Daring Democracy Author Event 9/20/2107 audio transcript
Will Myers: Thank you everyone for coming here this morning. I've been excited about this day for a long time. As some of you might know, I'm Frankie and Adam's editor for Daring Democracy. I just wanted to introduce them and say a few words about how great it's been to work with both of you. Genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, you have been two of the most amazing authors to work with. Especially in these ...
Speaker 2: Take it off the mic, thanks.
Will Myers: Thank you. I don't do this often. Okay, so, I'm Will Myers and I'm an editor at Beacon Press for those of you who don't know me. This came about in December, soon after the election when Frankie had called Helen and said she had a book idea. Helen thought that I might be a good editor for the job, which I was very pleased about.
This all came together over, really, a few months at the beginning of the year of intense editing and intense writing, and intensity all over your office as I'm sure Ashley can attest. This was during a very dark time, during Trump's inauguration. For me, you were a model of courage and really a light in a really dark time. I just wanted to say thank you. Editing the book at that time was really necessary for me.
Moving on, I'll just say a few words about Frankie and about Adam before I turn the mic over to them.
Frances Moore Lappé is the author or co-author of 18 books about world hunger living democracy and the environment. Beginning with the three million copy Diet for a Small Planet in 1971, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington describes Diet for a Small Planet as, "One of the most influential political tracts of the times."
In 2008, it was selected as one of 75 Books by Women Whose Words Have Changed the World, by members of the Women's National Book Association. Frankie was also named by Gourmet Magazine as one of 25 people, including Thomas Jefferson, Upton Sinclair, and Julia Child, whose work has changed the way America eats. Her books have been translated into 15 languages and are used widely in university courses.
Adam Eichen is a Small Planet Democracy Fellow and also a writer, researcher, and organizer working to build a democracy that represents and empowers all voices in society. He recently spent a year as a Maguire Fellow researching comparative campaign finance policy at the French research institute Sciences Po, and in April 2016 he served as deputy communications director for Democracy Spring, a historic national mobilization for campaign finance and voting right's reform. Since 2015, he has sat on the Democracy Matter's board of directors.
With that, I'll turn it over to Frankie and Adam.
Frances Lappé.: Thank you, thank you. Adam and I have been looking forward to this day for a very long time. I think I've tried quite a few publishers in my career and I must say that I ... This is the pinnacle of all my experiences. This is a dream come true. I've never had such a relationship and so much sense of unity of mission and values. Just incredibly grateful to all of you.
I want to tell you quickly a story about myself, and I say this is probably all you really need to know about me to know who I am and why I'm here.
In the late '40s, in Fort Worth, Texas, I was a little girl and I wanted to go to my friend's Baptist Sunday school because I wanted to be a part of something, and she was going to [inaudible 00:03:57] the Sunday school. I came home and I said, "Mommy and Daddy, what does hellfire and brimstone mean?" They looked at each other ... This is the family lore. They looked at each other and said, "It means we must start a Unitarian fellowship, now."
Out of their commitment was born the first Unitarian church of Fort Worth, Texas, in which I grew up. I must say that I honor my parents today. They integrated our church while the city was still segregated. They even went down and convinced the local paper to de-segregate the obituary page. I come from good stock. That's why it's particularly emotional for me to be here today.
From there, you're not surprised to learn that during the war on poverty I became a community organizer right out of college. Actually, I was a covert agent in the war on poverty, because I was hired as a housing inspector, but was actually an organizer for the Welfare Rights Organization.
But I ended up in a graduate program in organizing. I realized that I could keep doing that, but I still wouldn't understand why. Why, why, so much suffering in the world that seemed so utterly needless? So, I had this light bulb go on that if I could just understand why people are hungry, that would unlock the mysteries of economics and politics.
In that ... As I sat in the U.C. Berkeley library, I realized, "Wait a minute. There's more than enough food in the world, and it is the very frame of scarcity that ends up creating scarcity. The experience of scarcity out of plenty." That insight, or that just light going on has shaped my entire life, including Daring Democracy. Because I realize it is the power of frame that we see the world through filters. Albert Einstein says, "It is theory which decides what we can observe."
So, I asked, what could be powerful enough to have human beings as smart species, creating a world that not one of us as individuals would ever advocate? What could be powerful enough? Only the power of ideas. We are creatures of the mind.
In Daring Democracy, we describe this frame, this lens through which we see that is literally killing us. Literally killing us. It begins with this very dim view of human nature that goes back centuries, through Thomas Hobbs, and then all the way up to Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand. That very dim view that if you peel away the fluff from nature, we are fundamentally selfish and materialistic and competitive.
If we believe that about ourselves, what? We can't trust ourselves. We can't really trust our neighbor. No. We can't trust coming together in common problem solving, which is what democracy is. We can't really trust that. So, when Ronald Reagan comes forward in the '80s and says, "Oh, I've got it. The magic of the marketplace. It will sort out fair outcomes for all." We flawed human beings, we don't have to get in there and meddle and throw everything out of kilter.
