One year ago, in the wake of the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, multiple major corporations pledged to stop donating to the 147 Republican congress members who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Corporate money has long been flooding our elections, encouraged by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision more than a decade ago, and has become a clear arena of advantage for the corporate agenda. In this case, some major corporations chose to withhold their money to hold these elected leaders accountable. But, what’s happening one year after the January 6th insurrection? How many corporations followed through on their promises after this shameful attempt to undermine our decision-making power? And more importantly, how many corporations plan to keep freezing out GOP objectors into 2022?
Right now, seven major corporations have explicitly extended their pledge not to fund Republican objectors into 2022. Despite the wave of announcements that followed the events of January 6, many corporations have not made their plans for protecting democracy in 2022 clear — making us question whether these initial responses were intended to be long-term commitments, or just a way to jump on the bandwagon of popular opinion and look good at the time.
Either way, what happened at the Capitol that day was a violent attack on our democracy. If it seems far away or unimportant, know that the attackers’ antics were effectively a test to see how easy it would be to topple the next presidential election. How would that affect your community? That said, it isn’t the only threat to democracy we’re facing.
Here’s the bigger picture: our elections should be open to all, no matter how much money you have in your bank account or the color of your skin. Every election matters, and we all deserve an equal say over the decisions that affect our lives. But as long as power-hungry corporations and the very wealthy have disproportionate influence on our elections, it’s harder for the rest of us to elect folks who reflect our diversity and our values. People of color, working class people, and first-time candidates face an uphill battle. The dangerous disruption that took place last year cast the shadow of big money in politics over our elections at all levels–federal and local–and we should take this anniversary as a reminder that we need to take action wherever we can to put electoral power back in the hands of regular people.
A true democracy works for everyone–Black, brown, white–not just the wealthy and well-connected. It’s time to level the playing field. Democracy dollars-type programs can do just that, by boosting the power of small donors and allowing community-supported candidates to run competitive campaigns without wealthy backers. Through democracy dollars, each voter would get publicly funded “gift certificates” to donate to candidates running for local office.
We believe in a Bay Area and a country where everyone’s voice is heard, and every voice counts equally. Everyone should have a real opportunity to run for public office wherever we live. All of us should be able to donate to candidates who truly reflect the interests of our community. It’s time for open and honest elections.