BY JOE LYONS
Democracy Matters is a national student organization found on campuses across the country. An SNC branch was recently founded by Catherine Wiese ’16. Founded in 2001 by former NBA Basketball player Adonal Foyle, Democracy Matters it is a non-partisan, campus-based, national, student organization working to get private money out of politics and the people back into it. Specifically, there is an emphasis on organizing movements connecting pro-democracy reform to issues like the environment, civil rights, education, health care and foreign policy. The process to strengthen democracy follows two steps: the first is to train young people to be effective grassroots organizers and advocates, and the second is to support public financing of election campaigns and other pro-democracy reforms.
The way Adonal Foyle describes the current political system is by comparing it to an NBA based on wealth. As Foyle puts it, our political system is like an NBA where Michael Jordan is not allowed to play because he grew up without a lot of money. Instead, those with money, such as Bill Gates, Ross Perot, Donald Trump and George Bush, would be allowed to play, and would compose NBA teams. By focusing on the excessive influence of money in politics, Democracy Matters hopes to correct a significant flaw in the system that does not allow equal opportunity to participate in the process. They want people run for office based on their ideas, not their fundraising ability.
I recently spoke with Wiese about the organization and the role she hopes it will play on this campus.
“The objective is to get students interested in politics aware of the role money plays in politics and in campaigns and showing college kids how this is important.” I then asked her what kind of people would be interested in joining the group, and she said, “Really anyone who is passionate about anything, because everything is connected to government. If you’re passionate about social issues, if you’re passionate about the environment—you know anything that’s connected to the environment is connected to a policy that’s passed. So it’s anybody with a passion, because politics is a part of everybody’s life whether you like it or not.”
Staying true to the national goals of the organization, Catherine says the SNC chapter was founded in order to keep students interested in opening up the democratic process, as well as educating college students about the governmental process. “It’s really important that people understand and know their role in the government because the right to vote is one of our biggest constitutional rights. If we don’t understand the different factors that play into it, it’s hard to make an informed vote.”
The group currently has weekly meetings in Cofrin 202 at 8:30 p.m. You can also visit the website democracymatters.org, or e-mail Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.