This magical marketplace idea began to take off. It results, then, of course, it's not a free market in the sense of rule-less market. All markets are driven by rules, and ours is essentially one. Do what brings highest return to existing wealth. It's an absolute given that wealth accumulates to wealth accumulates to wealth, in what we've come to call, in Daring Democracy call, brutal capitalism. It ends up in a culture of blame and shame that is then used by those who are making the decisions to turn us against one another. To divide us further by race, by class, by culture, and by gender.
There is, despite the mounting evidence as we go through in Daring Democracy that human beings actually evolved with very deep social capacities for common problem solving, that ... Despite all that evidence, this frame, this very dark frame, has held on. Something new began, and this is the windup to the positive part of our book, but we describe, because we think people need to know how we got here, that something even though that worldview has been out there, that it was ramped up big time starting about half a century ago.
We use, as a takeoff point, the year 1971, which also happens to be the year Diet for a Small Planet was published. In that year, some people ... What's the word? Had experienced great liberation during the '60s, but others were gripped with fear. Fear that they were going to lose control.
At that time, a man named Lewis Powell, who was soon to become the Supreme Court Justice, he was commission by the Chamber of Congress to write a memo, in effect, about how to save the free enterprise system. Because, he said, "A few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as does the American businessman or corporation." So, we must marshal American business, "Against those who would destroy." It was a fear, fear driven memo. Now, he seemed to be a pretty man himself. It is the power of frame.
What happened then, and we describe ... Our subhead is, Eight Strategies of Highly Effective Billionaires, in effect. Because we describe how these well-funded handful of billionaire's families ended up ... This is all in the public record, we're not conspiratorial, you know, a secret cabal of people. But, it was very clear, following pretty much the playbook that is laid out by the Powell memo, that part of it is manipulating the mindset. Obliviously, that's our overture, not theirs.
But, infusing these ideas of the market gospel just turn over your fate to whatever the market brings. Infusing it into textbooks from grade school to grad school, this philosophy. And, creating think tanks that would then infuse this notion into public policy.
One dramatic statistic we include in the book is that ... One of these foundations, one of the most important think tanks, the Heritage Foundation, they submitted a policy book of ... Excuse me ... Of 1,300 policies to the Reagan Administration. 61% of them were adopted. [inaudible 00:10:59] is a very serious effort to change not only people's thinking but also how it plays out in policy.
The second part, then, of we describe their strategies is under the rubric of rigging the rules. Everything that many of you are familiar with, from redistricting of elections so that they will be sure to be able ... The Republican party will be sure to be able to win, to campaigning against and succeeding against basic voting rights. Protection and taking voting rights away, effectively, from people most likely to be hurt by this system that they were going for.
Including, in one of the biggest aha's for me was how they worked even at the Supreme Court level that, for example, that the lawsuit that was pushed through to then become the decision that Americans love to hate, 80% of us opposed, Citizen's United. That that began with a lawsuit brought by the family, paid for by the family, the DeVos family, who is now as you know the Secretary of Education. These were very deliberate strategies to bring forth a change in our country.
Needless to say, then, greater inequality, greater distrust, this worsening of this cycle of blame and shame, to the point now that the United States is not only the most unequal country in the Western industrial world, but even in much of the world. We have greater inequality than India, for example.
It is that which we lay out ... Now, we get that in the early part of our book, though, even before we go into these roots of today's democracy crisis. We explain that it is not the magnitude of a crisis that crushes the human spirit. That over any other time we've proven that when three things are available to us, that we can do what appears to be impossible. We claim that those three essential ingredients are we have to believe that what we are doing is essential. I think more and more Americans are understanding that democracy is essential. That without it, we cannot correct, we cannot solve any other problems, so we have to believe that is essential and we believe that is growing.
We also have to believe that it's possible. One of the goals that we're working with you in this book is to show how the untold successes, and Adam will get to those right in very short time, how it is possible and we are proving more and more and drawing lessons from other societies and from our own history, we show it is possible.
The third thing that human beings need is to know that they can engage. That there's a place for them in the struggle. That they are not futile. Because what kills the human spirit is that feeling of futility.
These three elements of it's essential, it's possible, and there's a place for me, this is what we want to show in the book, are all there for us to tap into.
Basically, what we then ... Throughout the rest of the book, is showing how people are manifesting and showing the capacity of human beings once we're grasping this sense of essential, possible, and that there is a place for them, and that those ... Once you're involved and understand, then the needs beyond our physical needs, the human need for power, for sense of agency, for a sense that there's meaning in our lives and our sense of connection with each other, that those primary human needs for thriving are also met as we engage with each other at this historic moment to do what we know human beings are capable of. We have shown that before. Adam's going to pick it up.
