How do we make citizen’s voices More Powerful Than Money

How Do We Make Citizen's Voices More Powerful Than Money?

The section on Money in Elections (link) shows how money consolidates power into the hands of the few and distorts democracy. It also covered legislative options to reverse those trends. 

Of course the entrenched power is blocking those reforms. 

When democracy is being blocked, how do we reclaim it?

We can gain some insight by looking at how conservatives formed their strategy. The 1960’s were a time of social rebellion and expansion of civil rights. Conservatives were looking for ways to regain and entrench power. One prominent voice in the movement was Lewis Powell, who was at the time, the head of the National Association of Manufacturers and future Associate Supreme Court Judge.

In 1972, Powell wrote a lengthy plan about how conservatives can coordinate, create a narrative and employ a detailed strategy across business, government, think tanks and other powerful groups. Bill Moyers wrote a wonderful piece around what came to be known as The Powell Memo.

The Powell Memo is not something to be emulated from start to finish. Rather, understanding its key points is useful for deciding how to break the stranglehold of its power:

  • A broad coalition came together with shared purpose
  • A common narrative frame was agreed upon
  • People were disciplined in communicating the narrative

Progressive Coalitions

Progressive coalitions have been much harder to unify than conservative ones. Practicing deep democracy means including more voices into the whole rather than asking people to conform to an ideology. 

Existing coalitions have also been dismantled. One example is that unions used to be a very powerful voice, but only a small fraction of Americans participate in unions now.

If we hold the intention to have citizen power to be more important than entrenched power, we need to move towards the following:

  • Realize the power of Coalitions of groups
  • Practice Inclusive Decision Making
  • Develop platforms that allow networked coalitions to collaborate more efficiently
  • Do the inner work needed to Collaborate Better
  • Understand the importance of Narrative and Framing
  • Develop ways to prevent corruption of networks
  • Ensure that Inclusive Decision Making does not turn into paralysis of inaction


  • Bill Moyers blog post on The Powell Memo 
  • Tom Atlee – blog post Offerings for a New Paradigm Politics
  • Henry Mintzberg – Rebalancing Society book 
  • Next City OpEd – Community Organizing Is How We Win Public Power and Justice


  • Vision Allies
  • Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action (LARC)
  • Building Electrification Coalitions  (see topic called….?)
  • Catalyst 2030   A movement of Social Entrepreneurs
  • Listen First Project – over 400 organizations doing local bridging work  
  • Wellbeing Economy Alliance
  • C40 – Mayors for Climate
  • Hawaii Clean Initiative – made great progress in Hawaii

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