Today’s rebellion started slowly in a parking lot off Route 1A on the south side of Portsmouth. With 3 days of rain finally over and the sky brightening up, the spirits of the few dozen people who met there were pretty good, and a bunch of them were old friends I wasn’t expecting to see. It was a good start to a day of marching to get big money out of politics.
That’s the purpose of the NH Rebellion, a year-old organization inspired by Doris “Granny D” Haddock, the New Hampshire woman who at age 90 walked across the entire country to call for reform of the nation’s campaign finance laws. Her relentless pavement pounding helped pave the way for passage of the McCain-Feingold law in 2002. That law, in turn, opened the doors to new paths for moneyed interests to worm their ways into the political system and then was undermined by the US Supreme Court.
With money spent on political campaigns deemed a form of speech protected by the First Amendment, and corporations deemed persons with just about all rights – so far – save the right to cast ballots, Granny D’s spirit is more important than ever.
“96% of Americans think that big money in politics is a problem,” the NH Rebellion says, “but 91% think we can’t do anything about it. It’s time to prove them wrong.”
“Systemic corruption blocks progress on ALL issues, regardless of one’s political viewpoint,” insists the Rebellion. “Our goal is to make money in politics the central issue of the 2016 presidential primaries by asking every candidate to answer one question: ‘How are you going to end the system of corruption in DC?’”
From now until the NH Primary, the Rebellion aims to mobilize citizens to ask that question. They are also planning house meetings, circulating petitions, and organizing more marches.
Our busload of rebels emptied out at Hampton Beach and without fanfare hit the sidewalk for several hours of walking north to New Castle, where a mid-afternoon rally was scheduled. With everyone walking at their own pace we were soon spread out along Route 1-A, a bit hard to distinguish from vacationers who were just as glad the sun was shining.
NH Rebellion volunteers met us now and then with offers of water, leaflets, encouragement to walk faster, and reminders that the bus would come by to sweep up stragglers. We were among those “swept up” by the bus to leapfrog ahead a few miles and re-join the march for the last few miles through Rye and New Castle.
Only when we reached the New Castle Library could we see that there was a pretty good crowd. Finally, inside the walls of Fort Constitution we were able to join a crowd several hundred strong. No surprise: Portsmouth’s Leftist Marching Band was performing.
Jeff McLean, the Rebellion’s Executive Director, welcomed the marchers with a brief statement noting that Fort Constitution was the site of the first victory of the American Revolution. “Today we come here as citizens who recognize a fundamental flaw” in the political system.
McLean, who led organizing of turnout and logistics for the march, introduced Professor Lawrence Lessig, founder of the initiative and the event’s only other speaker. Conventional wisdom in the nation’s capital is that the money system is entrenched and impossible to change, Lessig said. “But look around. This looks like the first victory of the American Revolution Version Two.”
By the time of the NH Primary, Lessig said, every candidate will have to answer the Rebellion’s one question about ending the system of corruption. That remains to be seen.
One thing was obvious today. Unlike the Rebellion’s first march last January, this one was peopled mostly by New Hampshire residents. These are the people who, if they get jazzed up over the next 16 months, can turn money in politics, the unwarranted influence of big business, and the notion that corporations are vested with constitutional rights into key issues in the Primary campaign.