackle medicine monopolies.
- Confronting Big Money dominance of our election, starting by ending secret spending. The DISCLOSE Act would outlaw Dark Money. On its own, the administration could force large corporations that contract with the government to disclose their political spending.
- Ending Big Oil’s rip-offs by imposing a windfall profits tax on the industry.
- Taxing corporations and the rich. The Inflation Reduction Act was a positive step, but we are far from a fair tax system. Everyone knows it, and it breeds disgust.
- Defending and expanding Social Security and Medicare. Republicans have announced they want to cut these vital programs. We must not just defend but fight to strengthen and expand them.
As important as these issues are individually, their combined message is even more critical: We have to shift power from corporations to people.
We have to do these things because they will improve people’s living conditions and make the country more fair and just.
And we have to do these things to preserve our democracy, to pull people away from the fake populist authoritarian movement that threatens democracy itself.
Mobilizing to Protect Democracy
We also, of course, must mobilize directly to protect, preserve, and advance our democracy.
We’re going to do everything in our power to do exactly that.
Four years ago, we pulled together what has now become the largest major, nationwide pro-democracy coalition.
I don’t have space to list all the town halls, rallies, creative actions, petitions, emails, letters and telephone calls to members of Congress and government officials, letters to the editor, lobby meetings, and much, much more that we have facilitated over the past few years.
Now, after all that, we have to ratchet things up even more.
Here’s an overview of what we’re planning:
- Demand January 6 accountability and the prosecution of former President Donald Trump. We’ll be holding nationwide rallies on the anniversary of the insurrection to push for accountability.
- Win resolutions and ordinances in cities, towns, and counties across the nation, calling for January 6 accountability, protecting the right to vote, and implementing strong legal protections for election workers against threats and intimidation.
- In the lame duck session of Congress, win passage of the Electoral Count Reform Act, which will close a loophole that Trumpists have cited in their attempts to justify election sabotage.
- Working with in-state allies, continue our intensive organizing in key states — including Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, and others — to block legislation and other maneuvers that undermine election integrity.
- Lobby and organize for the transformative Freedom to Vote Act, putting every member of Congress on the record as for or against democracy.
- Advocate with the Biden administration for an executive order forcing large corporations that receive government contracts to disclose their political spending.
- Build out our student engagement program to engage thousands of students all across the country in pre-democracy work.
- Mobilize. Mobilize.
Fascists depend on fear, intimidation, isolation, and people hiding.
We will respond with love, togetherness, public visibility, and a relentless public defense of our democracy.