Adam Eichen: I always find it hilarious to follow Frances Moore Lappé when speaking, because who am I? Right? But it's great because I've learned so much working with Frankie. It's great to, after this process and even beforehand, call her friend.
I think that the question of who I am is very interesting in terms of this next step of our book, which is highlighting the fact that there is progress being made despite the amazing ... Amazing in the sense of just awe-inspiring effort to undermine our democracy. Not a positive quality, just, it's really astounding when you actually get into the weeds of what we call the anti-democracy movement has done. It's really astounding, even for a cynic like I am.
I got into democracy reform in kind of an unexpected way. I'm not going to go into that story, but I think that it gripped me at the moments where I was really developing my political awareness. That I cared about so many different things, but I couldn't make progress on any of those things whether it be the right to have a home, or preventing climate change, or any of these things that I cared so deeply about until we addressed the fundamental question of representation and people power, for a lack of a better expression.
But I recognize, also, that despite the amazing challenges that we have, going against what we term the anti-democracy movements, we're not starting from scratch. As Frankie always likes to say, I am fundamentally a policy wonk. I love public policy. I am such a nerd about this stuff. The amazing thing is that we have tremendous evidence of one, different types of policies that we can enact and two, that they work.
This is something that I grasped very early on in my life, doing democracy work. Which is that different states across the country are experimenting. They say states are a laboratory for democracy, and in this case that's true. They're a laboratory for anti-democratic measures from voter ID laws, to getting rid of same-day registration, to getting rid of all campaign finance limits. But there are also these amazing places where we have concrete evidence of, well, if we enact this policy it works. We get this many more voters, or, this many more people can have a voice. Et cetera, et cetera. That's very exciting.
I realized that from basically the moment I started with this work, because there would always be, every so often, starting in 2012 and then 2013, 14, and 15, every month or so, maybe two months, three months, but there would always be some sort of email that was sent out saying, "Big win. Such and such state passes this law." It went from every three months or so to seemingly ... I'd get another email every two months. Every month. All of a sudden, I realized, well, we're making some progress here.
In the book, we highlight a lot of these states where we're making progress. The real aha moment of progress came when I was actually in France. I was there studying how other countries regulate money and politics. Basically asking the question of, "Are humans doomed to a democracy dominated by big money?" The answer's no, in case anyone was wondering. Other countries do a much better job then we do.
But, while I was there, these emails kept coming. It was 2015, 2016, and I would get these emails saying, "Huge win." A couple of them were ... We highlight them in the book. A lot of these 2015 victories. "Maine passes a strong law reinforcing its public financing law that it passed in 1996." Amazing victory. Citizen's Grassroots Movement, really strong victory. Seattle passes this voucher system that gives every single registered voter four different vouchers, each worth $25 that they can give to a candidate of their choice. Amplifying the voices of citizens. Oregon passes automatic voter registration. The first state in the nation to do that, in January or March 2015. Since then, 10 states have passed it. It increased the number of people registering to vote three fold per month.
We're talking massive reforms, and no one's talking about it. All of a sudden, things start clicking. We're making progress and no one's talking about it. Of course, the people in the democracy world know about it, but no one really knows about that. All of a sudden, one light bulb clicks into my head.
Then, something even more amazing happened. This is really, if I can say this, if Frankie's not going to kill me for it but I don't think she will, the moment happened in April 2016, which is when Democracy Spring came to be. Well, essentially, at least it happened. It was conceived of a little bit beforehand.
But, Democracy Spring, for those of you who don't know, was a moment where over a hundred organizations spanning issues from racial justice, to environmental reform, to labor, to basically ... Name an issue, some representative was probably there. Some organizational representative was there. They came together and supported a nine day March from Philadelphia to D.C., and then seven days of civil disobedience in front of the Capital steps, demanding money out of politics and ensuring every American has the right to vote.
It was this really big ... It was the second light bulb that clicked, because it was this moment of wait a minute. People are grasping this. That we can't make progress on any issue until we fix democracy first. That's an amazing aha moment for the collective reform moment.
That's also where Frankie and I became friends. Because there wasn't much to do on a march for nine days, about 15 miles a day, except talk. All we did was talk because we couldn't do anything else. We both went in expecting people would have headphones in, right? Because that's what you do when you're on a street, commuting to work, you have headphones. You're just going through the motion.
But no. People legitimately were talking. Not just talking superficially about, oh, well, the weather sucks right now. It was haling, by the way, on one day. But no, people were asking the fundamental questions about who are you? Why are you here? What motivates you to your core? It was this remarkable moment.
Frankie and I had these deep conversations about what were we doing there. We found remarkable similarities in our own lives, despite the fact that we're two generations apart. That's really where we became friends.
