Thursday April 07, 2016
They say if you walk a mile in a man’s shoes, you’ll understand his story. Activist Rick Hubbard would encourage you to walk a mile with him and then another, to come close to understanding the story of the American political system . . .
. . . and to figure out how to change it.
Hubbard, a retired attorney and former economic consultant who resides with his life partner Sally Howe in Mayfair Park, has been studying the political system for years. Over time, he has been troubled by common denominators he identifies as factors that continue to affect the way the system is financed and structured: corruption, big money, and unfair elections.
“You’ve got to have the money [to be a politician]. In order to get the money, you want to create alliances - relationships with the people who can really give you the big money,” Hubbard explained. “The big money is coming from a tiny fraction.”
These factors effectively suppress the voices of the general public, which trickles down to affecting a myriad of other issues, such as economic inequality and tackling climate change, he added.
In May 2015, there was a New York Times/CBS News Poll on the 2016 presidential campaign and the issues. Hubbard pointed out that participants (total sample size: 1027) ranked “government” as the second most important problem facing this country today. Government was only outdone by the “other” category.
From the big pharmaceutical company inflated prices costing the industry $4 billion a year to discussion of the Citizens United case, Hubbard spoke of the system with a grave voice.
Moreover, if you ask Hubbard who he’s backing for the 2016 presidential race, you won’t find Trump or Clinton on his list, either. In fact, if given the chance, he’d have Larry Lessig, the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, attorney and activist. He ran an exploratory campaign in August 2015 and raised $1 million by Labor Day. This prompted him to launch his presidential campaign, which hinged itself on The Citizen Equality Act - a proposal for three fundamental reforms: equal right to vote, equal representation, and citizen-funded elections. Hubbard said that, despite his early success, Lessig disappeared into the shadows and was shut out by the Democratic National Committee. He ended his campaign in November. Hubbard explained that now, more than ever, the system needs to be changed.
“Most people know emotionally, if nothing more, that the system is rigged. I don’t even have arguments anymore. It’s a bipartisan issue,” he said.
That’s why Hubbard has decided to organize in support of Democracy Spring, a campaign which aims to pressure Congress for democracy reform via a large march. Thus far, over 2,000 people have pledged to join a rally and a 10-day march which started on Saturday, April 2 from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.. Upon arrival, from April 11 to 15, they will partake in peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins.
Then, from April 16 to18, they will join Democracy Awakening, a coalition of organizations representing a range of movements such as civil rights, campaign finance reform, environmental, and more. Democracy Awakening will introduce a series of workshops and then a mass gathering on Sunday. These activities are supported by more than 130 organizations across the nation. When given the choice to sit in or risk arrest, Hubbard said he was willing to take the risk.
“I’ve never been arrested before, but I think the time is coming,” he said. I can’t think of a more important time to do this. It is the paramount issue of our time.”
While this march will be the biggest Hubbard will have been a part of, it is not his first rodeo. After co-organizing Common Cause/Vermont - a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to equal rights and opportunities under a fair government in the 70s - and being twice elected to its national governing board in the 80s, Hubbard found inspiration in an 89-year-old New Hampshire woman, Doris Haddock, who was commonly known as “Granny D.” Over the course of 18 months, from 1999 to 2000, she walked across the United States and spoke with various people and the media about the need for campaign finance reform. Hubbard walked with her for a week in Kentucky.
“I learned of her at a party one week before she walked,” he said. “10 miles a day, six days a week. Her family couldn’t talk her out of it.”
“I figured if she could walk across the United States, I could walk around Vermont.”
So he did. He walked about 450 miles around three sides of Vermont, and he too interviewed with the media along the way. He also tried to spread the message when he ran against Jim Jeffords in the 2000 U.S. Senate race. Despite losing to Jeffords, Hubbard walked on.
In January 2014, he walked another 185 miles with the New Hampshire Rebellion, a cross-partisan movement of citizens fighting for democracy reform, in honor of Granny D, and the following year he walked 150 miles, also with the New Hampshire Rebellion. They walked to encourage New Hampshire voters to ask the 2016 Presidential primary candidates one particular question: “What specific reforms will you advance to end the corrupting influence of big money in politics?”
There have been proposals made in response to that question, but it’s still very much a work-in-progress, he said. “We must set up a different way of financing the system that allows individual citizens to have say,” he said, using a voucher system as an example.
“You can make a huge citizen return-on-investment if we finance through vouchers. If you divide the number of American families into $4 billion dollars . . . it comes out to about a $40 range per American family to finance the whole political system if everybody did it.”
Some proposals on the table include the Government By the People Act, Fair Elections Now Act, and the Voting Rights Advancements Act. Eventually, the hope would be to amend the Constitution. Under Article 5, the Constitution can be amended if proposed by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress or by two-thirds of all state legislatures. It would then need to be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures. Since 1789, there have been 27 amendments to the Constitution.
Needless to say, the search is still on for a solution. Even if it takes a while to find an answer, the majority will agree upon there is one thing this avid cyclist, hiker, and former national-level skier knows for certain: it’s best to keep moving forward.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said, offering a glimmer of hope. “I just hope I live to see it.”
Want to march with Hubbard? For more information, visit www.democracyspring.org and/or http://democracyawakening.org.