Welcome, Tavis Smiley viewers!
Thursday, August 2nd, 2007
Former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Bill Bradley is and has been a part of the bipartisan group of Why Tuesday? supporters. Earlier this year he spoke about our group while promoting his new book on Tavis Smiley’s PBS program. The show re-aired last night. You can see it online here.
A transcript of the relevant parts of the interview is after the jump.
Tavis: Let me ask you a question about this notion that you talk so provocatively and poignantly about in this “New American Story.” And I don’t ask this question, again, out of any naïveté, but do the American people really control – do the American people really control the destiny of this nation? You’re making a huge assumption that the American people control it, and I could argue that we don’t; that corporations do.
Bradley: Sure, sure, sure, I know the argument. The American people can control their future. What’s the first obligation of citizenship? To vote. Well, we’re 139th in the world in terms of voter turnout. Number one is Italy with 92 percent. We’re under 50 percent.
Bradley: Well, if you ask people who don’t vote and say, “Why don’t you vote?” you find that the number one reason – not that there aren’t other reasons; politicians don’t tell the truth, or they don’t do anything. But the number one reason is work. I gotta work two jobs.
Tavis: It’s on Tuesday.
Bradley: Let me ask you a question. Why is it on Tuesday, Tavis?
Tavis: I happen to know this.
Bradley: (Laughs) Yeah, because you read the book.
Tavis: I read the book. I know it’s on Tuesday (laughs) because back in the day when they established the day we were going to vote, the farmers couldn’t get there until Tuesday. You can tell the whole story, but Tuesday was the best day for farmers to get there, and that’s why these many years later we still vote on Tuesday.
Bradley: And Sunday was the Sabbath, and Wednesday was a market day, so we ended up with Tuesday. That was 250 years ago. I didn’t see any horse and buggies (laughter) outside the studio today, right? Well, so there’s a simple answer to that problem. Move Election Day from Tuesday to making it Saturday and Sunday.
No conflict with work, 48 hours of potential voting. Bring your kids to the polls, inculcating them early the habit of being a citizen and fulfilling that vote. The biggest change in American politics – really the biggest change since women got the right to vote in the early 20th century – would be to increase voter turnout in America from 50 percent to 80 percent.
You get that other 30 percent of the people voting, you’re gonna find that politicians are paying more attention because more people are voting. You power that with the Internet. For example, what do people need? They need information in order to hold politicians accountable. But let me ask you, you know the budget is $2.6 trillion. You know what it consists of?
Most people don’t know what it consists of, and it’s totally inaccessible unless you’re inside the Beltway, in particular rooms, writing. Well, the federal budget will be – key word accessible – on the Internet within a year or two, which means you can go to the budget, type in “breast cancer” or “bridges” and find where in the budget this money is being spent.
Link to the debate on the floor of the House or Senate about it, link to votes, link to contributions. Suddenly, you as a citizen have got something. You’ve got what you didn’t have before: information that allows you to judge whether the person that you’ve elected is thinking of the whole or thinking of the narrow interest. But in order to do that, you as a citizen have to be disinterested.
You can’t be thinking only of yourself, you can’t be thinking only of your group. You’ve gotta be thinking of the whole, the country, which is the essence of citizenship.
Tavis: I wanna go back to something else you raised earlier in this conversation, Senator, because at the end of this conversation, about three minutes from now, I wanna make sure that the conversation was not just useful but useful in a practical sort of way. The issue you raised earlier about why we vote on Tuesday seems to me something worth going back to get because it can have a practical application to it.
So for everyday people watching right now who think that makes perfect sense – and I’m one of those persons – that we ought not to vote on Tuesday, it’d make a lot more sense on Saturday and Sunday, the turnout would go up dramatically, it just makes sense, how would something like that – you’ve been in the United States Senate – how would something like that practically come to life by everyday people?
Bradley: You go to WhyTuesday.org or WhyTuesday.com, I forget which one it is, and you begin to organize around that. And you begin to ask your politician – your congressman, your senator, every time you see him, “Why can’t we move it to the weekend?” That’s what happens. People respond to this incredible thing, particularly when this incredible push by voters, particularly when it’s such a common sense notion.
Most politicians will say, “Hm, I didn’t think of that.” Now maybe there’ll be some people who’ll say, “Well, I don’t think my party would be advantaged if we had an electorate increase from 50 to 80 percent.” But then they’re put in an intolerable position of defending less democracy in supposedly the greatest democracy of the world.