But, before I go into more of that ... Something we talk about later in the book, is these emotional shifts that happen when you engage for something beyond yourself, for a higher purpose, for a common good. I want to talk more about that moment and what it sparked. These two light bulbs that clicked.
We realized that these victories, these little ... In my head, these emails saying, "Big victory in Connecticut. Big victory in Maine." Weren't just sporadic and disjointed, but really, it was part of a larger effort. That there was, even if no one was talking about it, a democracy movement. A movement of movements, as we called it. Whereas, we do call it in our book.
It's a movement of movements because as I'm alluding to, is that groups from all across the issues spectrum are coming together for this purpose. They are putting resources for democracy. We quote the head of the Sierra Club Mike Brune, who was integral in this organization of organizations ... There are a lot of double words here, but, bear with me, called Democracy Initiative. Which is basically the key players across the reform movement from, Sierra Club Common Cause, NAACP, et cetera et cetera.
They are pulling resources into this thing called Democracy Initiative, where they fight for democracy reform. Basically, every organization is saying, "We're going to dedicate a certain amount of our effort to democracy itself. Even if it's not environment as we've normally conceived of it." Fighting against a pipeline, and things like that. Because, people are realizing that we need fundamental change in a democracy first, before we make progress in other things.
That doesn't mean we can't simultaneously fight on those fronts, because we have to, especially in this political climate. We must be fighting on all fronts, because the forces attacking us are equally as broad. But, we have to do the long-term organizing on democracy itself. That's what people are realizing.
Moreover, just in the spirit of cross issue organizing, we're also seeing a big shift recently that folks in the democracy movement, in the democracy reform world, that have traditionally focused on money and politics, are also crossing over to voting rights and vice versa. Because, what good is having the ability to have influence in government if you just can't vote? And vice versa.
These issues are all simultaneous, just like the Powell memo explicitly said, and the efforts to continue in Mr. Powell's efforts, have been broad based to every institution from media, to voting rights, to money and politics, to gerrymandering. So, too, does the democracy movement have to be equally as broad. You're finding that happening right now.
In the book, we kind of go into specific examples of this, that we're not just saying this out of nowhere, that this really is happening and we really do detail that. One thing I will say, just to conclude before I want to go into ... I want to bring Frankie back up to the podium, is, the most validating thing about this book, actually, for me at least, is that since we handed in the manuscript reluctantly, because we always want to add more things because things are always happening, especially right now, is that our claim that there is a democracy movement has been nothing short of bolstered since we handed in that manuscript.
Since then, new groups are forming, seemingly monthly, in the same capacity that we're talking about. I was ... The moment I handed in the manuscript, basically, I went down and consulted for a group called March on Harrisburg, which was a similar thing to Democracy Spring. Long march, then get arrested. They're embodying the same things that we talk about. I think that's incredibly exciting. That keeps me going in these dark times.
But, I want to bring Frankie up quickly because I think that there's a really important aspect of this book that makes it fundamentally different from most books that deal with politics. It's the real root that brings, I think, brought our friendship into being. That's that ... In this moment where we fight for something larger than ourselves, there's something that happens to you internally that changes you. I think anybody who's been involved deeply in politics knows this. We tried to give it a name, or at least a couple names.
Frankie, do you want to just run through them? I feel like I've talked enough here. Do you want to run through them, for ...
Frances Lappé.: Well, yes. I'd love to. Yeah, it took a long time figuring this out, but, there are three things we identified. One is, as Adam described, these long walks and talking. Bonding with strangers. Meeting people we would never have met otherwise. A 15 year old from California, a corporate lawyer, an ex-banker-
Adam Eichen: Veterans.
Frances Lappé.: A veteran from Iraq War and sitting and having these heartfelt discussions with people we've never met, would have never met. There was just this sense of validation that we're not weirdos, we're not alone, we're not oddballs. That this desire is a human desire, it confirmed that for us. That bonding with strangers was a key part of it.
Another was ... And it was at a moment that we shared as we ended the march and walked toward the Capital that morning, and people were on their stoops cheering us on. We're marching and we're chanting, "Whose democracy? Our democracy. Whose democracy? Our democracy."
The dome comes into focus. At that moment, I could just feel the synapses in my brain shifting and saying, "Yeah, right, it is yours. It's yours. It's not theirs. They work for us." I know it sounds so obvious, but it was an emotional shift of taking responsibility and feeling like we're the grownups with the solutions. We're not pleading at the door, saying, "Oh, would you ..." No. You work for us.
Adam Eichen: That's power. That fundamentally is a sense of power.
Frances Lappé.: We think about duty, but in our duties is our power, right? It's not this dull spinach as we often say, that you've got to eat to get your personal freedom. No. This is it. This is it. I do love spinach, too.
