American democracy is the gritty history of workaday folks who get fed up with the stuffed suits, get organized, and get moving to stop the thievery. Gutsy, grassroots confrontation is necessary for reclaiming, maintaining, and advancing our democratic values.

To see an uplifting example of organized people power in action, look to the heartland, where a coalition called Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has been building democracy since 1975. They’re uniting and empowering people of all ethnic backgrounds to push back against the avarice and arrogance of big-money corporations.

With more than 3,200 dues-paying activist members, CCI is organized in every Iowa county. They’ve rallied thousands of other Iowans to join their local and statewide actions.

iowa-citizens-community-improvement / Flickr

They’ve won battles against factory-farm manure polluters, corporate wage thieves that prey on low-wage workers, payday lenders that trap poor people in cycles of debt with 300 percent interest rates, gas and electric companies that gouge customers, and banking interests that were either foreclosing on or refusing to lend to good farmers.

Years ago, I came across a small moving company consisting only of two guys and one truck. But they had a big, can-do attitude, summed up in their advertising slogan: “If we can get it loose, we can move it.”

That’s the operating model offered by CCI: Get democracy loose at the grassroots level, and the people themselves will move it forward. For more information about CCI go to

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower

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