Safeguarding America's Electoral System
There clearly isn't a doubt, especially since the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United v Federal Electoral Commission ruling that opened the slush or floodgates of private funds in electoral politics in America in ways hitherto unimaginable, that the control of policy making in this country is manifestly up for sale.
With candidates on both sides of the aisle, their proxy Super PACs and other tertiary political players on track to raising billions of dollars this presidential election cycle, it simply isn't possible to arrive at a different conclusion.
Much as it may sound a bit Hollywoodsque, you know, almost like a scene out of a James Bond flick, considering how closely or evenly divided the country is ideologically, a single billionaire evil nemesis intent on taking the country down the hollows of his twisted, meandering imagination can easily and singlehandedly change the course of the nation’s history.
All he or she really needs to do under the current dispensation is to write one or two fat checks to a Super PAC with strict specifications for these funds to be spent completely blanketing the airwaves with campaign ads promoting the candidacy of contenders of his/her choosing while impugning and denigrating the opposition in three or four closely contested senatorial contests.
Given that following the mid-term elections of 2010 Republicans regained effective control of the House of Representatives and came within a hair’s breadth of taking over the US Senate as well(current ratio: 51 Democrats, 2 Independents, & 47 Republicans), this is undoubtedly a reachable upshot.
Still think this is implausible? Just flash back to the recently concluded Republican primaries contest; remember how Sheldon and Miriam Adelson solitarily kept the Gingrich campaign from assured death with acutely timed releases of tens of millions of dollars of cold cash doled out through the GOP Super PAC Winning Our Future?
It is as distressingly brazen as it is frighteningly nauseating!
The stakes are so high now that there's practically no level too low to stoop or tactic too dissolute to contemplate.
Facts are frequently truncated, stretched, or misrepresented; innuendoes, half-truths and lies are routinely sleekly packaged and served up to bands of fretful, naïve believers.
Voter suppression schemes with the single purpose of influencing election outcomes by intimidating, discouraging or preventing voters from exercising their vote in some of the eight to twelve hotly contested state jurisdictions are also becoming rampant.
But shouldn’t we be alarmed by all these? Don’t the presence of oodles of private money and the recurrent practice of factual distortion and embellishment by politicians and their campaign staff threaten or tarnish the integrity of our political process?
Much as there does not seem to be an interest in a concerted effort toward campaign finance reform nowadays in either the rulers or the ruled, I do believe that the foundation of this country’s democratic system has never been more endangered by the ubiquity and enormity of private interest money from wealthy individuals as well as corporations.
It is for the foregoing reasons that I propose the following simple measures to infuse greater accountability and integrity back into the process:
1. Public funding of elections at all levels of government: Considering how central a proven or verifiable free and fair electoral process is to our democracy, doing otherwise would cause the corrupting influence of unbridled private funds to continue to erode public confidence in election results.
2. Enactment of a law that would forbid political candidates and their campaigns from knowingly making false claims or misleading statements about their candidacy or those of their political opponents. Contrary to popular belief, this is not an encroachment on free speech; it is a necessary guarantor of responsible political speech. If it is illegal for one to falsify their credentials and lie their way through a job interview, the same assuredly should hold true for people vying for public office; up to and including the presidency.
3. Instill a more heightened sense of civic duty in the citizenry or engender increased participation in the political process by:
a. Declaring the November general election day every year a national holiday.
b. Expanding polling/voting centers to locales more accessible to ordinarily underrepresented or challenged subgroups like students at area colleges and other institutions of higher learning.
Granted that it is safe to assume that none of the foregoing ideas will come to fruition in time to stem the inevitable fallouts from the activities of the forces already in motion for the upcoming presidential election, it is my earnest hope that we could at least initiate the kind of national dialogue that in its wake, would facilitate more positive outcomes in future election cycles.