The final one that we shared with each other is this idea of civil courage. Civil courage, a very distinct kind of courage. It's not running into the burning building to save a stranger. It is something that happens when you come together and do that which you thought you could not do. Maybe it's a physical challenge. I didn't know I could walk 10 miles, honestly. Maybe it's an emotional challenge of overcoming a feeling of you might be embarrassed or humiliated by your act, or just being alone. Overcoming a barrier for what you believe in is what we call civil courage.
In this process, I had one of these experiences not too long ago. My body was reacting by, you're not surprised, bum, bum, bum, bum, pounding like that. I said, "Okay, Frankie, you're the re-framer. You've got to reframe that. I'm now calling it, and I share at the end of the book, your inner applause cheering you on.
The civil courage then became a theme at the end of our book, and so we end our book saying that in such a time that we share with you, the opposite of evil is no longer goodness. The opposite of evil is courage. Goodness without courage is not good enough. That is what, to us, the democracy movement, the Democracy Spring, allowed us get in touch with these core, core internal shifts that make us feel more alive, more fully human. And so connected to you and your mission. Thank you so much. Thank you.
Adam Eichen: Thank you for having us.
Speaker 5: There's time for some questions if anyone would like to ask a question if you come to this mic. If anyone that's on the webcast wants to type a question in, I will read it from this mic.
Susan L.: Hi, I'm Susan Leslie, I work here at the UUA. I just wanted to let you know that we did have about 500 UUs involved in Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening.
Adam Eichen: Yeah, absolutely.
Susan L.: Yeah, churches housed people along the route, we had people that did the march, we had people that got arrested.
Adam Eichen: Yeah, I'm sorry, that actually was in my notes that we slept on, I think, almost every single floor we slept on was a UU church.
Susan L.: The UU floor.
Adam Eichen: Yeah, absolutely.
Susan L.: Great floors.
Adam Eichen: Thanks for catching me, I meant to say that.
Susan L.: But it is burgeoning. We have a study action, that's a thing we have that comes every four years and it's moving right now around, it's called the Corruption of Democracy. We've been asking people to watch Legalize Democracy.
My question or challenge is ... There were two movements, right? Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening that work together, and I think there's still some tension around how much racial justice is being taken up by the democracy movement. That was my experience in organizing for it.
Adam Eichen: Yeah, absolutely. I don't think ... Do you want to?
Frances Lappé.: Well, yeah. I agree. One of the encouraging things on that note from me, and I'm sure you have your own response, but the democracy initiative which really grew out of both of those, because a lot of the civil disobedience included people from Democracy Awakening, not just Democracy Spring.
Out of that this democracy initiative, which is the coalition of now 60 organizations representing 30 million people, and the leader of that ... Chosen to lead that is a woman named Wendy Fields, an African American woman who arose out of the labor movement and is very, very strong on racial justice, voting rights aspect of this, and she was chosen to be the leader of democracy initiative, which, for me, incredibly encouraging.
Adam Eichen: Right. Yeah, I echo that but I think your point stands. With Democracy Spring, as much as I love it and as much as I'm forever grateful that it brought me and Frankie together, no, we address this in the book that I think we spent more time organizing in California than in D.C. which is inexcusable. I think that it's really hard to organize around process issues when people are being killed in the street. These are very tough questions. We try and address it a bit in the book, but there's no easy answer.
Fundamentally, I think that the question of representation is something that we can all get around. The question of organizing it is ... Really, one of the things that we talk about is that it's not enough just to show up for a democracy rally, but if you really do care about this stuff, show up for a Black Lives Matter event. Organize with them. Don't take the lead, join in solidarity. There's a lot of deep organizing work that has to be done here, and it's not easy and it's very uncomfortable especially for white folk, but you've got to do it.
That's not ... A lot of that is you can't just go in and leave. You have to go in and support, in a deep way. I think that's a very important question. It's one I don't think that we have all the answers to, or even beginning, but I think it's a really important point of conversation.
Frances Lappé.: Also, as you read our book, if you read our book, I would love your feedback on how ... That's such a great question, how we handled that in the book at several different points.
Adam Eichen: Yeah. I echo that.
Frances Lappé.: We really, because obviously we're going to not just end with what we put in the book but in our speeches and interviews. If you have advice for us about that particular question, we'd love any input to make our response stronger, because it's such an important question.
Adam Eichen: Absolutely.
Frances Lappé: Can you all say more about the foundations, the big think tanks that are supporting what you call the anti-democracy, what I think you rightly call the anti-democracy movement and the kind of organizing you're doing with 60 different organizations coming together is working to try to counter that?
Adam Eichen: Yeah, it's a really complicated question and one of the amazing things is just how well they can obscure the different networks. For anybody living in Connecticut right now, there's a big push to get rid of public financing of elections, the Clean Elections Program, which is disgusting and if anyone from Connecticut is watching, call the Governor to veto the budget. The amazing thing about that, just a roundabout way to get your question is there's something called The Yankee Institute which is basically part of a larger group called the SPN. It's basically [COKE 00:01:12] funded thing to promote think tanks to promote policy that then is routed another away. It's very hard to exactly get to the root of all the different think tanks.
