Campaign Finance Reform: The Most Important Issue Facing Our Nation.
President Thomas Jefferson
I am writing this short article to tell all of my conservative friends something. I know that we rarely see eye to eye on politics, but I’m going to tell you why you should vote for one candidate, and only one candidate. I am going to tell you why this candidate may very well be the most important candidate of the past 30 years, or the next thirty years.
I am not typically a one-issue voter, and to be fair, I’m not going to be a one issue voter in this upcoming election, but there is one issue that affects everyone I know, in the exact same way. Liberal or conservative, gay or straight, libertarian or socialist, the most important issue that faces America today is the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
This article is not designed to take exception with the group Citizens United specifically, but with the Supreme Court decision on the case Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission. While I personally do not like lobby groups, I do see that these groups give a voice to certain issues, and groups who feel their topics are important. I’m certain that Citizens United had good intentions when they challenged the existing campaign finance laws, but the fallout from the decision has the potential to destroy democracy in America.
For anyone who might not have heard of this decision, or maybe just doesn’t know what it was about, I’ll briefly recap. Six years ago, a lobby group that was funded by the Koch brothers (see reference 1), took a case before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which made it illegal for Unions and Corporations to fund any advertisements that mentioned any candidate within sixty days of a general election, or thirty days of a primary election.
Much to the surprise of many people, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United and struck down the portions of the BCRA that prohibited corporations from spending money to influence elections. The Supreme Court ruled that this was a violation of the First Amendment, and therefore unconstitutional (see reference 2).
This is a disturbing concept to say the least. If money equals freedom of speech, then the people with the most money have the loudest voices. The average middle class working family, which composes the vast majority of the Republican Party, now has a smaller voice than any corporation. That is not a democracy! A democracy ensures that all people have an equal voice and that the government’s sole purpose is to protect the rights of the people. A democracy does not ensure that those with the most money get to make the rules by buying the allegiance of politicians.
Since the Citizens United decision, super PACs have sprung up all over. Do you hate how your TV, and radio are inundated with political commercials during election seasons? Well, you can blame the Citizens United decision for that. Corporations are now allowed to spend an unlimited amount of money on influencing politicians and candidates. If the wealthiest people can now buy a candidate’s allegiance with campaign contributions, then who is in charge, the very wealthiest people in the country, or the entire country? A country where the wealthy have all the power is called an oligarchy, and that literally means “the few to rule (see reference 3).” Your vote doesn’t matter at all if politicians can be bought and sold at the whim of a few billionaires.
Just a few examples of oligarchies are ancient Rome prior to Julius Caesar, South Africa in the 1900’s, and the Soviet Union (see reference 4). All of these countries had a ruling class of people that called all the shots, and everyone else had to do what the ruling class decided was best. The big problem with this is that human nature is selfish, and so those in control tend to make decisions that are best for them, and help them protect their power, leaving the average citizen out in the cold. That is where our country is heading.
With politicians for sale, and only a small group of people able to afford them, it will very quickly become nearly impossible to make any progress on any issue (as if it hasn’t already). No matter what your favorite issues are, those issues will never be addressed under an oligarchy. Do you want lower taxes? Do you really think a small handful of billionaires care if you get lower taxes? Do you think they care if everyone has clean water to drink? Do you think the people who own car manufacturing companies want oversight of the auto industry to ensure that vehicles are safe before they are sold to the consumer? Do you think the owners of any business want to ensure that your children get a good education? Do you really think that serves their best interest, or would they be happier if schools churned out pre-trained workers to power their factories with cheap labor?
This is the only issue that matters today, because without a solution to Citizens United, there will be no solution to any other issues, at least not one that will have your interest in mind. Conservatives, and liberals alike need to band together and see to it that the Citizens United decision is overturned. I do not know one conservative person who would not benefit greatly from having this issue resolved. Once the Citizen United issue is fixed then we can go back to arguing and fighting over out pet issues, but for this one election cycle we need to unite, and take steps to save our country, before it becomes an unrecognizable mess.
In order to preserve our democracy, we need a leader who will make overturning this decision via a constitutional amendment his top priority. There is only one candidate who has repeatedly said that he will make this a priority. There is only one candidate who not only says he will do this, but has a decades long track record of doing what he says. In the thirty-five years that Senator Sanders has held public office there is not one shred of evidence, not even once instance where he has been for sale to the highest bidder. Senator Sanders is the only major candidate who does not have a Super PAC, and he has rejected donation from billionaires. His funding comes from average citizens like you, and me. If he is for sale, he is certainly not great at sales. I do not usually trust politicians, but I trust a politician who will not accept any funding that doesn’t come from real supporters. Bernie Sanders is an oxymoron. Bernie Sanders is an honest politician, and he has my vote. I hope after reading this article he will have your vote too.
President John Adams