Why I’m Missing Pikete

April 21, 2015

I spent the second weekend in April at Camp Wellstone Seattle, training organizers to build power, mobilize supporters, and win progress. And then on Monday instead of getting on a plane back to my home in Chicago, I headed to DC.

It meant being away from my home (and my pup, the world’s most perfect dog, Pikete) for over a week.

Here’s why it was worth it:

In Seattle, we helped over a hundred progressives hone their skills to organize towards a better future for their communities. But no matter how hard we work to grow community-based power, the rules of the game are stacked against progress, so change is hard to come by. We’ve got to right our democracy, the Wellstone Way.

That’s why I was headed to DC. For over a year now, Wellstone’s been working with Justice at Stake and a collaboration of funders, media firms, and on the ground organizations to win fair courts.

Our court system is the referee of our democracy, so when conservatives try to create a system where judges are elected in partisan (not to mention expensive!) campaigns, we have to organize and fight back.

I was honored to be in DC to help lead part of Justice at Stake’s recent convening on retention elections for state Supreme Courts. It didn’t hurt that I got to meet Justice at Stake’s honorary chair, Justice Sandra Day O’Conner (Jay Leno was also at the hotel, but I was too star struck to say “hi”). 

The fight for fair courts couldn’t be harder, or more important. We’re up against billionaires like the Koch Brothers who know that their path to power is through a partisan court system and a weaker democracy.

Fair courts aren’t an academic issue. Our courts impact every part of our lives, so the only way to win a more inclusive democracy is to bring diverse stakeholders together to build a coalition-based movement for change. That’s what the convening in DC was all about and that’s why we were there.

Dozens of the key players for fair courts were at the convening: lawyers and judges, academics and legal advocacy leaders. And Wellstone was invited to help lead part of the convening because no one does a better job building powerful, diverse, coalitions than us.

Our democracy is under attack. We feel it in our guts that the rules of the game favor the rich and powerful and not us.

I know how important it is to travel across the country for Camp Wellstones to grow the capacity of progressives. But I also know we’re not going to win big change unless we fundamentally protect what our democracy is all about: a future where everyone’s in, nobody’s out, no exceptions.