Wednesday evening Bob Edgar, President and CEO of Common Cause and the nation’s largest citizen’s advocacy group, spoke in the Galloway Room about the growing necessity of ensuring the accountability and transparency of government. Founded in the 1970s as a watchdog organization, Common Cause has worked to expose corrupt practices in Washington D.C. that taint the political process and neglect public interest. It functions to regulate the political system and ensure that power does not overstep its boundaries.
The student turnout was unfortunately in the single digits, perhaps an indicator of the need for a resurgence of youth awareness in the post-election political scene. The evening began with former congresswoman Patricia Schroeder introducing Edgar, remarking on his commitment to upholding fairness and justice in the American political system and his service in the United States Congress representing the seventh congressional district of Pennsylvania from 1975 to 1987. Schroeder has also had a notable run in Washington; she was the first woman elected to Congress from Colorado and ran for president in 1988.
Edgar began with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., evoking the urgency and fervor of activism during the civil rights era and the Vietnam War. He encouraged citizens, especially youth, to become aware of the issues and unjust practices that are allowing corporate greed and private interest groups to sway the political interest of the public.
“Money is corroding our system; democracy is at risk when a handful of people decide who wins and who loses,” said Bob Edgar, emphasizing the danger of corporate funding driving elections. In its recent years, Common Cause has focused on the influence of special interest groups during election periods. The daunting six billion dollars spent on the 2012 election reflects the extent of corporate interest manipulation in politics and the need to highlight the undisclosed sources that fund the elaborate campaigns for both parties.
Common Cause has also been working to end filibusters in Congress that allow minority interest to stall the passage of bills. In May of 2012, Common Cause filed a federal lawsuit alleging that filibusters are unconstitutional. Edgar also emphasized on manipulation tactics used to trick voters of the opposite party from casting their ballots or registering to vote. Common Cause has taken initiatives to combat this strategy by pushing for the passage of the Voter Empowerment Act, an act that would make it easier for eligible citizens to register and vote.
It is unquestionable that in recent elections youth interest and involvement in politics has surged in ages 18 to 29, representing 19% of all who voted on Tuesday, according to the early National Exit Poll by Edison Research. Obama’s victory can be easily correlated to the 60% national youth vote that he secured. With the revolutionary role of social media, the voice of youth is that much louder and that much harder to ignore by politicians.
Now that the youth demographic is just as important as more traditional voting demographics to politicians, the momentum from the 2012 election needs to be sustained. With popular support, the vital issues highlighted by Common Cause can be echoed by a younger audience to garner enough attention on the political platform to provoke action.