Every generation in American history has passed an amendment. It is our duty to pass the 28th Amendment to limit big money in politics and guarantee political power to the people, says American Promise President Jeff Clements.
We are near Constitution Day, the 231st anniversary of the completion of the Convention in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. That day outside the hall, Ben Franklin famously answered a citizen’s question about what kind of government the Constitutional founders had created: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
That’s the key to the United States and the key point about our work together today. “A republic, if you—the people—can keep it.”
We call Franklin and Madison and Hamilton and Washington the Founders, and it is right that we celebrate them. But all Americans are Constitutional Founders, too.
Every generation of Americans has worked to keep our republic. Article V of the Constitution, which provides a process for constitutional amendments, is how we do it.
Constitutional Amendments and the Story of America
Constitutional amendments are the story of America. With them, we have resolved and won the most epic struggles and fulfilled the best aspirations of the nation. With amendments we created the Bill of Rights. An amendment was the culmination of our tragic Civil War, in which hundreds of thousands died to end slavery. Women fought for and won an amendment asserting their right to vote. Through amendments, we made Senators directly elected, and enacted term limits for presidents. These issues we consider fundamental to our country were all accomplished by the people through the amendment process.
My American Promise Pocket Constitution has 34 pages of text. Roughly half of that text was not part of the Constitution that was signed in September 1787. These pages contain our 27 amendments, so far. Americans ratified the First Amendment in 1791 and the 27th two hundred years later in 1992, with amendments in between across every generation.
Constitutional amendments are not easy. The 27 amendments so far did what many thought impossible—won two-thirds of Congress and were ratified in three-fourths of the States.
Amendments can be uphill fights and often require the reversal of Supreme Court decisions. Seven constitutional amendments did that. Amendments challenge and overturn powerful, entrenched interests and threatening oligarchs, from the slaveholders to the largest corporations and “robber barons” that controlled the United States Senate before the 17th Amendment.
Why an Amendment?
On Constitution Day, we not only celebrate the first Founders and the Constitution they produced in 1787. We also honor the millions of unknown American citizens whose names and stories are lost to history but who proposed, organized, struggled and even died for the 27 amendments and the Constitution as we have it today. They, too, are Founders.
So are all of us today. That’s why it is our responsibility to win the 28th Amendment.
We will win the 28th Amendment to make sure that in America the people govern, not money—not the corporations, unions, super PACs or billionaires, but all the people. That is the promise of America: equal citizenship, equal responsibility, liberty for all, and an equal vote for all.
A constitutional amendment is necessary because the Supreme Court has decided that contributing and spending money in elections—no matter if the source is a billionaire, a union, or the largest global corporations in the world—is protected as “free speech.”
If we can’t limit the influence of concentrated power and money in our elections, our constitutional system falls apart. We go to oligarchy, where your right to govern comes from your wealth. That’s the choice: a representative democracy, or government by the rich—an oligarchy. Either we uphold the values of a representative democracy or we allow greed and wealth to destroy the great American experiment in self-governance. Either we are a country that makes decisions based on the common good, or one where the size of your wallet determines the worth of your ideas.
The 28th Amendment will end the disastrous experiment in the theory that money is speech and corporations are people. It will stop the flood of special interest money and give Americans an equal right to participate and be represented as citizens in this republic.
The amendment is not the only thing we need to do, but it is the essential thing we need to do. It is like the foundation of our house. Our house is collapsing around us because our constitutional foundation is broken.
We are not equal citizens; money defines political influence. It’s not “We the people.” It’s “We the corporations.” That’s not a foundation we can build on. The 28th Amendment overrules the Supreme Court and it will be the eighth time the American people have defended our republic with an amendment to reverse a catastrophically wrong decision of the Supreme Court.
How Can We Do It?
Our strategy is built on three fundamentals. Successful amendments require three things:
National consensus: A consensus of Americans must demand we do this. We need 67 Senators, 290 House members and ratification by 38 states. On both sides of the aisle, we must contact our representatives and let them know that this is a cross-partisan issue and we demand action.
Political impact: We must make our consensus matter. That means voting—we need to turn our citizen consensus into votes in Congress and statehouses around the country.
Decentralized, networked grassroots action: We must be everywhere. We must empower each other to take action where we live. You can’t win amendments with a top-down strategy. We need all Americans taking action in our hometowns, connecting with friends, families and neighbors to come together to get this done.
Successes So Far, Goals for Tomorrow
Good news: We have already accomplished the first step. We have national consensus. Democrats. Republicans. Independents. According to a recent study, 88 percent of Americans agree on the importance of getting big money out of politics. That is remarkable.
And it’s not just polls. Whenever Americans get a chance to speak up and vote on this, we get the same kind of cross-partisan support all over the country. Already, 19 states have formally called for the amendment—exactly half of what we need to succeed. More than 800 cities and towns have also passed resolutions calling for the amendment. Community leaders from all backgrounds have joined our Advisory Council to help accelerate our progress—Democrats, Republicans, faith leaders, business leaders, veterans, teachers, students. This is for all Americans.
This gets us to the next fundamentals of our strategy. It is essential that we turn the overwhelming support for our cause into a massive, connected, well-supported citizen movement with the power in every state to bring the Amendment through Congress and across the 38-state road to ratification.
That’s why everything we do at American Promise is about how we can connect each other, strengthen each other as citizens, organize, focus and lead in our communities as citizen leaders.
Every member of American Promise is a citizen leader, standing up not just in protest but to lead, whether it’s writing a letter to the editor or a member of congress, organizing or helping out at a local event, gathering signatures for the ballot or one of the many other things we do to advance the 28th Amendment. We train citizen leaders, we coach, we organize, we help out with funding, we share best practices—and it is working.
We have more than 150,000 people in every state and are growing fast. Please tell your friends.
Together we won in Nevada which recently became the 19th state to call for the 28th Amendment. We’re fighting to get bills in the statehouse in Pennsylvania and Michigan and Ohio and Virginia and Colorado and North Carolina. And everywhere, in every city and town, we are asking candidates of any party to pledge to support the 28th Amendment.
We have to do this. We have to win this fight. With your help, we will win this fight and usher in a new era of the American republic, where we can fulfill the American Promise of a diverse people, equal as human beings, responsible as citizens, living and governing ourselves together.