Quest For Justice: Building a Democracy That Works For Everyone

March 14, 2016

Democracy for all! Woody cow graphic.

Ever since Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield founded our company more than 35 years ago, we’ve been led by our progressive values. And when we’re at our best, we use the power of our business to support issues that advance social and economic justice.

We were one of the very first companies to support marriage equality, and we’ve advocated for spending less on our countries bloated military budget and more on children’s education and health care. We’ve been a part of the movement supporting a livable wage for working people and climate justice for the world’s most vulnerable citizens.

And that’s why we are now compelled to stand up in support of returning our democracy to the hands of ordinary people. 

No Nuts About It

So look, this isn’t easy, but we’re gonna say it. We’re not going to sugar coat it, we’re gonna give it to you straight. Our democratic system of government is completely and udderly fudged up. 

A Bad Taste in our Mouths

There are two corrosive trends that are corrupting our democracy and reinforcing deep racial and economic inequities across our society:

  1. The first is the massive influx of unlimited, unregulated, and often untraceable money flowing into our political system. This cash is influencing our elections and enabling a very few, very wealthy corporate and private interests to have a massively disproportionate influence over the direction of our country at the expense of the vast majority of Americans.

    Who are these privileged few?

    A small handful of wealthy, white, and old donors have contributed almost half of all the money in the 2016 election cycle so far, at a time when the pool of eligible voters is increasingly young, diverse, and let’s just say they don’t have a money tree in their backyards.This means that those who end up having the most access to and influence over our policy makers don’t really look like the rest of the country and often have a very different set of values and interests than the rest of us.This produces polices that work well for a handful billionaires, not for ordinary Americans.

  2. The second, and perhaps more insidious trend, is the concerted effort to deny certain voters their right to participate in our democracy. Since 2010, more than 21 states have passed new, more restrictive voting requirements that make it more difficult for African Americans, low-income people, and students to exercise their right to vote.

Here Are Some Ugly Examples

The effects have been wide-ranging: in North Carolina, legislators passed a package of regressive voting policies including:

  • Eliminating same-day voter registration
  • Reducing the early voting period
  • Ending pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds
  • Instituting a photo ID requirement. 

Last September, the state of Alabama announced that nearly half of the DMV offices—where voters can go to receive their required IDs—in the state would be closed. Coincidentally, this came just a year after enacting a strict voter ID law.  And the DMVs which were chosen for closure were suspect, also, primarily impacting rural, low-income, majority black counties.  Of the ten counties with majority black populations, only two were left with the DMV offices. The impacts of these changes in Alabama are already being felt, with voter turnout in the 2014 midterms at it lowest in nearly three decades.  Aren’t we supposed to be going in the other direction?

We Fought for What?!

It’s hard to believe that a half-century after those brave men and women set off to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in support of voting rights and were savagely beaten, we again find members of our society having to fight for the fundamental right to participate in our democracy.  

But there is good news.  There are three simple things we can do that would make a world of difference. 

Let’s Make It Better

  1. First, let’s restore the elements the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court gutted in a 2013 ruling.  The court called upon Congress to update the VRA, and after 50 years of bipartisan support for the act, the current Congress has refused to even debate the issue, putting the rights of millions of voters at risk by putting control of electoral laws in that hands of those same white, affluent state legislators who want to maintain their hold on power.
  2. Second, here’s an sweet idea: Automatic Voter Registration. Imagine if instead of having to register to vote, you were automatically on the voter list. When you moved, when you file a change of address, your voter registration would follow you.  I know, it’s a radical idea, right?  This common sense policy would would add up to 50 million eligible voters to the rolls.  Sounds oh-so-democratic.
  3. Finally, there’s the issue of all this dough corrupting our political system.  The Democracy For All Amendment ends the big money dominance of our elections by allowing Congress and the States to set overall limits on campaign spending, including prohibitions on corporate and union spending in the political process (as existed prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC). 

If We Stand Together, We Can Actually Make a Difference.

If you believe, like we do, that our democracy belongs in the hands of all Americans, not in the pockets of a handful of billionaires, please join us this year as we spread the word and taking action. Add your name to the millions of others who support these common sense changes, trust us from our experience that it makes a difference. If we, together, can impact these three policies, we can profoundly shift the balance of power in our country while at the same time protecting every citizen’s right to vote.  Win, win, win.