Bob Phillips still believes in democracy. He sees it play out at work every day.
Phillips is executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, a non-profit, non-partisan citizens’ lobby organization that advocates for a transparent and accountable government and a vocal and organized public.
Specifically, the group works to achieve reform in areas like campaign financing and redistricting. More broadly, Phillips and his associates encourage people to practice their rights as citizens.
“Ultimately, the most powerful force in our democracy remains with the people,” Phillips said.
Not immune to the realities of big money politics and congressional stalemate, Phillips admits that “a combination of fear, anger and disgust” drove him to get involved in reform efforts.
Yet negative sentiments did not lead him to give up on the public or the system.
“Even knowing that there may not be an immediate payoff, it’s rewarding to see citizens interact with their elected representatives and often have influence,” he said. “In that sense, the system still works.”
Although Phillips acknowledges that many citizens divide along party lines, he does believe they can unite under a desire for fairness. “Government that is more open, honest and accountable is government that is fairer to all citizens.”
This is why Phillips believes advocating for reform is neither a lost cause nor a divisive task. According to Jane Pinsky, associate director of Common Cause, nothing is more important than the power of collective action.
“Citizens acting together can change the world,” Pinsky said.
She believes the magic of our democracy is citizen involvement. And, as Phillips said, “half the battle is showing up.”