Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)  stands with House hero, John Sarbanes (D-MD), to introduce the Government By the People Act. After years of struggling, finally the Democrats (and at least one Republican) have lined up behind a fundamental reform of the campaign finance system. Small bore is out; fundamental reform is in. Congratulations to the Leader, and all who pushed the Democrats to lead (and at the very top of that list is Arnold Hiatt who has been fighting this fight for more than 18 years — see the story in the last chapter of Republic, Lost).

But a nagging bit to this debate remains: What is the problem that the Government By the People Act is meant to solve?

Last Thursday, Jon Stewart called it “corruption.” But Leader Pelosi denied it. “The system isn’t corrupt,” she told Stewart. “There is corruption in the system …” (watch beginning circa 5:50)

I can’t for the life of me understand why this incredible woman continues to insist on calling pure a system which obviously is not. Why, in other words, she insists on believing that the only way to use the word “corruption” is to speak of corrupt individuals.

But it seems that since time immemorial, Members of Congress (and the Supreme Court: see the upcoming decision in McCutcheon v. FEC) have been divided between those who see corruption in the system, and those who think the only kind of corruption possible is the corruption of individuals. 

Senator McConnell — like Pelosi? and Justice Scalia? — is a corruption skeptic. Here he is in October, 1999, on the floor of the Senate, challenging John McCain who had begun to frame his presidential campaign around the “corruption” of “the system”: 

McCain v. McConnell (4) from lessig on Vimeo.

McCain responded in what to these ears sounds like a perfectly true reply: 

McCain v. McConnell on Corruption (1) from lessig on Vimeo

But McConnell (at least acts as if he) didn’t understand it. He asks again (and here you see him trying out for a part in Austin Powers): 

McCain v. McConnell (3) from lessig on Vimeo

McCain loses his patience for a second (“either the Senator from Kentucky did not listen to what I said…”) but then recovers beautifully: 

McCain v. McConnell (2) from lessig on Vimeo

And then Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) tries focus the debate with a great question — leading McConnell to a classic “oops-not-really-what-I-meant-to-say” moment (“I’m extremely grateful that these companies are giving us the opportunity to engage in vote buying” [sic])

McConnell on Votebuying (oops) from lessig on Vimeo

But no one makes this point more clearly and powerfully than the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN), as he responds to the squabble between McCain and McConnell about the meaning of the word “corruption.” And this is the clip that the Minority Leader really needs to watch: 

Wellstone on the meaning of “corruption” from lessig on Vimeo

Amen, brother. We miss you. We need more to listen to your words.

#NHRebellion put together a “Superbowl Ad,” about our 185-mile journey to fight systemic corruption. Plz share. #NHR

#NHRebellion put together a “Superbowl Ad,” about our 185-mile journey to fight systemic corruption. Plz share. #NHR

On the first day, a backpack with a GoPro, a projector, and a bunch of electronics (total about $1500) disappeared. Reminding us all: Don’t put all your electronics in a single backpack. 

The #NHRebellion walk is over. Sadness follows. It was an incredible team that walked more than 6,400 miles in aggregate, and I miss them already. After I catch my breath, I’ll write about what I learned. For now: stuff you can’t see from in front of a computer screen. 

We’ve got 6 miles left to Nashua, but $13k left to raise to meet our budget. PLEASE help if you can. Donate here.

Friday is the final day of the #NHRebellion walk. We leave from Merrimack (details) at noon (*** NEW TIME ***) for a short 6 mile walk to Nashua. After we arrive, there is a party celebrating Granny D’s birthday. Come if you can. Register if you are (register for walk; register for party).

As the week turned to events and presentations, this journal (and sleep) were pushed to the side. 

Monday was a short and overflowing walk from Canterbury to Concord, ending up on the steps of the Capitol, singing the song Colin Mutchler wrote for us (and which I am still wishing someone would remix).

Tuesday, the anniversary of Citizens United, was a no walk, two presentation day — first at the Rotary Club of Concord, and then at an event at UNH marking four years since the Supreme Court’s best gift to this movement since Nixon.  Cenk Uygur, moderating, John Sarbanes (D-Md.), with the best speech I’ve seen him give, Barbara Lawton, the new CEO of Americans for Campaign Reform, Jim Rubens, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate who believes and defends public funding, and Diane Russell, cleanly-elected Maine state representative who stole the show from all of us. 

Yesterday was a long 18 miles from Concord to Manchester. Cenk did the whole walk (insanely). Sarbanes did the morning. And last night Cenk, Buddy Roemer and I spoke at the Institution for Politics at St. Anselms. Donald Trump had spoken there the day before. More came to see us.

The last long day begins in less than an hour. And then tomorrow, the final day — a short 6 miles from Merrimack to Nashua for the Granny D birthday.

If you’re near, come walk the final day. The webpage will have the details of where and how.

CC-BY BruceSkarin

An insanely cold say for a walk. Show the #NHRebellion walkers some warmth. 

