Capitol Thoughts
Capitol Thoughts Archive

Power to the People by Janaye Ingram

Dec 12, 2011

In our society, the people should have collective power that they bestow upon one person to lead in a certain capacity. The people in your neighborhood come together to elect a city council person, the people in your city or town come together and elect a mayor, the people in your region come together to elect a congressperson, the people in your state come together and elect a governor and a senator and all of the people of this country come together to elect a president. We all know how this works. But I think some of these “elected” officials have forgotten and are taking the power that was bestowed upon them by the people in these communities and using it for their own will or political gain. And people are beginning to tire of it. They are waking up and realizing that they don’t have jobs, they don’t have good schools to send their children to, and they don’t have enough money to buy all the things they need. Meanwhile, the big fat cats that have more than they’ll ever need in a lifetime have more than enough and it just seems that they get more. People are noticing and people are acting on it.

This week in Washington, there were many efforts to confront the need for elected officials to remember that the power belongs to the people. I received a call from a man named Edward Jude who was in DC from Milwaukee, Wisconsin with an organization called Wisconsin Jobs Now and who came to visit his representative, Congressman Paul Ryan. After coming such a long way, he was not only denied entry into the Congressman’s office, but along with the other people he traveled with, they were forced to wait in the hallway for hours until they ultimately left. He was enraged that while the office was open when they arrived, it was subsequently closed as the Congressman’s staff saw the multitude of people. When asked if he had tried to make an appointment, Mr. Jude said that he has tried to make several appointments in the Congressman’s office in Wisconsin, but was told that the Congressman is unavailable. At the root of his visit was the lack of jobs in his community.

“This is about jobs. There is no more middle class and we want equality,” said Mr. Jude during our phone call. “The 99% is getting poorer and the 1% is getting richer. I’m tired of our community going down and houses being boarded up. Our kids don’t have a future if we don’t have jobs. This is concerning my kids, my grandkids and your kids.”

Several labor unions and activists were responsible for mobilizing people to “take back the capitol” starting with this past Monday with the goal of reminding “Congress that they represent all Americans, not just the 1 percent.” The week continued with disruptions to K

Street where many lobbyist offices are, then finally a trip to the Capitol. Mr. Jude’s trip was sponsored by the unions, but his sentiments echoed the main reasons for the march.

“Congress is about the rich,” said Jude. “They are getting bought out by banks and corporations and they act clueless about what is going on in the communities [they represent].”

The fact that Congress is so out of touch with the people who have ultimately bestowed them their power is that the needs of the people are not being met. It seems that the second many politicians get to Washington, they drink the proverbial punch and forget about the people who are in need of jobs, education, healthcare, etc. At NAN, our goal is to be vocal about these issues. It’s at the root of our weekend of action that begins with the “25 Cities. 1 Message.” rallies today in 25 cities across the country. We are focused on bringing attention to the communities who are hurting – communities that in the words of Edward Jude are being “depressed”. We can’t allow the poor to get poorer while Congress remains out of touch with the people on the ground.

At issue is the ability of the people to elect representatives on every level – in essence the ability to vote. That right is being threatened in states all across the country and it is disproportionately aimed at minorities, students and youth, the elderly and the low income. These laws seek to threaten the participation of those groups and if that happens it will ultimately affect who ends up in Washington (or in other levels of government) and their ability to effectively represent the people in various communities. It is the reason that National Action Network decided to participate in the Stand For Freedom March and Rally taking place Dec. 10th in New York. At the end of the day, if people in communities that are being “depressed” are not able to vote, it will directly impact their ability to choose a leader who will help them create a better future for their children and for generations to come.

This is a movement and it will not end until we see a shift in the way things are done in government – especially on the Congressional level. We have seen people come together to take back the power – from the October 15th March for Jobs and Justice, to Occupy Wall Street, to Take Back the Capitol, to 25 Cities. 1 Message., to Stand For Freedom, and many more efforts to come. We have to make sure that the power shift happens and that the power goes back where it belongs – to the people.