My name is Frank Kirkwood. I live near Pittsburgh. I’m a member of the first elected Board of Directors  for Coffee Party USA. I want you to get to know me and I would like to hear from you, too.
I’ve been a teacher, a political activist, a campaign manager, a legislative aide, a TV producer, a home-maker and for the past several years, a trouble-maker. The trouble I’ve been making is all about the need for publicly funded elections. It was the Coffee Party’s recognition of the need to fix campaign financing that first attracted me.
I have never felt more hopeful than I do right now, that we are going to revive our democracy and that you and I and the Coffee Party are going to play an important role in getting that done.
Let me ask you, “Do you trust Congress to represent you?” Not many Americans would answer “yes” to that question and it’s no wonder. Members of Congress are in a position where keeping their jobs depends on gathering enormous amounts of campaign money from people who want something in return. And now, thanks to the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, our elected officials can be intimidated by powerful self-interested groups who can threaten to launch a multi-million dollar negative ad campaign against our representative if he or she dares to displease them.
The way our democracy is supposed to work we, the people from the congressional district (or for Senators, the state), are the only people our representatives should be dependent on or should ever need to fear. How can we trust our representatives when they are dependent on and intimidated by other people?
Corruption. No, not the illegal corruption that people get sent to jail for, but the perfectly legal corruption of our political system that has become the way of doing business in Washington.
If you are like most of the Coffee Party folks I’ve met, you recognize the great danger to our democracy when the citizens don’t trust their Congress. The corruption of our political system is the single biggest problem our country faces because it is the problem that keeps us from solving so many of our other problems.
But, there are solutions to these problems: one of several forms of publicly funded elections would cure the dependency problem and a constitutional remedy to the Citizens United decision would counter the bullies and put citizens back in power. Unfortunately, we don’t hear nearly enough politicians talking about solutions.
Go to the web sites of your Congressional incumbents and their challengers and see what they are saying about the dire situation we are in – a corrupted system and a Congress that the citizens don’t trust. (Go ahead, I’ll wait.) Find anything about it? I didn’t think so.
Incumbents and most candidates are largely silent. If they have collected enough money to be competitive in an election then talking about the corruption of our politics exposes their own hypocrisy: they are dependent on their campaign funders and intimidated by wealthy self-interested groups at the same time they are pledging to represent us, the citizens of their district. Expecting candidates to openly discuss corruption in the political system is like expecting professional wrestlers to stop their match and engage in a honest discussion of whether pro wrestling is fake or not.
So, why am I so hopeful? Well, at the same time that our politics is getting worse, our ability to communicate with each other, citizen to citizen, and our ability to work together in great numbers across great distances is getting better, faster, more varied, and more interactive. That’s the other thing that attracted me to the Coffee Party. We have a inventive, cutting-edge on-line presence and a growing network of motivated organizers on the ground.
Both of the major political parties are deeply mired in this corrupt system and unwilling or unable to lead us out of it. The Coffee Party’s stance as a trans-partisan, pro-democracy group puts us in an excellent position to shape a national discussion about how to restore faith in our elected officials, address the corruption that plagues our political system, and lead the way to solutions that will revive our democracy.
Left alone, Washington will never fix itself. We, the citizens, are going to have to push them to do it. But, that’s okay, it’s our country, after all. If not us, then who? So let’s get started!