Shared Values

 

While we live in states with very different political cultures, we share core democratic values and aspirations for authentic citizen participation in the governance of our states and our nation.

 

In a healthy democracy there is a sense of belonging, which depends on careful nurturing of the bedrock democratic values of trust, fairness, choice, freedom, and knowledge.

 

These shared values depend on:

·         An open, accessible and trustworthy democratic process

·         A clean, transparent and accountable government

·         Sovereignty of people, not money

·         Competitive elections

·         Freedom to speak and the ability to be heard

·         Freedom to participate in the democratic process

·         Every citizen’s right to know.


In a healthy democracy, there is a sense of belonging. All citizens must have reason to feel their government belongs to them and they must feel there is a place for them in the democratic process. Creating that sense of belonging depends on the careful nurturing of bedrock democratic values. Among these are trust, fairness, choice, freedom and knowledge.

 

Trust and fairness flow from an open, accessible and trustworthy democratic process. We share a desire for political equality as embodied in the principle of one person, one vote. This desire extends to ensuring ballot access to all citizens regardless of circumstance or station as well as making voting easier to promote high voter turnout. Our shared affection for political equality leads us to the ultimate goal of universal suffrage. Guaranteeing and protecting the right to vote is not enough, however. Public trust in the democratic process and confidence in the legitimacy of election results hinge on steps to ensure that every vote is counted and every vote matters. And it hinges on the principle that, in a democracy, voters choose their representatives, not the other way around.

 

Building trust and promoting public confidence in government and the democratic process also depend on clean, transparent and accountable government. This belief speaks to the need for diligent watchdogs, safeguards against political corruption and meaningful checks and balances against abuses of political power. It speaks to the critical importance of free access to government records, government meetings and decision-making processes. It also speaks to the indispensability of an independent judiciary to a well-functioning democracy. Impartial and nonpartisan courts are not only a critically important check against abuses of power by the partisan legislative and executive branches, but also are an irreplaceable firewall protecting the civil rights of all citizens, especially those of minorities who may be injured by the will of the majority.

 

Creating a democracy that inspires trust and promotes fairness, choice and freedom also depends on the sovereignty of people, not money. Social and political conditions under which the views of those with the most money are disproportionately heard and the spectrum of political ideas is thereby narrowed are not compatible with democracy. We share a commitment to making sure people without great financial means are not priced out of the political marketplace and effectively fenced out of the public square.

 

We believe citizens can meaningfully exercise choice only if there are competitive elections. Contested races for public offices must be the norm. In a democracy, elected officials serve the public best when they serve in fear of what might happen in the next election. Without electoral competition, that fear factor is lost. While contested races are necessary, they are not sufficient to create the accountability essential to a healthy democracy. Far too many voters are forced to hold their noses and choose between what they consider to be the lesser of evils. The ballot needs to reflect the diversity of the voting population, and candidates reflecting that diversity must have the capacity to get their message out to voters.

 

In a healthy democracy, freedom must be cherished, protected and celebrated. We believe in the freedom to speak and the ability to be heard. We share concern about creeping commercialization of the First Amendment, the transformation of free speech into increasingly expensive paid speech. Speech must remain a right in a democratic society, not a commodity that must be purchased. Freedoms essential to a healthy democracy also include the freedom to participate in the democratic process without fear of reprisal or injury, freedom from tyranny and freedom from unmet basic needs.

 

Finally, democracy is the promise that power rests in the hands of all the people, that every citizen matters and that no citizen is more or less important than another. Knowledge is power. So in a democracy, knowledge must be the possession of every citizen. We believe in every citizen’s right to know. A healthy democracy requires an informed and engaged citizenry. The creation of such a citizenry is not possible without a society-wide appreciation of and commitment to civic education.

 

Participation in the democratic process also depends on all citizens having access to credible news and information about government no matter where they live and regardless of their economic status. A well-informed citizenry also depends on access to a wide diversity of viewpoints. We share concern over the growing polarization of American society and share the belief that a media industry that allows and even encourages citizens to only consume news, information and commentary that reinforces their views and values is a root cause of this polarization. A democratic society that ceases to nurture a marketplace of ideas that is a safe place for diverse, controversial and even objectionable views is a society at serious risk. A democratic society that neglects ongoing citizenship education is similarly at risk.