Amy, California

The following is an abbreviated version of an op-ed Amy published detailing her experience running for office. You can read it here.

Dear America,

When I ran for the San Francisco Community College Board in 2014, I was pregnant with my first child.

After she was born, I was consumed with worry: How would I feed my baby during the rigorous campaign cycle? If I won, how I would I balance public service with parenting? These questions didn’t seem to cross the minds of the men I knew in public office, regardless of whether they had children.

When I served, I was one of approximately 114,000 women ― and an estimated half a million people total ― in elected office nationwide. This puts women at about 22 percent of all elected officials, a number that breaks down to about 19 percent of Congress23 percent of state executive offices and 25 percent of state legislative officesThere are currently no data available showing how many elected officials are mothers. Considering this lack of information, it’s no surprise that we aren’t meeting the needs of these women.

Although men are increasingly sharing in housework and child care, according to the Pew Research Center, mothers are still carrying a heavier load.

Fundraising has been shown to be a major barrier for women running for office. Effective fundraising requires two things women are less likely than men to have: an established network of donors and lots of free time.

One estimate shows federal lawmakers so far having spent more than 650,000 hours fundraising during the current Congress! The most effective way to reduce the outsize role of money in politics would be to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which gave corporations ― and their money ― the right to “free speech.” Another solution would be to increase regulations around campaign financing, and offer more public money for those who want to run for office. 

As Pelosi once said, “If you reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility in debate, more women will run for office.” Hillary Clinton said, “The only way to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics.”

We need structural and cultural change if we’re going to get moms into politics and keep them there. Solutions would make sure that our representative government is just that: a government that represents all Americans.

Having more moms in office is beneficial to our society as a whole. Female members of Congress secure 9 percent more funding than their male counterparts and introduce twice as many bills. And when there are more women in Congress, support for bills related to so-called women’s issues increases ― although only about 1 in 50 of these bills actually makes it, proving that we need a lot more moms to push them through.

Before 2016, Emily’s List, a progressive group that supports Democratic women running for office, reported that about 1,000 women annually contacted their organization for information about running. That number has since ballooned to 26,000. Many of these women are momsTo keep this number high and rising, we need more resources and support systems for these women once they are in office.

I was lucky: I had an incredible, equal partner as a spouse, who made sure that he could get home from work early so I could go to board meetings and political events. But a good partner is not the same thing as good policies. Imagine how much more I could have done, and imagine how many more women could serve, with real support for moms in politics.

Sincerely,

Amy

Jim, California

Dear America,

I am an 85 year old retiree living on Social Security. I feel very vulnerable to the actions of uncontrolled big donating political groups interested only in increasing their wealth at our expense. The Supreme Court seems uninterested here for they have removed the protection we once had.

Sincerely,

Jim, California

Jake, Illinois

Dear America,

Shortly before the Inauguration in January 2017, I decided to act. I became a precinct committeeman in my township in the hopes of getting others out to vote and working on local elections because our local government effects us the most. I believe that you can’t have family values if you don’t value families, and that a community is stronger when everyone is working together. I believe that if you think global and act local, good things will happen for democracy. We still have a long way to go, I still have a lot of work to do and much to learn, but I feel better knowing that I’m out trying to do something rather than sitting on my couch watching TV or looking at Twitter.

Sincerely,

Jake, Illinois

Ken, Kansas

Dear America,

My experience with the American political system started as a 11-year old passing out campaign literature in the presidential election campaign in 1940. Fast forward to my college age years when I joined a local political party and became educated about getting people out to vote in both the primary and general election. All of this occurred in the state of Kansas.

Later I worked for two congressmen on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. At this point I had the opportunity to knock on doors in elections and encourage voters to support candidates.

Getting more people voting should be the goal of all who believe in making democracy work. This takes education about democracy which translates into persuading people to vote in every election!

