I’m sure that you’ve looked at our representatives and said to yourself “I can do a much better job than that.”
We agree — poor and working-class folks have a proximity to the real issues in our community, unlike the born and bred politicians that represent us. However, it’s way too difficult for a working-class person to run for office. Because of that, we strongly believe that building power has to include poor and working-class folks running for and occupying office with other poor and working-class folks in mind.
Of course, running for office takes a lot of resources that regular folks don’t have. Even the best politicians are dependent on whomever they can get consistent resources from, so corporations, big business interests, and the very wealthy can put their weight behind whoever won’t change the status quo. That kind of policy doesn’t work for poor and working-class folks in North Carolina or beyond.
Furthermore, we know well from the last election that our voting rights are under attack. GOP-run legislatures across the South are instituting laws that make voting more difficult, less accessible, and easier to manipulate. These kind of attacks on our rights will not stop without some sort of intervention from our leaders.
The good news? All of this could change with the passage of H.R.1, or the For the People Act.
What is the For the People Act?
H.R.1 is not a new bill; the House of Representatives has passed the For the People Act twice — once in 2019, and once again in 2021 when the bill was reintroduced after the election of President Biden.
Here are just some of the things that the For the People Act calls for:
- Same-day voter registration required
- Internet voter registration required (most places in America still primarily use paper records to keep up with voter information)
- Automatic voter registration
- Allotting for a federal holiday to increase voter access
- Reaffirmation of voting rights for citizens of Washington D.C., indigenous peoples, and U.S. territories
- Redistricting reform
- Voter purging protections
- Overhaul of campaign finance law to limit “dark money,” corporate influence, and disclose the identities of those who donate more than $10,000 to a campaign
The For the People Act also incorporates campaign finance previsions from the DISCLOSE Act, which would impose stricter limitations on foreign lobbying, require super PACs and other “dark money” organizations to disclose their donors, and restructure the Federal Election Commission to reduce partisan gridlock.
Many groups (including us!) support this legislation. However, support for the For the People Act is along party lines. With a Democratic House of Representatives and a Senate split 50-50, voting on the bill has been stopped from going to a vote by the GOP and the threat of a filibuster — which can stop the bill from going to a vote completely.
What would it mean for regular folks running for office?
The For the People Act introduce voluntary public financing for campaigns, matching small donations at a 6:1 ratio. This means that small, grassroots campaigns with the buy-in of the people have better means to be seen and heard without the impediment of fundraising. This money would come from a new Freedom From Influence Fund run by the U.S. Treasury, which would collect funds by charging a fee on criminal/civil fines and penalties or settlements with banks and corporations that commit corporate malfeasance. That’s one way to stick it to Wall Street while giving grassroots candidates a chance to build their campaign with the resources they need.
Furthermore, this also works to protect our democracy from the few; just in the two most recent midterm elections, the top 100 super PAC donors gave almost as much as all the millions of small donors combined. With that information shared, we can know exactly who has a hand in creating and enforcing local policy.
The system we have current favors incumbents — people who already have an in with fundraisers, connections to big business, or those willing to do favors for the wealthy. With the average Senator spending half of everyday doing nothing but fundraising, reading policy and knowing what the people need and want is no longer the priority. A public fund for candidates evens the playing field, and allows real people to get onto the ballot as well as clearing up space to get real work done.
Join us in the fight to build power for poor and working-class folks. Make a plan to attend one of our events!