Read Senator Nina Turner’s passionate call to action for each of us to take on money in politics and reclaim our democracy.
Born into poverty, Senator Nina Turner fought adversity and hardship to become a successful politician and advocate. The oldest of seven children, Senator Turner started working part-time jobs in fast food and retail at the age of 14, giving her earnings to her mother to help the family. She went on to receive an associate’s degree from Cuyahoga Community College and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cleveland State University. From 2005 to 2008, she worked on the Cleveland City Council, and from 2008 to 2014, she served in the Ohio State Senate. Senator Turner also worked on Senator Bernie Sanders campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and is currently the president of Our Revolution, a group seeking to reclaim democracy for the people.
At the 2018 National Citizen Leadership Conference in Washington D.C., Senator Turner delivered an impassioned call for everyone to commit to the cause of getting money out of politics regardless of party affiliation or ideology. Senator Turner says the plight of money in politics endangers everything we care about. Read an excerpt of her inspiring speech below.
“Everything that we love is in danger. And that’s not an overstatement. That is not a scare tactic. That is truth. We can regain power in our representative democracy through a constitutional amendment, which will be the 28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. See, that is real. Everything that we love, everything that we care about is in peril unless we take action, and I mean right now.
And there are countless examples all over this country. And as my brother Ben [Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s] laid out, the fact is that money is being used to just flat-out buy politicians. It is not even hidden. It is not just about the McCutcheon case. There are cases even before that where the Supreme Court authorized that not only is money speech, but that people who have the most money in this country have more speech than anybody else.
We are on the edge, if we the people do not rise up together, stand up together, fight together. The oligarchy will consume us. And that is not an over-exaggeration about the seriousness of this moment.
And all that we love. The environment. All that we love. Ensuring that our children and our children’s children inherit an earth and inherit opportunities that we could never imagine. All that we love. Reforming the criminal justice system, so that it doesn’t see just black and brown folks and treat them differently in this system, and black folks are not gunned down by law enforcement. All that we love. To live in a nation where women finally do make dollar for dollar what a man makes. All that we love. So that people who work over 40 hours a week are not still in poverty. All that we love. So that workaday people, as Jim Hightower calls them, are able to take a vacation every now and then, buy a new car every now and then, enjoy their life every now and then. All that we love. Being able to educate our children so that they don’t walk across stages at our colleges and universities with debt in one hand and a degree in the other. All that we love, sisters and brothers, is in danger if we don’t deal with getting big moneyed interest out of politics, so that they cannot buy all politicians.
And I hate to break it to you, but some of the politicians that they are able to buy are the politicians that we like. And so we got to get over whether we like somebody or not. And the beautiful thing about American Promise is that they’re bringing together a bipartisan coalition of folks from all over this country, a cross-section of folks who believe different things when it comes to politics but one thing when it comes to restoring this representative democracy to the everyday people, and that is we must act right now as if our lives depended on it. Because our lives do. All that we love is in jeopardy.
And if people who want to run for office will not commit to not taking corporate donations, then maybe we shouldn’t vote for them. And I don’t care if they got a D or an R by their name. All that we love. All of the speakers that you’ve had laid out the facts and the statistics as to why we should do this. I’m here to work out your heart about why nobody should leave this room tonight without being more committed to the causes that you believe in.
Whether you’re in this room because you care about the environment, or you care about women, you care about children, you care about criminal justice reform. Whatever brings you to this room, the thing that locks us together is being able to get big money out of politics. And I tell you what, they may have all the money, but we got all the people.
So this is what I want you to do. Can you reimagine, because that’s what American Promise is asking us to do. Reimagine the nation where the people have the power, and that money does not have an outsized influence. I want you to imagine that world, because it’s the world that we are going to create for ourselves and for future generations.
We can do this. And nothing is impossible when committed, conscious-minded people come together and determine that we will be the change, and we will change this thing like our lives depend on it, because they do. And we’re going to do this for all that we love.”