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2012 National Conference: Evening Plenary Session

Saving Democracy: Creating One America

What happens in this year’s state and federal elections could well determine the future of American democracy for generations to come. This is the first presidential campaign conducted in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. This campaign finance case is the rare ruling that, notwithstanding the Court’s holding to the contrary, has actually narrowed, not widened, American democracy. The fortunate few with unlimited resources can engage in unlimited campaign spending and big money could shout out the voices of the people.

Unfortunately, the decision’s impact occurs at a time when there is a broad, collateral assault on democracy in America including:

  • Anti-voter laws – from requiring photo IDs to restricting voter registration—that seek to disfranchise vulnerable voters, including African Americans, Latinos, low-income Americans, young people and senior citizens;
  • Attacks on newcomers to our nation, such as the anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and Alabama and copycats all across this country, that codify racial and ethnic profiling as legitimate law enforcement policy;
  • Restrictions on the right to organize unions and bargain for a better life and livelihood in the public and private sectors;
  • A war on women’s rights, from earning equal pay for equal work to making her most personal choices without government interference;
  • Efforts to defund, de-unionize, demonize and privatize public services of all kinds, from our public schools to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; and
  • The unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominations that has the left the nation with more than 90 current and future vacancies on federal courts, making it almost impossible for most Americans to have their cases heard in a timely manner.

American progress must never be a dream deferred. The panel’s discussion will focus on how to create “One America” in the 21st century.

Moderator:

  • Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Speakers:

  • Robert Edgar, President and CEO of Common Cause
  • Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials

 

American progress is in danger—the dream is in peril. Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, wants you to fight for your right to vote. Voter suppression laws have been introduced in dozens of states since the 2010 election. All have the effect of disenfranchising voters including Blacks, Latinos, college students, senior citizens and the poor. Arnwine passionately urged the 3,000 gathered for the “Saving Democracy” session at CDF’s 2012 National Conference to secure their rights and register others to vote. Her Voter Suppression Map of Shame is a must see. This is just a clip -- the entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Barbara R. Arnwine is the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Arnwine is also a leader of Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, launched in 2004 to assist historically disenfranchised persons to exercise the fundamental right to vote. She has served in numerous other prestigious capacities, including international civil, human, and women’s rights issues. She is a featured columnist with Trice Edney News Wire and the Theodore and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute’s New Deal 2.0 blog site. Arnwine studied at Duke University School of Law and Scripps College.


 

Wade Henderson says the democratic process is under attack and he tells the 3,000 present for the “Saving Democracy” session at CDF’s 2012 National Conference that it is time to fight back. Cuts to health care, privatization of government services and the war on women threaten to create two Americas: one poor, one affluent. Henderson is ready for action and encourages others to join him. This is just a clip -- the full panel with the entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Wade Henderson is the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s premier civil and human rights coalition. Since June 1996, Henderson has worked diligently to address emerging policy issues of concern to the civil and human rights community and to strengthen the effectiveness of the coalition. He is also the Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., Professor of Public Interest Law at the David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the District of Columbia. Henderson currently serves on the National Quality Forum board of directors, the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion, the board of directors of the Center for Responsible Lending, and the board of trustees of the Education Testing Service. Henderson studied at Howard University and the Rutgers University School of Law.


 

All Americans care about the same issues—including Latinos. Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, believes that immigration reform is critically important. But he told 3,000 advocates at the “Saving Democracy” session at CDF’s 2012 National Conference that he wants candidates to stop pandering to the latino vote and put all the issues on the table—employment, poverty and education. We have to create a new culture of political engagement with Latinos and all Americans, he says, because we all have a stake in America. This is just a clip -- the full panel with the entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Arturo Vargas is the Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), a national membership organization of Latino policymakers and their supporters. Vargas also serves as Executive Director of the NALEO Educational Fund, an affiliated national nonprofit organization that strengthens American democracy by promoting the full participation of Latinos in civic life. The NALEO Educational Fund’s programmatic activities include U.S. citizenship outreach and assistance, civic participation and integration, voter engagement, technical assistance to elected and appointed Latino officials, research on Latino demographic and electoral trends, and policy analysis and advocacy on access to the democratic process. Vargas studied at Stanford University.


 

Robert Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause, breaks down political bureaucracy and why laws can’t get passed—voters aren’t talking to their representatives. Voters are not taking the initiative to make history on their own. Edgar tells the crowd of 3,000 at the “Saving Democracy” session at CDF’s 2012 National Conference to have faith in their own power, to be the change they want to see in the world. This is just a clip -- the full panel with the entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Robert Edgar is president and CEO of Common Cause, a national nonpartisan advocacy organization connecting ordinary people to their democracy: a non-profit citizens’ lobby working to make government at all levels more honest, open and accountable. Common Cause champions a number of critical issues and reforms, including the public funding of political campaigns at all levels and election reforms that make voting more accurate, secure, and accessible. During six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Edgar led efforts to improve public transportation and fight wasteful water projects and served on the House Select Committee on Assassinations that investigated the deaths of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy. Edgar studied at Lycoming College and the Theological School of Drew University.