Not so Strange Bedfellows: Reflections on the Democracy Convention
by Caitlin Zera
The Annual Democracy Convention, hosted by Move to Amend and some other thirty convening/sponsoring organizations, represents a dedicated group of stakeholders who acknowledge that a main catalyst for social change in our country is the need to restore our democratic process.
In recent years, social and economic unrest has brought to the forefront of our collective lexicon phrases like, “We are the 99%” and “Get big money out of politics.” Terms like Super PACs and “dark money” appeared frequently in coverage of the last presidential election. It is no secret that our democracy has been co-opted by special interests and that all too often elected officials do not adequately stand up for the people they represent.
The organizations in attendance at the Democracy Convention covered a wide range of interests, tactics, and constituencies, and participants varied from veteran peace advocates to young family farmers, civil rights activists to intersectional feminists. What draws these groups together? How do all these issues (Economy, Media, Peace, Justice, Education, Environment) fit together to solve growing inequality in our country? This was the seminal question of the four-day convention. While there is no definitive answer, it is clear that the community of nonprofits working on the issue is growing to be ever more inclusive and that the movement is backed by a growing public awareness of and discontent with corporate control of our government.
In MCE’s presentation at the Convention, we connected democracy and ecology by citing corporate personhood as a direct threat to our abilities to live in a clean environment and advocate for ecosystem health. Our presentation was categorized as part of the Democratizing the Constitution Conference rather than the Earth Rights & Global Democracy Conference.
What happens all too often when environmental issues are folded into broader discussions or conferences, is that they become silo-ed or hyper-focused. The conversations develop around a single issue (i.e. fracking, tar sands, pesticides, water pollution, climate change) or become isolated to one community’s experience. While these conversations are valuable and a have a place in our revolution, they can lack context and ingenuity. It can become easy to ignore underlying issues of systematic oppression, like racism and classism, and the topic of the environmentalism can continue to carry the stigma that the movement is championed only by tree-huggers and hardcore preservationists. The work of protecting our environment often falls to short-term fixes of individual concerns like the direct improvement of specific habitats, enhancement of water quality in a certain areas, management of particular land uses, and regulation of pollution sources, and how to address these problems legislatively.… Read the rest