On Election Reform
Before we begin, let me just state that I have never, and do not intend in the future, donated to clean elections. This isn't because I don't want clean elections. It's because the clean election system is, -at best- a band aid attempting to cover an infected wound. Too many compromises made the entire ordeal worthless.
Why do I say that? Well, that's a bit involved.
First, let's just take a look at what clean elections are supposed to do. There are lots of varying definitions and descriptions out there. Most tie into the idea of not allowing political candidates to buy votes. But, believe it or not, that's not what clean elections are about. In fact, its just a symptom of the underlying problem.
They've become too focused on the money to see how the system works.
So what is the underlying problem? Put simply, the current political system within the USA requires (not suggests, or needs; requires) that anyone wishing to hold public office appease special interest groups as opposed to the very people that elect them. Yes, inevitably it is the people's vote that gets them into office and keeps them there. But the sad truth is that the way to the taxpayer's vote is not through having a better political position than one's opponent; the way to a taxpayer's vote is to have a better campaign than your opponent. Too many people are swayed by fancy adds, political assassinations, and repetitive nonsense for the system to work any other way. And those things all require the vast expenditure of resources.
It is not money that's the problem. It's the intellectual laziness of the average American that is the true threat. Many don't care to think; its too hard: easier to just pick one party and believe whatever nonsense it spouts. Many have convinced themselves they can't understand the issues: easier to just pick one party and believe whatever nonsense it spouts.
Some simply do not have the time to look the data up. Now, with the invention and evolution of the internet, that group is shrinking. Its far easier and quicker to find raw data today with a Google search than it was to go to the library twenty years ago.
Now, I can't do anything about intellectual laziness, or time constraints. No one but those people dealing with it can. And they have to choose to want to. But we can lessen the impact of that problem.
Which is, of course, what the clean elections reforms were designed to do: keep any one politician from having a better campaign than any other. But, again, these measures focused too much on money instead of the underlying issue. And they failed to examine how we got to this problem.
In the nearly two and a half centuries our country has endured, its political system has evolved into a very different beast from the one our forefathers created. Many of those changes are for the better. Removing racial and sexual requirements to vote, for instance. But removing the financial requirements (ie. landowner) was a bit of a double edged sword. Now, I'm not saying it was the wrong decision to make. I'm saying it opened the way to some problems they never considered.
You see, they expected the rich to be the more intelligent members of the country. If they were born into it it was expected that their parents would have ensured access to good education. (Keep in mind, this was before public schools were common in the USA) And if you hadn't been born into it, but had the drive and intelligence, it was assumed you would rise to the upper crust.
(Plus they were worried that, if the proportionately huge number of have-nots could vote they would quickly legislate the haves into have-nots and we could all live in a communism together)
Whether they were right or wrong, they expected those they'd deemed capable of making such decisions would be trained to see through the rhetoric and lies one might use to sway simpler people into giving them their vote. It was assumed that pretty stationary/advertisements, official sounding language, and overly simplistic ideals would not woo them. It was assumed that logic was part of that group's core curriculum.
Sadly, it is not currently part of our core curriculum. But we can all vote! And far too many of us are swayed by the pretty pretty pictures, and the sweet words of the political equivalent of the guy standing by the nondescript, white, windowless van offering us a piece of candy.
In a perfect world the amount of money spent on one's campaign would not make a difference. In a perfect world people would not vote for whose name they saw more often, or whose advertisements were better looking, or who spends more on their political assassination campaign.
Sadly, few people today would exist in that perfect world.
So yes, clean elections are necessary. But, as I stated above, the number of compromises that were required for this program underscore its usefulness. For instance:
1) It only limits large donations from individuals. In other words, you may not be able
to get $10,000 from that successful businessman. But you can get $10,000 spread
from 2,000 people. This makes ads even more important. It also works in exactly
the wrong direction.
Why is that a problem? Bottom line, there are far more people of average
intelligence than of high (or even low) intelligence. According to Mensa, nearly 70%
of people fall between 85 - 115 on the standard IQ tests. According to Resing and
Blok's paper of 2002 'The classification of intelligence. Proposal for an
unambiguous system' IQ by population charts out as a bell curve with 50% of people
falling between 90% and 110%.
That means -depending on how you measure the average- somewhere between
half and two thirds of all potential voters are of average intelligence. A politician
willing to say whatever that group wants to hear gains a decisive advantage in the fact
that they still gain the donations they want, while still gaining money from the public
trough. And attempts to redress this issue have been deemed unconstitutional
because, get this, it apparently infringes on freedom of speech.
2) It's not mandatory. Partaking in this system is completely voluntary. Barrak
Obama originally promised to use this system back in 2008. But when his campaign
contributions skyrocketed he quickly reneged on that deal citing it to be a
broken system. In the end he spent more money than all of his competitors
3) Corporations can still donate, so long as they do it through a Separate Segregated
So, you don't have to use it if you don't want to and even if you do you can still gain the ability to spend far more than your competitors. This never actually addresses the issue at hand. It may be slightly more fair than a completely unregulated system but it does little to actually curb the issue. In fact, it seems to have side tracked the issue from one of ensuring that the representatives of this great nation stay beholden to their constituents to one of counting money.
That will never work. Even if -hypothetically speaking- one could completely regulate the amount of money these snake charmers spend it still would not solve the problem. Because the problem solvers are still focused on money simply because that's how the resources required are brokered.
But there are other ways to contribute to a campaign other than spending money. A business could donate the services of their employees. A news station could offer a better rate to the candidate they prefer compared a comparable slot given to one of his competitors. Use of a building could be brokered at lower (or no) cost to a favored politician. Artwork (or use thereof) could be donated. And I'm sure there are dozens of ways that I'm not thinking of.
Instead of focusing on the money we should focus on its result. The result is that politicians become beholden to special interests to stay in office. It's not even about getting into office, it's about retaining office. If you only needed the money to get into office nothing would stop a politician from taking special interest money and then ignoring them once in. But they need it to stay in office. And when you think about it that way the solution becomes obvious.
Term limits: For everyone. And by term limits I mean 1. Get rid of the whole re-election worry all together. Each person may serve one term in the House, one in the Senate, and one as President. That's it.
And yeah, a business could just donate as much as it wanted to someone's campaign if it wanted to. Once they were in office there would be nothing keeping that candidate tethered to that organization because they don't need to worry about a re-election at all. There isn't one.
Now, personally, I'd say this would require a lengthening of term length. One term just isn't enough to make a difference. But even if we doubled every current term that's a total of 8 years in the House, 12 in the Senate and 8 as President. That's 28 years max. But considering that there are more than four times as many seats in the House as the Senate, and 100 times more seats in same than spots for president, very few will come close to that. Most won't get more than 8 - 12 years. One cannot make an entire career out of being a people's representative anymore.