This Is What Democracy Looks Like

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

If the title of this article looks familiar to you, you’ve probably been to a peace march or demonstration.  My most potent recollection of having chanted it was on the march on Washington in January 2005. Tens of thousands of us (some estimates reached 100,000) marched that day, pleading for an end to the war on Iraq. Footsore and weary, I was part of a group that peeled off from the rally near the White House and headed for the Metro (subway system) and a train back to Maryland, where we had to meet our bus home to Massachusetts.

We were still in march formation, a bit ragged but pleased with the turnout and the spirit of the day. Passing the FBI building on Pennsylvania Avenue, about seven blocks from the White House, we were challenged by a group of pro-war people.  They were shouting obscenities and telling us to shut the you-know-what up.  None of us responded, or even looked their way.  Instead, we chanted, “This is what democracy looks like.”  My heart nearly burst with pride at the response that someone in our group led us to.

I thought of that sentence when I received word of two new Obama administration web sites. This White House is setting a new standard for openness and accessibility. If future presidents retreat from this standard, they’ll look like tyrants.  This is what democracy looks like.

Recovery.gov

Recovery.gov is a website that lets you, the taxpayer, figure out where the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going. There are going to be a few different ways to search for information. The money is being distributed by Federal agencies, and soon you’ll be able to see where it’s going — to which states, to which congressional districts, even to which Federal contractors. As soon as we are able to, we’ll display that information visually in maps, charts, and graphics.

Accountability and Transparency

This is your money. You have a right to know where it’s going and how it’s being spent. Learn what steps we’re taking to ensure you can track our progress every step of the way.

Peter Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has sent a memo to the heads of those departments and agencies, explaining what’s expected of them and offering advice for how to meet those high standards.

According to the memo, agencies will be expected to provide data which demonstrates that:
Funds are awarded and distributed in a prompt, fair, and reasonable manner;
The recipients and uses of all funds are transparent to the public, and the public benefits of these funds are reported clearly, accurately, and in a timely manner;

Funds are used for authorized purposes and instances of fraud, waste, error, and abuse are mitigated;

Projects funded under this Act avoid unnecessary delays and cost overruns; and

Program goals are achieved, including specific program outcomes and improved results on broader economic indicators.

Read the full memo

Middle Class Task Force

“This Task Force will be an important vehicle to assess new and existing policies across the board and determine if they are helping or hurting the middle class. It is our charge to get the middle class—the backbone of this country– up and running again.”
– Vice President Joe Biden

Task force programs will be posted here.  The jobs they’re talking about are blue- and green-collar jobs, but I understand that “working class” has negative connotations to many.  Once upon a time my husband, at a potluck lunch of people who called themselves “religious liberals,” described him as a working class man.  A woman replied, “Why do you put yourself down that way?”

Working class, middle class, who cares what they call us, as long as the administration really cares about the people who do this country’s work?  This is what democracy looks like.

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2 Responses to “This Is What Democracy Looks Like”

  1. [...] The Back Forty wrote an interesting post today on This Is What Democracy Looks LikeHere’s a quick excerptBy Miryam Ehrlich Williamson If the title of this article looks familiar to you, you’ve probably been to a peace march or demonstration.  My most potent recollection of having chanted it was on the march on Washington in January 2005. Tens of thousands of us (some estimates reached 100,000) marched that day, pleading for an end to the war on Iraq. Footsore and weary, I was part of a group that peeled off from the rally near the White House and headed for the Metro (subway system) and a train b [...]

  2. I was at that January 2005 protest, and “This is what democracy looks like” was likewise, my favorite chant of the day.

    More people need to be shown what exactly democracy looks like. I think the last 8 years have made them forget.

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