In a Democracy, Citizens Have the Right to Govern Themselves

This requires more than voting

By Ken Wells

Democracy means “the people rule.” As citizens of a democracy, we have the right and also the responsibility to govern ourselves, our democracy’s publicly-owned institutions, and privately-owned commercial enterprises. Doing this effectively requires more than just voting on Election Day.

We citizens often neglect our responsibility to pay close attention to what’s happening in government. New remote public hearings at enhance our firsthand access to state government. We citizens should be delighted by this improvement to our ability to monitor and testify during committee deliberations on legislation and rail against any attempts to curtail it, even after the pandemic subsides.

Today’s problems are manifold and complex; no simple solution is a cure-all. Yet we face a daily flood of sound bites, secondhand artful persuasion, contradictory “facts,” paid spokespeople shilling for monied interests, distracting pundits insisting passionately that their issue is “the only issue that should matter to you right now.” 

If this flood succeeds in making us citizens feel angry, worn down, misled, or disillusioned, and if we then withdraw and disengage from our responsibility to be active participants in our democracy, then they have succeeded in wrestling our power from us.

Regain your power by switching off the pundits and engaging instead with your friends and neighbors. Get to know your community better, exchange ideas about “the greatest good” for your community. Testify in support or opposition to bills being deliberated in public hearings, and encourage other people to get involved.

“Dark Money” Pushes Citizens Aside

Our democracy faces serious threats:  gerrymandering, voter suppression, and strong-arm partisan tactics attempt to silence citizens’ voices. Here in New Hampshire, democracy is especially undermined by the corrupting influence of “dark money.” It’s called “dark” because it cannot be traced back to its source.

We all know that corruption, by blatantly handing over a bag of money in exchange for political favors, is illegal. But it may be perfectly legal for corporations to hire lawyers to draw up legislation favorable to their business interests in New Hampshire. Then “their bill” may be handed over to “their” legislative representative, perhaps accompanied by a campaign contribution masked by the lawyers’ “attorney-client privilege.” Although this may technically not violate any law, one might ask whether this serves citizens’ interests, or a non-citizen corporate interest?

Citizens’ wealth is being plundered from state revenues intended as investments in our children’s public educations, in building more clean and efficient energy in New Hampshire, in providing public health and safe water, and in fulfilling the promised pensions of public employees and police who worked for years to earn them. Diverting state revenues — our public money — into private pockets, expanding utility purchases of polluting out-of-state fuels, and even proposing a budget that drains the Rainy Day Fund while handing out tax breaks to out-of-state companies, are all part of the return on investment that “dark money” buys.

Explore public records at to see who finances your representatives’ campaigns, and who pays political lobbyists. Get involved with a bipartisan group like Open Democracy Action. Get others involved. Keep democracy strong!