For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Frustrated by a coin-operated Congress that has little interest in–or reason to–reform, citizens are taking matters into their own hands by placing initiatives on state ballots that effectively bypass their lawmakers:

  • In a closely watched case, more than 725,000 Californians signed a petition to qualify a single-payer health care initiative for the November ballot. Ignoring the mangled Clinton plan and defyyng the insurance industry’s relentless lobbying against any kind of health reform, voters will decide if the state should set up a Canadian-style system. In view of lobbyists’ power over lawmakers, “the only avenue open is to take single payer direcdly to the voter,” says Glen Schneider, chair of Californians for Health Security, the group organizing the single-payer drive. “With the legislature, it’s only 120 votes [special interests] need to control,” he notes. “But controlling 8 million votes [expected to be cast in November] is a lot harder.”
  • Reformers are also using ballot measures to get big money out of politics. Petitions in Colorado, Missouri, Montana, and Oregon press for sharp limits on campaign contributions from individuals, interest groups, and PACs. In 1992, Washington, D.C., voters decided overwhelmingly to enact a $100 limit on campaign contributions. This year’s candidates for mayor, city council, and other seats are bound by these rules.
  • Advocates of term limits point to Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill.: the 18-term congressman, indicted on 17 counts of public corruption, epitomizes the arrogance that career politiccans can develop. Voters in five states will consider congressional term limits this fall. Some courts, however, have ruled that term limits are unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court will review the issue during its next session.

Why are these bottom-up reform efforts proliferating? “People are angry about government’s inability to work for real people,” says Donna Edwards of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for a New Democracy. “That anger is being transmitte d to the state level in part because of frustrations with the way Congress has chosen not to deal with reform.” She predicts that citizen-sponsored reforms will create models for change, “so that inevitably Congress won’t have a choice. They’ll be bullied into reform.”

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate