Elections & Private Money

No private money should be permitted in any American elections, whether they are national, state, or local. I am tired of seeing all the evidence about politicians selling their votes in order to get elected. I’m tired of seeing public policy determined by moneyed lobbies. I’m tired of seeing that, instead of focusing on their legislative tasks, instead of studying the issues and trying to provide leadership for the benefit of the American people, politicians spend time fulfilling party obligations and sucking up to big donors. I’m tired of seeing politicians enter politics as ordinary Joes, work for moderate wages, and then leave politics with millions of dollars in assets.

There is no need for private dollars. There is no reason we cannot create a selection process that opens the door of election to ordinary citizens. There is no reason we cannot, once we’ve selected a set of candidates, finance relatively cheap and equal presentation of platforms, resume’s, and personalities using tax dollars. Why shouldn’t we elect the people with the best ideas, the most talent, the best communication skill? Maybe, just maybe, there would be a resurgence of idealists interested in politics. Of course there are some wacky idealists out there, but I’d rather have the country run by a cadre of wacky idealists (of various stripes) than a bunch of red-tie, spin-prepped, special interest marionettes.

It is a frightening thought, of course, to consider that our major city elections would no longer be decided by minority race and union lobbies; to consider that our state elections would no longer be decided by gun-toting pick-up drivers; and to consider that our national elections would no longer be decided by big business. Who would decide these races?

How would you redesign the activity of the federal government, for example, if the responsibility was handed to you? I don’t think I’d know where to start. The possibility of a national melt-down seems high. Maybe we’re all better at complaining about our pet interests than we are at making decisions and actually governing. Maybe, before we do a major overhaul of the election process, as desperately as it is needed, we should all take some civics courses. Maybe we should study government structure; maybe we should study philosophy of government; maybe we should study the question of law in a pluralistic society; maybe we should study ethics. And be required to demonstrate proficiency in these things.

Maybe we should be studying these things even if we don’t manage to segregate private money from elections. I think we proved beyond a doubt in the last presidential election that we, as a nation, have lost our political way. Our current model of legislation-by-hysteria is not working, it will not work, and it will certainly erode the framework of law and civility on which this country was established. We need to take a hard look at what needs to be done to protect the American people from the imbalanced. And we need to take a harder look at what is needed to protect us from the powerful. If we keep behaving like sheep, before long we will be lamb stew.