Monday, November 22, 2010

6 Steps To Restoring Sanity

It's said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

By that definition, American voters are insane.

Less than 1% of the population pays for the campaigns of those seeking office. Some Republicans are elected, some Democrats. They proceed to cater to the less than 1% who paid to put them in office, driving the other 99% up a wall.

Without demanding changes in the way elections are paid for, voters reelect most of those who drove them crazy. They throw out a few in the interest of shaking things up, in hopes of a different result. Maybe a few more Democrats are elected this time, along with some Republicans. The newly elected officials got the money for their campaigns from less than 1% of the people. They continue catering to that fraction of 1% of the population. The rest feel let down and left out again.

Another election comes. No changes in the way campaigns are waged and financed have been demanded or made. Less than 1% pay for all the ads, all the mailings, all the robocalls. Once again, most of those who were in power stay in power. A few get tossed, maybe a few more than usual. Voters hope against hope for a different result, for some bipartisan cooperation and constructive problem solving, for some consideration of the greater good. Let's say this time it's the Republicans who are elected in greater number. Those Republicans, and the surviving Democrats, got their campaign money from less than 1% of the people. They cater to those donors.

Another election comes. And another. The same thing is done over and over again, yet a different result is somehow expected. Insane is what it is.

If voters are ever to regain their senses and if American democracy is ever to become, you know, like an actual democracy, we can't keep doing the same thing over and over again, election after election. We have to do some things differently. Here are six things we can and should do, in no particular order:

1. Require full disclosure of all election spending and all donations used to pay for that campaigning. Both federal and state law in Wisconsin need to be changed to uphold the right of voters to know who is writing the checks for all that election advertising we have to endure.

2. Create publicly financed campaigns. Right now less than 1% of the population pays for all the candidates' campaign expenses. Once elected, those candidates-turned-elected-officials are hopelessly beholden to those special interests that supply them with the money to run for office. Our elections, and by extension our government, are owned by less than 1% of the people. We could and should have a system where all of us pay directly for elections so we have elected representatives who truly belong to all of us.

3. Establish corporate accountability laws requiring shareholder consent for election spending. Currently top corporate managers can spend investors' money on elections, supporting candidates of management's choosing, without even informing shareholders much less getting their permission. The law could be changed to introduce an element of democracy into corporate management, requiring notification of shareholders when a company wants to try to influence an election and requiring the company to get approval from a majority of those who own stock.

4. Give candidates free air time. America is the only major democracy on the planet without some system for allowing candidates to communicate with voters around election time without paying for the air time. The broadcast airwaves are public property. Use of those airwaves should be granted only on the condition that they be used to serve the public interest. Making politicians prostitute themselves in order to campaign for public office is most definitely not in the public interest.

5. Protect Net Neutrality at all costs. We have a free and open Internet. The ruling class wants to get rid of that in the worst way. We can't let them succeed.

6. Push for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment has been radically reinterpreted, effectively removing the "r" from free speech. The Constitution should be amended for a 28th time to clarify that putting reasonable limits on campaign contributions and election spending does not violate the First Amendment and reestablish that money is not speech, corporations are not people, elections are not auctions, and public offices are not commodities to be bought and sold on the open market.


Mike Kujak said...

Interesting ideas for campaign finance reform. Feingold would be proud. Couldn't be more right about Net Neutrality btw..

Tom McCann said...

Makes so much sense, but how do we put the plan in action?

The media, wealthy campaign donors, politicians, etc... all want to keep the system we have now. It works very well for them.

I think the Citizens United ruling has stirred a portion of the population, but can we get critical mass in order to reach a tipping point?

Public rallies? Lawsuits? Push/support Democrats who want the disclosure laws?

Bravo to Mike and WDC for pushing these issue, but now we all need to figure out how to solve this problem. All other issues will be held hostage by our current system until it is fixed.

Anonymous said...

Write write write letters to the editors of your newspapers. Many will not listen to the discussions on this subject but many read those letters even though it makes them angry. These letters plant seeds. Many want to hear about this
but they don't know where they can get this information