Citizens Candidate / Politics

C I T I Z E N S  C A N D I D A T E / P O L I T I C S 

“We the people” granted power to the government through the Constitution, thus "we the people" are responsible for holding our representatives accountable. Citizens Candidate is a model of creating reslience in local politics and confronting the systematic problems of our current political system.

Many of us recognize that our current political system is not working.  Our “representatives” are slaves to corporate greed, and their votes are bought by the highest bidder from lobbyists who are paid high salaries to protect our current systems of health care, fossil fuel extraction, immigration and the US’ aberrant military budget.  

But we as citizens are as guilty of letting our system decay as are the politicians. Why?  The majority of us feel that those asking for our votes
do not accurately represent us, so many of us have abandoned our role as the people in our Democracy and become largely apathetic to politics in general.  We cannot expect Democracy to work as intended if the people have checked out.  

By 2009, as a community, we had grown increasingly frustrated with Utah’s only “Democrat” Congressman, Jim Matheson. In a moment of angst, Tim DeChristopher posted a CraigsList Ad for a“Second District  Courageous Congressional Candidate, who had strong moral values and a resistance to selling out to corporate interests. Job description: stopping catastrophic climate change, providing healthcare to all Americans, equal rights to LGBT, etc.”   
The results were astonishing - resumes began to flood in, which led Tim and Ashley to organize a community primary which would let potential candidates speak and the people truly decide who they wanted representing them. The end result?   Citizen’s Candidate Claudia Wright: a grassroots campaign that was built around former High School teacher Claudia Wright, who eventually succeeded in pushing Jim Matheson into his very first primary since he had taken office in 2011.  Claudia didn’t do it alone. A mass call for every registered voter in Utah to go to their local Democratic precinct meetings and become delegates (in Utah, delegates are voters that represent a certain precinct and are allowed to vote in party primaries) led to a noticeable rise in the number of delegates across the state. Clearly, this proved that people were not only fed up with our representatives, but they were ready and willing to do something about it!  Claudia’s grassroots, volunteer-based campaign swept the state, empowered people to embrace their own role in creating change.

Although Claudia Wright lost to Jim Matheson in the Democratic Utah State Primary, Citizens Candidate is an idea that has continued

to spread and resonate with communities across the nation.  We as individuals are not powerless in the field of politics, in fact, we are the only hope for change.  Writing letters to our Congress-people or President seems futile when we’re up against Corporations who have indisposable income and aren’t afraid to play dirty. Putting an end to Corporate Personhood would dramatically change the political atmosphere, but we need more than that - we need to start asking those who share our values and beliefs to be courageous and run for office.  We must change our system both from the inside and the outside, and this means not only participating as citizens, but taking bold action to challenge those currently in office.    

Beyond changing the system, the Citizens Candidate Initiative engenders resilience by boldly taking strides to create a system that we can support in our own communities.  The volunteers that worked tirelessly on Claudia Wright’s campaign have gone on to run for and win elected positions, changing their local parties from the inside out.  Some, (many of whom were not involved in activism before) have gone on to support other candidates that are not afraid to speak the truth.  And others have begun Salt Lake City’s Move To Amend Chapter that is currently working on collecting over 7,000 signatures locally to place revoking Citizens United on the ballot in Fall 2012, as part of a movement that is happening in all 50 states.  
An excerpt from Peaceful Uprising's Climate Trial: Citizen Involvement in Politics
Citizen: Our rights as citizens are natural and inalienable. “We the people” granted power to the government through the Constitution. We decided what a government should or should not do. Corporations in turn got their rights from the government.

Judge: So you as citizens have an inherent authority over the government. The most basic form of that authority is voting. How many of you vote?

Citizen: About half of us vote for the President; around 35% vote in other races. But many of us feel like we don't have very good options to vote for, your honor.

Judge: Then surely more of you vote in primary races to try to get good candidates. How many of you vote in primaries?

Citizen: Ooh, actually only about 20%.

Judge: Well then how many of you run for office yourselves? 

Citizen: Very few, maybe 0.6% have ever tried.

Judge: Do you at least let your officials know what you want? How many of you have written
letters to Congress?

Citizen: 10 percent.

Judge: Ever? Only 10 percent of you have EVER written a letter to Congress?

Citizen: Yes.

Judge: Okay... well there are many ways to hold your government accountable. How many of
you participate in protests?

Citizen: Maybe 2 or 3 percent.

Judge: National strikes?

Citizen: That's more of a French thing.

Judge: Street theater?

Citizen: Only the weird ones, your honor.

Judge: Okay, nearly all successful social movement in this country has used civil disobedience to pressure the government to act. How many of you engage in civil disobedience?

Citizen: Just a few, your honor. Very few.

Judge: And how many of you have called a constitutional convention to regain your rights andreign in corporate power?

Citizen: None of us, your honor.

Our challenge to you: As Edward Abbey said, “ Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul ”.   If you’re fed up with your local or
national representatives, don’t pout, ACT!  Find your local chapter of Move to Amend, run for office or help a friend run for office.  Climate
Change is just one branch stemming from the root of the overarching systematic problems we are facing -- which will take working both from
the inside and out. Take a chance by being your community’s next citizens candidate.