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Doris Haddock's Remarks in Morgantown, West Virginia
January 8, 2000
The Efficacy of Sacrifice-Based Protest
Thank you for being here to welcome me. It is an honor to be here with you
It may seem odd to you that an 89 year-old woman --almost 90-- should start walking across the country for an issue like campaign finance reform. It sounds like something that CPAs should worry about, not old ladies from New Hampshire.
Nevertheless, on January 1st of last year, I began my walk in Los Angeles and I have been walking ever since, usually ten miles a day. It has been a great adventure.
That you might better understand how this kind of protest works, let me
describe what has happened to me again and again on my walk. When I got
across the Mojave Desert in California, I found myself at the Arizona town
of Parker, on the Colorado River. The mayor of that lively town is a
wonderful woman named Sandy Pierce. Now, I don't know if Sandy cared too
much about campaign finance reform before I got there, though she well may
have. But after we met --and after people congratulated me for crossing
that big desert where many others have died, and after Good Morning America
and National Public Radio interviewed me-- people were very curious about
campaign finance reform. Sandy understood immediately what I was talking
about. Within a few hours, she was introducing me all over town with a
little speech like this: "Now I would like you to meet Doris Haddock. She
has just walked here from Los Angeles, through the Mojave." People's eyes
would open a little wider. She would continue: "She is doing it to
publicize the need for campaign finance reform. She is upset that big money
interests are calling the shots in our elections, and we no longer have
much of a say. She thinks that is a huge problem for us all. She says that
all the people who have died in wars to defend our democracy would want us
to defend it now, from those who are buying it from under us." Well, all I
would have to do is smile and shake hands after Sandy introduced me. People
would immediately see that what I was doing did, in fact, relate to serious
issues that disturbed them, too.
Then, of course, the local newspaper reporter would want to know about
campaign finance reform. If someone would walk so far across that desert
for it, it must be important. And so I would explain how there are laws
limiting what a person can give to any one candidate, and that these laws
are meant to preserve the health of the democratic system. I would explain
that there is a soft money loophole that gets around those laws. The
loophole allows corporations, unions or wealthy individuals to give
unlimited amounts of money to parties. The parties can pass those dollars
along to candidates. What is the point of contribution limits, if you can
just use this back door?
Well, reporters are quick studies by trade. So wherever I have gone,
reporters have quickly learned about the issue and written about it. Large
newspapers have looked anew at the issue, and some have changed their
positions, now demanding campaign finance reform. Now, could I have done as
well if I sat back in New Hampshire and wrote letters to the editor?
Probably not. People do respect serious and sincere sacrifice, and they
will listen to you on account of it.
Having newspaper reporters and editors who understand and care about
campaign finance reform is very bad news, indeed, for anti-reform Members
of Congress who are later interviewed by those newspeople.
Now, back to campaign reform for a moment. Some of your friends may say,
why shouldn't they be able to spend as much money as they want on a
candidate? It is a free country, and that is a part of free speech, isn't
it?. Well, tell them this: If money is speech, how can we be equal
citizens? If money is speech and we are all in the same room, trying to run
a democracy, then some of us are mute and some of us have bull horns. It is
reasonable to put some limits on the money going into campaigns, if only to
make it so that all can be fairly heard.
As you know, big corporate money has taken up residence in Washington in a
very serious way, and has now taken over the process (flooding it with $116
million a month!). If you decide, as a free citizen of America, that you
believe we need to do a better job of reducing greenhouse gasses, or of
protecting natural resources, or any other cause you believe in, and you go
to Washington to press your case, I ask you: will you be talking to those
Senators and Representatives, and will they be listening to your arguments
and making decisions based on the best facts and the best interests of our
country and our world? Today, they will not, and that is the tragic
condition we must not allow to persist. They are all running on high-speed
treadmills of fund raising that only give them time to listen to big money
lobbyists, and then to do their bidding. They rationalize it, of course,
thinking that in the big picture of things they are doing the best for
America. They are lying to themselves, and to all of us.
K Street, where the biggest corporate lobbyists have their offices in
Washington, is the feeding trough for is piggery. The big money lobbyists
put money out in the troughs each morning on K Street, and a great oinking
starts up near the Capitol, and soon they are all nudging each other at the
troughs. Its enough to make you a vegetarian.
I am walking to Washington, but I am not going first to the Capitol
building--that is only the puppet theater these days. I am walking to K
Street, the true center of power, where we will show Washington to itself
for the shameful place it has become.
Enough negativity. Let me tell you that, for every negative thought I have
had along this long walk, there have been a thousand beautiful moments.
Americans are truly kind, interesting, odd, beautiful and smart people. I
recommend that, someday, when it is not escapism, you don a backpack and go
see it all for yourself. I don't think you should wait until you are 90. I
expect that most of you younger people will live 150 years or more, so you
might think about doing it twice, once through the north, and once through
the south. And leave time for the rest of the world, too.
On your walks, you will see how important political leadership is in the
lives of the people. When we do not have leaders that care about fairness,
and health, and the fulfillment of the educational potential of each
person, what we get is what we have gotten: poverty, illiteracy,
dysfunctional communities, and widespread emotional depression. I am not
saying that it is the government's role to run our lives, I am saying that,
especially in this nation, we are the government, and we run this country
for our mutual benefit, unless powerful interests get in our way, stealing
our common resources and our very lives. When that happens, we must act,
and that is what I am doing for myself, and what you must do for yourself.
For this is your land. It is not someone else's. This is your life, not
someone else's. Your freedom, and your position of responsibility as a
member of a self-governing community have been paid for in blood by many,
many people who came before you. You owe it to them, but most of all to
yourselves, to sweep away anything that gets between you and your rightful
place as the free member of a free community.
Up the road a ways, in Cumberland, I will mark mile 3,000 and my 90th year.
I am almost finished with this walk, but I am far from finished with this
work. In Washington, we will make a determination regarding who in Congress
is for reform, and who is too busy with their snouts in the sludge to make
a commitment to reform. On the basis of that determination, I will be
active in the states in the coming election year to try to defeat some
Congresspeople who stand in the way of reform. We only need a few more
votes in the Senate to achieve a good start.
So this is serious and long term work, but I am up for it, and I hope you
are, too. Our democracy, and even the biological survival of our planet are
in the balance. Aren't we fortunate to live in a time when so much is at
stake --when we each have such a fine challenge to our very souls?