The Times-hocking donors are forcing us to redefine what power means

Jenna Lee is the host of First Word on CNN Weekend and Editor-at-Large for CNN. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on wealthy donors can be summed up succinctly as “rich people’s money.” To…

The Times-hocking donors are forcing us to redefine what power means

Jenna Lee is the host of First Word on CNN Weekend and Editor-at-Large for CNN.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on wealthy donors can be summed up succinctly as “rich people’s money.” To make an old adage sound fresh, here it is: “Money talks, but the Constitution talks louder.”

In their quest to put more cash into our political systems, actors like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are using their high profiles to prove they are the most knowledgeable Americans about “money in politics.” They both took to the pages of The Nation, the People’s Voice and then the New York Times’ op-ed pages to make bold statements about redistributing political power to the people.

That doesn’t cut it for you? Fret not: you are not alone. Americans are growing increasingly tired of the daily attacks on the system – and on the very idea of our nation’s democratic institutions.

The fact is: we already are.

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The problem is complicated.

Our democratic system is in danger of being under assault at multiple places: from direct intervention by wealthy big-spenders to mix-and-match contributions to fake grassroots movements to data mining that fundamentally changes the nature of our political future. But none of this is something that can be successfully undone through legislation or election campaigns.

Here’s the deal: money, both in and out of the political system, does have a way of changing hearts and minds. But Americans’ stomachs may have to be pushed and prodded in order to get us there. A voter will have to dig deep to make a change. One is likely to be quite tempted to donate or lobby. People will also have to be asked, which big-picture questions will go unasked or under-heeded.

From the editorial pages of the New York Times and Newsweek to the nightly news and blogs, we’re getting hit up for cash by everyone and everything from Doctors Without Borders to the Salvation Army to Harvard. But none of them have to go through the steep and costly process of recruiting an army of 1,000 Facebook friends to make a deep change in our country’s future.

This creates a conundrum: how do we get ordinary people to go deeper in order to make the revolution happen? How do we get people to dare to ask difficult questions? How do we use our knowledge and passion to engage with and motivate our fellow citizens?

Granted, Congress has failed to take on the issue of campaign finance. But American citizens aren’t giving up hope. Asking for help is a good first step.

We’ve started a new project called the Campaign for People’s Credibility, where each week we will release an article from a wide variety of people on why they are proud to be part of the resistance movement.

So when you see an actor who is all for the People’s Credibility project and knows about the important issue of campaign finance, you will know we’re fighting the good fight.

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