But the key players are Heritage and Cato and a little bit of American Enterprise Institute. But really Heritage and Cato and that's the remarkable part, that people don't realize that those two organizations or those two think tanks have been really only prominent since after the Powell memo. It's amazing how much money was pushed into those two institutes. A lot of the stuff happening right now around the different evidence of voter fraud comes from the Heritage Foundation.
There's a great article or report by the Brand Center debunking all of it. But having the platform of the Heritage Foundation where they're funneling millions of dollars into the Heritage Foundation to promote this kind of garbage research to support a de-myth of voter fraud, even though you call it a reality. Yeah, those are the key institutes. I don't know, Frankie, do you want to talk about how the democracy movement is shaping up?
Just in terms of messaging I think we are equally trying. It's hard because we don't have millions-
Frances Lappé: Or billions.
Adam Eichen: Or billions right. Slowly, that's my answer. They're slowly trying to change it.
Frances Lappé: Now that I'm a strong believer in the power of narrative, the frame that we tell ourselves, and so that's why I'm so glad that you're supporting our book and made it possible because really it's about creating a new narrative. This new narrative is that democracy is who we are. We evolved as profoundly social creatures with this deep need to have a say and a sense of fairness in our communities. We evolved in these tightly knit tribes. So, we're trying to develop an evidence-based narrative that democracy is not something done to us or for us, it's who we are and it's an engaging, exciting and actually thrilling enterprise.
I think our key counter is to counter despair because I think the reason for this line of, well, there's nothing we can do, just turn it over to big business and look, government can't work, it's dysfunctional. So, I think the key is helping people understand that our government has been made dysfunctional, it has been deliberately made dysfunctional.
One quote that I forgot that I love in our book is that Newt Gingrich in the 80s, he said that, "We must show that to succeed our politics must be as basically as savage as civil war fought at the scale, duration and savagery that is only true of civil wars." That's what he said we needed to carry out the Republican agenda, this market gospel agenda.
I think the key of all of our work is helping people understand that there is an evidence-based way of seeing it. It's not pie in the sky. There's tremendous science and of all disciplines about our profoundly social nature and capacities that have been shown over time. That's what I think the democracy movement is embodying and, hopefully, our book can help to name.
One of our op eds and blogs that we're trying to get out at the time of the book is democracy is not a choice, it's the only way of governing ourselves that actually aligned with human nature, the good, bad and the ugly, that keeps the worst of us in check and brings forth the very best in us. So, that's the counter to these false messages that we are fundamentally powerless.
Adam Eichen: Yeah.
Frances Lappé: Tom wants to-
Adam Eichen: Very quickly I think that one more add on is just the voter fraud stuff. Right now I think the key thing that the democracy movement is pushing is combating this narrative that there is such a thing as voter fraud. There is not. There's not a single credible source of that and I think that we ... But it's amazing how that's a thing. It shows just the power of money to disseminate a message.
Frances Lappé: And that most Americans believe it [crosstalk 00:05:31].
Adam Eichen: 65% of Americans think voter fraud is a serious problem, which is [inaudible 00:05:36].
Anton Hallock: So Anton Hallock from Beacon Press for people who may not know me online and we're super proud to have published your book. I always get very excited when one of our books gets chosen for this kind of common read program because I think it raises the possibility that it's going to be part of a process that really can lead to change.
So, there will be UUs around the country in about 1,000 different communities that are going to be reading your book over the coming year. Part of Beacon's theory of change is that reading can lead to discussion can lead to action, can lead to change in the world. What thoughts do you have about how[UU communities could move from reading and conversation to creating change? What are the points of contact? If you're a community in Cedar Rapids, how do you get going, what are your next steps?
Frances Lappé: One of the things that we're co-producing with Democracy Initiative now that we initiated but they're continuing is a tool, is a handy place, a hub you can go wherever you area online. It's called Field Guide to the Democracy Movement and it's going to be relaunched soon with an upgrade. It's something that we've been dreaming of that no matter who you are you can go there and see the scope, of what are the different issues people are working on and find out exactly what's going on most exciting in your community and learn about the most important campaign to be part of. For example, this [COBAT 00:07:20] commission and voter suppression basically. That's one idea.
At the end of Daring Democracy we list a number of different kinds of things that people can engage in their communities. Fortunately, there are networks in just about every community that are picking issues. We testified in the statehouse here on automatic voter registration. We learned about that because of the ties that we made, but that's the kind of thing you could learn about in the field. Hey, in your state there's this big question now, what is automatic voter registration. That sounds so wonky and kind of minor, but no, it really makes a differences. It really increases the number of low income and people of color who can vote.
