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Standing Up For Democracy: How Activists Are Fighting Injustice in America Today

Bill Moyers talks with activists about an initiative to open Americans' eyes about income inequality.

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BILL MOYERS: But there's still one huge wall between you and your aspirations. I know it's there, and you do too. Let me play something from our earlier conversation in which you acknowledge what you're up against.

GEORGE GOEHL on Bill Moyers Journal: I do think that on this fight, we don't win unless we figure out how to toxify the banking money in politics. Until...

BILL MOYERS on Bill Moyers Journal: Do what?

GEORGE GOEHL on Bill Moyers Journal: Toxify that money. It's amazing to me that the same banks that created the foreclosure crisis, sent the economy into the tail spin, needed and billions and billions of taxpayer bailouts, are still able to hand out millions in campaign contributions. You'd think there would be a political price to pay for taking that money.

BILL MOYERS: That was December 2009. That was Heather Booth sitting there with us. She was involved in the fight for financial reform.

Not only have you and others failed to do that. But it's worse than it was the last time you were here. The Citizens United decision from the Supreme Court has helped unleash an avalanche of new money into the campaigns.

GEORGE GOEHL: It's really terrifying. There's no doubt about it. But I do think what you're seeing is you're seeing a backlash around Citizens United. The money in politics that I actually think is particularly powerful because it's not just coming from the left or the right. But I think both members of both parties, and different ideologies recognize that this level of money in our politics is not going to work, so.

BILL MOYERS: It's just gotten worse.

GEORGE GOEHL: It has. There's no question about it.

BILL MOYERS: So what keeps you, why do you keep fighting? You're not going to win.

GEORGE GOEHL: Oh, boy, I, there's no way I believe that. Organizers are the eternal optimists. I think.

BILL MOYERS: You may win in your daughter's lifetime. She may win. But you know that what you're up against.

GEORGE GOEHL: That's good enough. Winning in my daughter's lifetime is good enough. I think that, like, any movement worth its salt looked ahead to the long haul. If we get too obsessed with are we winning the tactical victories here and there, it can be a little, you know, tough for us.

Because I think a lot of times what we've done over the last 30 years is we've really focused on the issues. And figured out how do we win on the issues. But if we really want to shift the country, we have to say, "How do we engage in the big battle of big ideas?" 'Cause what corporate conservatives did is, like, they said, "Let's undermine the role of government. Let's promote free markets."

Though when free markets also means free markets that get a lot of good stuff from government. "Say that we'll already live in a racially just society." Even though we know that's not true. "And promote rugged individualism." And they moved those ideas out in a very systemic and intentional way over 40 years. And it has led us to this point.

So we now have to say, "How do we engage long haul and an idea shift that includes talking about how government could be an equalizer in our lives if we reclaim it? That markets have to be regulated to protect people and the environment. That we do not live in a racially just society. That structural racism continues to keep families out of opportunities."

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