Harry Reid, John Kerry: Time to reclaim democracy | NevadaAppeal.com

Harry Reid, John Kerry: Time to reclaim democracy

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, right, participate in a lecture series at the University of Nevada, Reno, Tuesday, April 3, 2018, moderated by history professor Hugh Shapiro, center, in Reno, Nev. The two retired Democrats, who served nearly 30 years together in the Senate, say money is the driving force behind rising partisanship and resulting gridlock in Congress. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

RENO — Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and former Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry told an audience of nearly 1,000 on Tuesday the nation needs to reclaim democracy from the forces that have reduced Congress to a body unable to serve the American people.

"We need to reclaim our own democracy and make it clear we are going to fight for the real principles, the real values, real beliefs of this nation," said Kerry.

Reid told the audience attending the first Harry Reid Public Engagement Lecture Series at the University of Nevada, Reno the Senate was much different when he and Kerry were first elected in the 1980s. He said the members then were men and women who "looked to work things out." Compromise, he said, was how things got done, not a dirty word as it now is to those who refuse to deal with anyone who doesn't agree with them.

Kerry said that started to change with the Gingrich revolution in the 1990s calling for smaller government.

He said that movement, "didn't deliver," the Tea Party that followed "didn't deliver" and the Freedom Caucus "didn't deliver." The result, he said, was a growing anger and hostility across the nation he said grew, "rightfully."

He said those members of Congress who would rather do nothing than compromise, "have to remember what kind of an institution you signed up to be part of."

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As for how to fix the problem, Kerry said, "You reverse it by throwing people out of office who are not willing to do business."

One of the problems, Reid said, is the lack of work ethic in Congress.

Both men described Congress as the group that works Tuesday halfway through Thursday when they go home, not returning until Monday night.

Reid blamed money made possible by the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that basically allowed corporations and individuals to dump millions into politics with no restrictions.

"There have been a lot of bad things happen but in my 50 years of experience in government there's been nothing more harmful than that decision," he said. "We're at the point where a very few individuals and families control everything. They (members of Congress) don't work much anymore; it's mainly because of money."

Kerry said the Citizens United decision changed the rules and, created this unbelievable race for money.

The money, they said, also supports gerrymandering in Congress that creates congressional districts that are so biased they aren't competitive.

"This can make or break our ability to have a fair election," he said.

Reid said another serious problem is voter suppression.

"There are elements in our country doing everything they can, spending huge amounts of money suppressing the vote," he said.

He called for same day registration, automatic voter registration saying it's important everybody gets to vote.

Reid said efforts to push the United States away from globalization are misguided.

"In history we find isolation doesn't work. We are a world economy, a world that doesn't have any boundaries anymore," he said.

Kerry agreed: "All over the world which, now, whether we like it or not and there are plenty of people who don't like it and want to turn the clock back, we are globalized and you can't undo this," said Kerry. "We are intertwined, our economies are intertwined."

He said he believes in national sovereignty, but nations must work together and a trade war won't help anybody.