African Americans are property. Women have no right to vote. Americans who favor an income tax violate the Constitution. Poll taxes may lock out millions of Americans from the voting booth. Americans may be drafted into the armed services yet have no right to vote. Money is speech and corporations are people.
The Supreme Court made every one these rulings. Except for the last (Citizens United v. FEC), none of these dangerous propositions stood because Americans responded with Constitutional amendments. Seven of our twenty-seven amendments overturned Supreme Court rulings. Every generation of Americans has used the Constitutional amendment process to overturn the Court and renew the American Promise. Now it’s our turn.
Today, we launch American Promise to empower every American to step up to secure our core beliefs once again:
- Constitutional rights for every human being;
- Equal citizenship for every American;
- Our own responsibility for effective self-government.
These core beliefs are as old and true as the American Revolution– but they are not our reality today.
The problem has been a long time coming but the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC brought on the crisis to a head. In 2010, the Court ruled that corporations, unions and those with vast wealth have “free speech” rights to spend unlimited money and override the rights of all Americans. As a result, more than $30 billion from corporations, unions and billionaires has poured into our political process to buy elections, corrupt government, and control policy.
- Human Constitutional rights now are claimed by the largest, most global corporations to block reform and control our government.
- Equal citizenship has been transformed into a class system, where “super-citizens” whose wealth, we are told by the Supreme Court, entitles them to more representation, a louder voice, and more privileges than everyone else.
- And our responsibility for self-government is collapsing as well. The hallmarks of citizenship – deliberation, collaboration, civic engagement- have given way to anger, hyper-partisanship, and apathy. Only one in three eligible citizens even bothered to vote in 2014, and some contested elections in 2015 saw voter participation drop to 14 percent.
No reform standing alone can solve this until we overturn Citizens United and rebuild our Constitutional foundation of human, not corporate, liberty and equal citizenship, not purchased power for a few. The way we do that is to pass the 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
American Promise embraces the “historical gravity of our situation,” in the words of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (an American Promise Advisory Council member) in calling for the 28th Amendment. Our de-centralized, cross-partisan model of local action and national networks allows every American to join this historic work. Already, we are well on our way.
Thanks to millions of Americans and many outstanding organizations (including Free Speech For People, which I co-founded and to which I remain deeply committed), we are much closer now to winning the 28th Amendment and a range of good reform than the mainstream media reports.
Americans overwhelmingly support the 28th Amendment to overturn Citizens United, with repeated polls showing support of more than 75% of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Sixteen states have enacted 28th Amendment resolutions, as have 700 cities and towns in every region of the country. Many of these have involved voter initiatives, which consistently pass by huge cross-partisan margins.
Last September, one version of the 28th Amendment received 54 votes in the Senate, and it currently has more than 150 House and Senate sponsors. The Amendment would restore the rights of Americans to enact limits on money in elections, and to distinguish between the rights of human beings and corporations in doing so.
We have come far but much more is needed from each of us to bring the 28th Amendment and big reform over the finish line. American Promise is designed to help us do it.
American Promise is a fast-growing, sustained and self-funded network of local American Promise Associations (APAs). These APAs are autonomous; they are local; they are cross-partisan; they are made up of volunteers; they are networked and connected, online and in life.
Citizen leaders, unified by American Promise core beliefs, supported by American Promise infrastructure and resources, lead and take action in local communities. We network our APAs to scale nationally, share best practices, and leverage the combined power of the APAs to win ratification of the 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution and create historic reforms within the decade.
Our model supports autonomous local citizen leadership by all Americans, whether liberal or conservative, Republican, Democrat, Independent or any other party. We reject partisan division, top-down “required” policy answers, and ideological litmus tests. We strengthen cross-partisan and non-partisan citizenship. We unify, empower, and connect.
This model creates the means to achieve the necessary vote of 2/3 of Congress and ratification in 38 states, a properly rigorous path that nearly every generation of Americans has walked to win our previous 27 amendments.
We don’t have illusions about winning this vote in this Congress, nor do we need to. Far more important right now is that we reweave the fabric of our American community, to renew our commitment to our core beliefs, and to act on those beliefs where we live, with the knowledge that no one else is going to do this for us. American Promise enables us to do this now, and to create the Congress that will pass the 28th Amendment and big reform in just a few years.
Citizens United and its money-dominated “marketplace” political system create a national conflict between two irreconcilable Constitutional values: Principles of oligarchy (rule by the wealthy) versus principles of human freedom and equal citizenship.
We can’t have both, and only one of these will prevail. American Promise intends to win.
Join us at www.americanpromise.net, and see what you can do.