That's the idea, is that trying to create a hub where we can see the big picture and yet find our own exciting place. So I think the UU communities could really use that.
Adam Eichen: Yeah, and I'll just say, I think that fundamentally, we had a map, I think as soon as the book was done, I had this idea right in the book but I didn't do it till afterwards because I was supposed to be writing. We have a map with a little pin in all the places where there's a campaign right now for democracy reform. There are places, right. If you're in Nevada, there's a great place, there's a great campaign for 2018 that's going to be on the ballot, hopefully, for automatic voter registration.
In Massachusetts we also have an AVR campaign. Missouri right now has this amazing bipartisan coalition fighting for campaign finance, really serious campaign finance limits and lobbying reform. Florida, if you're in Florida there's a huge campaign right now to get a Constitutional amendment to the state constitution to re-enfranchise voters.
If you're in Florida, Florida is one of ten states that doesn't allow anybody convicted of a felony to vote ever again, unless you're individually pardoned by the Governor. It's disgusting. But this is the chance to re-enfranchise millions, or 1.5 million, give or take. Depends if you round up. I digress.
Frances Lappé: We're very [crosstalk 00:09:36].
Adam Eichen: That's huge, right? That's so big. And you can jump into that right now. If you're in Florida, if you're in Missouri, if you're in Massachusetts, if you're in Nevada, there are organizations working on this. You don't have to start from scratch, just join. What we say is it just requires go find a buddy. Go find someone that will join with you, someone from the congregation, just anybody. Because there are campaigns happening right now, there are people doing good work. The only thing left is joining them. Once you join it makes the rest of it much easier. It's just taking that first step.
Frances Lappé: And think outside of the box. We just got an e-mail from a professor in Columbia, Missouri who's written a play.
Adam Eichen: Oh, Practicing Democracy.
Frances Lappé: Practicing Democracy, an edgy kind of play. So different forms, not just speakers, but try street theater. It worked in Brazil too in some ways for really powerful change in people, engaging people in the community in new ways. We hope, we hope, where's Tom, Tom, we hope that at least we've begun to answer that and we hope to get, as the Field Guide develops, if any of you have a chance to look at it, we're so eager for feedback and any resources you could offer in terms of really developing it to something that anybody landing there would sudden feel, oh, wow, I want to be part of that. That's our goal.
Adam Eichen: Last thing I'll say very quickly, run for office.
Frances Lappé: Yes.
Adam Eichen: Run for office. It is so important that you run. Anybody has the inkling if we don't run for office because that's the only way we change this, the system, is getting young people or people, anybody basically running for office.
Frances Lappé: What was that figure?
Speaker 4: Old people are people too.
Adam Eichen: That's true. But especially young folks. I really think that's important that young folks [crosstalk 00:11:22] process.
Frances Lappé: And women, what was that number? Emily's list-
Adam Eichen: Has recruited an extraordinary record break number of women candidates just since Trump's inauguration. That's a sign of change. We need to make sure we flood that number for 2018.
Frances Lappé: And Adam's, this campus group that he helps lead, in their last conference they asked the young people, these college students, "How many of you would like to run for office?" And they said it was double number.
Adam Eichen: More than that, it was half the people raised their hands.
Frances Lappé: But much more than ever before.
Adam Eichen: There is a sign of that, but that's a huge piece of advice that I think we have.
Gail Forsyth-Vail: I didn't introduce myself earlier, I'm [Gayle Forsyth Vale 00:12:03] and thanks. I want to read what's on the chat. I may need help because I'm having trouble reading it. Wonderful, this is I believe from Hope Johnson.
Audience/crowd: Hope Johnson.
Gail Forsyth-Vail: Wonderful presentation. I just put your book on the top of my reading list. The opposite of democracy is not goodness, it is ...
Gail Forsyth-Vail: Courage. Amen. And thank you. The next one I can't read the blue. Who's that next one from?
Audience/crowd: Nancy McKee.
Gail Forsyth-Vail: Nancy Reed.
Audience/crowd: McKee. Nancy Reed McKee.
Gail Forsyth-Vail: What I find hopeful is to know there are many people working on this. What I find distressing is how ...
Audience/crowd: The news.
Gail Forsyth-Vail: How the news about these events and actions is suppressed, so we don't know that there are others working on it. That's something that you all talked about, that the narrative.
Audience/crowd: Anna [Bethay 00:13:05].
Gail Forsyth-Vail: Anna [Bethay 00:13:09] says "YES!"
Audience/crowd: We like that, that's good.
Gail Forsyth-Vail: Who's the next one from?
Audience/crowd: Albany UU.
Gail Forsyth-Vail: Albany UU. [crosstalk 00:13:19] presentation and areas of activism that can ... somebody help me.
Audience/crowd: Cross the political divide.