So, it turns out my weather fear was premature. The day was filled with the most glorious snow, but not too cold, and given the route we took on mainly quiet backroads, it couldn’t have been a better day. We stopped at a Shaker village in Canterbury. That’s the photo below

The police here have been great. The second day, I reported on the ranger who thought me nuts when I asked him whether he was among the 4% who didn’t believe it important to reduce the influence of money in politics. Saturday, in our treacherous final 4, a police car passed us, doubled back, passed us again, doubled back again, and then passed us with his horn honking, thumbs up. And then yesterday, as we passed through a tiny village, a car pulled along and, after reading our signs, stopped and directed traffic as we passed through the town. It may be because we’re carrying the flag. Or it may be because they’re officers in a state whose constitution expressly protects the right of rebellion (see Article 10). Whatever, it is fantastic to see.

The group keeps growing. We were joined by a couple whose politics are split: he’s from the right; she’s from the left. This was the only activism they could do together. We continue to be joined by people who had walked with Granny D. 

Today, on MLK Day, we continue our walk to Concord. King, like Granny D, was a walker. A much more difficult revolution grew from his action. We take smaller steps, for an easier cause. Yet one which today is just as important to realizing the dream of equality that he so powerfully defended.

So here begins the fear of the weather. 

Today began in Center Harbor, which I know well as we’ve spent a bunch of summers near there. We had an overflow of day walkers, beginning with about 50 walkers, including an 11 year old and his Dad,  midway through, a favorite student from 20 years ago, who now writes for the Times, and the famous Ben Cohen from Ben & Jerry’s (and his dog). 

This was to be our last 20 mile day. Thankfully. I increasingly think New Hampshire is an Escher drawing, as we seem to be only climbing hills as we descend from the White Mountains. 

We made it to Laconia by around 2:30pm, and the advance team had pulled together a spontaneous event at the Vintage Cafe — an incredibly cool place with about 50 people packed together for lunch and two short talks from Ben and me. 

This is the experience I wanted most on this trip: making the idea convincing in 8 minutes, and without a machine. And here was born a new meme for me: The GD Walker. (No no no: Granny D, not that). We are GD Walkers, exercising a different but amazingly potent form of political expression.

But then the weather turned against us. A blizzard was brewing, and we were still 4 miles from our hotel. So after deliberation and a vote, we split an expedition team of 6, who took off into the snow (with lights and vests and extra extra care), while the rest were shuttled to the endpoint. 

The weather does not look great for the week. Cold mainly — really cold a couple days. We’ve been blessed so far. Blessings seem to be fading. There are mainly short walks ahead. But difficult short walks to be sure. 

Seven days done, and seven days left. 

Day seven took us through the the incredibly beautiful Squam Lake region. My family has spent some summer vacations here, so it felt like coming home. The route was through many back roads, some unpaved. Maybe my favorite walk yet. 

We were joined by many walkers from the area who joined for a couple hours, or stood by the side of the road in support. We have one more difficult day of walking — today — until the pace slows down as we enter the heavily populated area of the state.

Still searching for that 4% (96% of America thinks it “important” to reduce the influence of money in politics; part of the play of this trip has been to “find the 4%”). Someone from Wolf-PAC tells me he may have found one. A state representative, Democrat, told the Wolf-PAC representative she didn’t think corruption and dysfunction are a problem in Congress. Before Colbert sends John Oliver, I’m going to seek her out to find out what she means. 

Today, Ben Cohen from Ben & Jerry’s will join us. Yesterday a team from Represent.US. Still with us, Kai Newkirk from 99Rise. And an incredible troop of through walkers. 

We crossed the 1/2 way point today, ending at 95.2 miles, with 90 to go. We’re through the most difficult walks, sort of. 20 more miles today. 17 the day after. But then it slows down.

We’ve been staying in the homes of volunteers the last few days. More have been joining along the way. The cars keep honking.

There’s one thing I think I know after a week out here that I didn’t when I started this walk.

The thing I always wondered was why what ever pundit said about this issue seemed true: that people don’t care about it. “Care about it,” in the sense that they actually do something about it. That they don’t seems true.

This was a puzzle, for me, because as I’ve interacted with people, I’ve always been struck by the opposite: a yearning, almost passionate desire, that this problem be fixed. So is that just because of the peculiarities of the sorts I connect with? Or maybe just further proof of my winning personality? 

But I realized as I thought through this along this walk that there’s two obvious reasons why people who care about something don’t do something about it. They either don’t care enough (the assumption of the pols) or they don’t think anything can be done. It seems clear to me now that it’s the second, not the first, that explains this issue. 

Again, as we discovered in our latest polling, 96% believe it at least “important” that the influence of money in politics be reduced. 68% “very important.” 28% at least important. No other issue has this sort of support.

But we also found 91% believe the problem won’t be fixed. We want it fixed; we don’t believe it can be fixed — just as most of us would want to time travel, but most of us don’t do much to advance the cause of time traveling. Or just like most in Egypt or Iraq wanted a different government. But few did anything about it.

This means the real work here is simple: give people a sense that change is possible. Show them how, make it seem manageable. Because if we could crack the 91%, we could free the energy needed to make this change happen. 

NHRebellion Walk, a group on Flickr.More photos from the #NHRebellion walk.Photos by richardcpollock

NHRebellion Walk, a group on Flickr.

More photos from the #NHRebellion walk.

Photos by richardcpollock

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