By Peter Holmes
I had a history teacher in middle school who loved to ask the class, “What’s the most important right granted by the Bill of Rights?” The answer, according to him, was freedom of speech because citizens could use that to petition their government for anything, including other rights.
One way we petition the government is by voting for the politicians whose policies we agree with. In theory, voting is a balanced opportunity for everyone to voice their concerns. After all, each citizen gets a single vote, right?
Unless, of course, you dump a monumental amount of money into the equation.
We’re now in full swing in the race for the next U.S. president. Major issues on the table range from the economy (as always), to immigration, climate change, taxes, foreign affairs, etc. Campaign finance is taking a back seat to these issues, maybe because it’s not a sexy topic, and it doesn’t directly affect your bank account or your daily life. But with the possible exception of climate change, how candidates fund their campaigns should be at the top of your worry list.
How much do you know about the millions of dollars your favorite candidate is toying with? If the answer is ‘not much,’ then I suggest you read this article:
In short, a tiny handful of super wealthy families are paying for candidates’ campaigns, especially Republican candidates. Millions of dollars are flooding in from the rich to make sure the country is run the way they want it, and this is crowding out your views.
If you have ever wondered how some completely nutty politicians get into office, this is how. If you have ever wondered how the Tea Party (famous for its stubborn disdain for one of the most crucial tenets of governing: compromise) continues to thrive, this is how. The Tea Party represents a minority of Americans and even a minority of the Republican Party, but they have manufactured a loud voice with money.
Campaign finance gets some attention from Democratic candidates, especially Bernie Sanders, but not nearly enough. And the Republicans avoid it like the plague, probably because they’re benefiting the most from these massive donations. Another Democratic candidate who gets no publicity at all, Lawrence Lessig, has made campaign finance the only issue he’s running on. Of course, he has zero chance of becoming president, but his singular focus on the issue is rightly chosen.
What’s the solution to all this? The country desperately needs campaign finance reform, but until then the best thing you can do is vote. And if you only vote for the president, you’re missing the point. Everyone should vote in all elections, whether national, state or local. The last congressional election featured a low voter turnout, so guess who dominated the results? The candidates of the rich.
It doesn’t matter whether you vote Democrat, Republican, Green, Independent, etc, as long as you figure out who represents you best. You must make the wealthy realize that they are not special, that their money will not speak for you, that they only get one vote like the rest of us.
You might be surprised to learn that the next election date is in 2 weeks. You can check for elections in your area by clicking here:
Get out there and make it count!