Sincerely,

Ken, Kansas

William, Washington

Dear America,

Greed is where our country’s path has gone as far as our government goes. our elected officials have put money ahead of peoples lives. Our officials are primarily millionaires if not billionaires. and the less fortunate people suffer, because their don’t want to cut into their pockets by doing the right things and helping the less fortunate. Most of us worked 40 to 50 years or more and paid into social security to get a retirement that would possibly help them make it through their retirement, struggling some. However our government put to use our money and then told us we don’t have money to fund social security and medicare. Instead of helping make it better, they keep cutting it every year, so now people who put money into this program gets less and less money (nowhere near keeping up with inflation costs). So most of our seniors are below poverty levels and now you want to cut that money even more. You politicians have taken our rights to a fair retirement to what give more money to the rich and big business in tax breaks. Shame on you as a whole. As you seem to believe in the out of sight, out of mind concepts, because it doesn’t affect you. I’m more fortunate then most, but it sickens me how our government doesn’t govern most of American people, but just the top 5% of our super rich people seem to enjoy the fruits of retirement.

Sincerely,

William, Washington

James, Texas

Dear America,

We no longer have a country by the people, for the people but a country who’s greed is way out of hand. When a corporation is considered a human entity and billionaire special interests can by any political system or individual they want, something has really gone wrong. I served my country for 25 years in the Army, now I’m a disabled veteran. That was my choice. We must start change by eliminating the antiquated electoral college and let the people elect our leaders, not special interests! In order to do this the dark money tap has got to be stopped. Honesty, integrity, loyalty, liberty, and above all truth, must be part of our foundation.

Sincerely,

James, Texas

Ellen, New Hampshire

Dear America,

I am an asthmatic, like millions of other Americans, and need a rescue inhaler. The propellant that used to be in these inhalers, CFC, was very effective in sending the medicine deep into the lungs. In the early 2000s, GlaxoSmithKline saw their opportunity, and lobbied Congress to make CFCs in inhalers illegal, because they had developed a proprietary alternative, and far inferior, propellant, HFA. Not only is this propellant insufficient to deliver medication deep into the lungs, and in fact causes clogging of the inhaler which was never before a problem, but generic rescue inhalers disappeared overnight, sending the price of an inhaler from around $5 to over $50, and in some cases hundreds of dollars. Millions of asthmatics lungs, and pockets, are suffering…all so Glaxo could make an extra buck. Our ‘democracy’ at work.

Sincerely,

Ellen, New Hampshire

Bob, Minnesota

Dear America,

I was very grateful when Minnesota passed the voucher legislation. I felt helpless that I could not financially support candidates that shared my values. Candidates that I did not support often were receiving financial support form individuals and corporations. It was not fair to sometimes have people win elections simply by outspending their opponent. The vouchers created a more level playing field that is vital to a true democracy.

I would like for this to go even further. I support every candidate being held to a specified amount that can be spent an election. The money that goes into political campaigns could feed every child/family in this country that goes with no or little food each day.

Sincerely,

Bob, Minnesota

James, Texas

Dear America,

We as a nation are in dire need of fundamental campaign finance reform measures. Numerous pressing issues (climate change, food labeling, gun safety, immigration reform, prison reform, education reform, short-term lending regulation, healthcare reform, banking regulation, opioid regulation) remain vexing problems primarily due to corporations’ ability to curry favor with elected officials. The corrupting influence of money in our political system is undermining our democratic traditions and discouraging Americans from voting and/or running for office. This ominous development may well end our experiment in representative democracy unless we alter this decades-long trend. For the sake of the republic, we must amend the US Constitution to state that corporations are not people (and do not have constitutional rights) and money is not speech (and thus can be regulated by state and/or federal campaign finance laws). Short of accomplishing this, no other reform of significance will be achieved. The moneyed interests will turn any reform to their benefit, often at the expense of the nation as a whole.

Sincerely,

James, Texas

Paul, Massachusetts

Dear America,

Massachusetts has a bottle deposit law, but it only covers carbonated beverages. The state legislature declined for 10 years to vote on our bill to include bottled water, so we gathered 150,000 signatures and put it on the ballot. At first, polls showed a significant majority in favor of the bill. Then came $8 million in misleading attack ads from the food and beverage industry, and we lost in November. Score: Powerful Special Interests – 1, We the People – 0.

Sincerely,

Paul, Massachusetts