Frances Lappé: Podium.
Adam Eichen: Can I just ... To cross the political divide with middle working class folks who are suspicious of us. Glad to hear more about ways to meet up with existing organizations. Anna was talking about Florida voter registration or the restoration when she said, "YES!" To the Albany folks, there's a big campaign right now to push Cuomo to really support big package of voting reforms from early vote ... New York doesn't have early voting, same day registration or automatic voter registration, let alone public financing. So there's a lot of work to do in New York. I was a long-time New Yorker. There's good work being done there.
Gail Forsyth-Vail: I have a question actually and an observation. I think both of you clearly are drawing on sources of sustenance, some of it having to do with the work that you've done and conversations that you've had. I think one thing that Unitarian Universalists bring to this is also a faith tradition that they can draw on for sustenance. I want to ask you about your interaction with faith communities, whether they're Unitarian Universalists or otherwise, that are finding sustenance and a way to create a new narrative in what is a pretty difficult time.
Adam Eichen: Tell about Michael.
Frances Lappé: Oh, tell the story about Michael, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Adam Eichen: One of my, I alluded to it earlier, but I was working, the moment I finished the manuscript I basically hopped on a plane to Philadelphia to go on a long march from Philly to Harrisburg and to one of the most, I don't want to say corrupt, but anti-Democratic legislatures. Pennsylvania's amazing. As a New Yorker I thought I lived in a state, I did live in a state that was fundamentally corrupt. Objectively, we had the most convictions. But Pennsylvania's pretty bad too.
The young man who is a little bit older than I leading that effort is this soon to be rabbi, a reconstructionist rabbi named Michael Pollack. His effort, it was so beautiful. I still kind of consult with them because I sometimes just use it as an excuse just to talk with Michael because he's such an amazing, amazing man. But he brought with him, when he lobbied 230 at a 253 members of legislature and put together a long march and engaged in civil disobedience.
He found it in himself because it was his profound faith in humans and in our capacity and an ability to force the encounter at the moment where you make the other real. When you bring forth the humanity in somebody else, amazing things can happen. That's his whole guiding philosophy and it really is steeped in this religious tradition of forcing that encounter. Although he draws from his scholarly work as a rabbi, now he is a rabbi, he's successfully graduating despite spending his last two weeks getting arrested. He did make it to be a rabbi.
But he brought with him this profound belief that we may not get there, but we have to try and we have to fundamentally believe in the best of our neighbors even if they might disagree. I think he's someone who I hold very dear to my heart because he really does believe that nothing, no divide is too great to make fundamental contact with somebody who is different than us. I think that that's really guided us in the [crosstalk 00:17:16].
Frances Lappé: Can I just tell the end of this story.
Adam Eichen: Go for it.
Frances Lappé: To bring to an image in your mind of this human being who we admire so much and how he, I vow, I vow with people even who he's opposing. At the end of this march and the sit-ins, the person who was the chair of the committee-
Adam Eichen: The state government committee.
Frances Lappé: State government committee. All they were asking was a gift band, a gift band. That's what they were asking for. And he refused to call the vote. They had the vote, he refused to call it. They sat and sat and finally they said, "Okay no more." He came forth and he very, with great dignity spoke to the door, because they would not-
Adam Eichen: Which was lined with police officers.
Frances Lappé: Lined with police officers and he said, "We are both people of faith and in that spirit all we can do is give you gifts.", because had not a gift ban. There was a little irony there. So, he actually took off his sacred-
Adam Eichen: It's called a Tzitzit.
Frances Lappé: Sacred rabbinical undershirt and folded it very ceremoniously and left it there for the lawmaker in a sign of my humanity meets your humanity.
Adam Eichen: Yeah.
Frances Lappé: I just thought, it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen and continues that spirit that comes out of a deep, deep faith. So instead of angry screaming at the end, it was that ceremony.
Adam Eichen: Yeah, it was great. It was really a remarkable moment of trying to do that cross faith work. They still haven't gotten the meeting, but they haven't given up.
Audience/crowd: Beautiful story.
Gail Forsyth-Vail: I think we're pretty close to the end of our time and I want to thank you both very much for writing the book, for being here today. Also to let folks know that in spirit the UU book and gift shop staff has got books outside and I think you both are willing to sign them.
Adam Eichen: Of course
Frances Lappé: Super eager.
Gail Forsyth-Vail: So thank you.
Adam Eichen: Thank you.
Gail Forsyth-Vail: Very much.
Adam Eichen: Thank you all for having us.
Frances Lappé: As our last word, I would just like, again, to repeat our mutual gratitude to all of you who have done this important work that has allowed us to find our voice through you.
Adam Eichen: Absolutely.
Frances Lappé: Without you, clearly this would not have happened. And your faith in us means more than you'll ever know. So, thank you.
Adam Eichen: Thank you all.