Common Cause President Announces New Initiative at Davidson
December 4, 2001
Students and members of the college community gathered in the C. Shaw Smith 900 Room on November 7 to hear National Common Cause President Scott Harshbarger discuss changes in campaign politics and policy-making since September 11. His talk, organized by members of Davidson's Young Democrats, served as the launch of a new college outreach project in North Carolina regarding campaign finance reform.
Common Cause is a national, non-profit, nonpartisan citizens lobby with more than 200,000 members nationwide, including 4,000 in North Carolina, committed to working for openness, honesty, and accountability in government.
Harshbarger said the primary focus of Common Cause before September 11 was campaign finance reform, and efforts to remove the "big money" from politics. He likened the current situation to a town meeting, where those who make big campaign contributions get to sit in the front and speak with megaphones, while those with no money to contribute sit at the back and whisper. The point of campaign reform is not to take voices away from the conversation, he said, but to include those who haven't been involved.
Harshbarger continued by saying that the mood of the country since the events of September 11 present a good opportunity for Common Cause to engage citizens. "In the wake of September 11, the country has been more unified, and people‹especially politicians‹have been more eager to talk about what unites us, instead of what separates us," he said.
He said the most talked-about issues in government now are national security, aviation security, and economic stimulus. However, he said the country should also be considering a "democracy stimulus package" as much as economic stimulus, so that the new wave of patriotism can be channeled into active citizenship.
"Democracy is not a spectator sport," he said. "The problem is that many people believe civic worth is equal to net worth. We must eliminate these economic yardsticks for democracy to function properly."
Harshbarger pointed out that young people want to be heard, but don't know how to get involved, and don't think it will make a difference. In response, he announced that Common Cause has teamed up with Democracy Matters, a new nonpartisan, nonprofit, campus-focused organization dedicated to limiting the influence of big money in politics.
Democracy Matters, founded by NBA player Adonal Foyle, promotes knowledge of government, politics, and social change through summer training, year-long mentoring programs, and service learning internships. For more information, visit www.democracymatters.org.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked in the top ten liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson is currently engaged in "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.