What If Election Reform Is Enacted?
December 20, 2012
By Phil Wolfson, MD, Founder of Profound Democracy
Editor's Note: This article by a Fix Our America advisory board members includes and adds to election reforms supported by Fix Our America. In that regard, it is a personal opinion of Dr. Wolfson and not an official position statement of Fix Our America.
Let's have some post-election fun using our informed imagination. It is four years from now. I and you are entering the voting booths in our respective neighborhoods. We are feeling excited about casting our ballots with our neighbors at our local precincts. We are confident that the physical areas in which we live are part of larger geopolitical entities that have not been rigged to procure advantages for a particular political party, but, in fact, are legitimately circumscribed, unbiased areas containing fellow citizens. In this election, we are voting for candidates we truly want in office, whom we are certain will represent our needs, if elected. We are voting positively, not to avoid the rule of villainy -- something new for me, perhaps for you. It is Monday of a three-day weekend -- Election Day is a national holiday set aside for thoughtful voting and voluntary community service -- not Tuesday -- and most of us are off work. Getting to the polls is not full of pressure to somehow fit it into our workday.
The campaign has been an action-packed circumscribed four weeks in duration. There has been no privately paid-for media campaigning by candidates. Media makes its time available as a necessary public service. Now, public service political statements have been screened for truthfulness and libel. Candidates have spoken to the issues facing our country and the globe and addressed their qualifications to lead. To not do so is to lose the votes of an informed public who demands that their representatives be real people -- honest about their lives and pasts, held accountable for their statements and opinions, and qualified to administer their offices. Their terms of office are limited to 12 years. There are no career-forever politicians anymore. Tax returns and investments are all in the public record. You cannot run for office at any level without full disclosure. There is only publicaly funded campaigning. Private contributions are limited to $50-100 per citizen and listed openly. Candidates are limited to $10,000 of their own money put towards their own campaigns. A tax of $10 per taxpayer has raised a $2 billion dollar fund for all federal races. When elected, politicians have the same benefits and health care options as the rest of the populace. Their work is rewarded by a decent salary and the honor of serving.
The process of becoming a candidate is open to all. Since term limits open the door to the aspirations of many, fluidity and opportunity exist. Political machines have been obliterated. Public funds sponsor citizens' training programs to develop principled, skillful, ethical leaders with clear responsibilities to their entire constituencies regardless of their particular origins and loyalties. As lobbying money has been forbidden to either influence elected officials or to finance campaigns, elections and elected officials are far more representative. Persuasion has replaced the buying of politicians. 'Make a good case, you cannot buy a case'. Money is definitively out of politics.
With this system in place, the possibility of addressing the issues of our time emerges. A real discussion on national health care, climate change, economics, unemployment, culture, war and the military, our precious rights, public safety, limiting corporate influence and the destructiveness of finance capital, a just taxation system -- all of these and more will be addressed. They can no longer be put aside by the 'we want more' rich 1 percent and the mega-corporations. Billionaires don't run our country. We do!
This scenario is necessarily incomplete and the details are not meant to be specific, but rather suggestive. Nonetheless, experiencing this as possible and desirable is invigorating. I want it this way. Don't you?
Instead we have this just concluded national election serving as an unprecedented demonstration of the ruthlessness, corruption, mendacity, and disempowerment of we, the citizenry, that the billions spent on unauthentic political campaigns engenders. The unbridled financial input from the very rich in the post-Citizens United period went towards distortion and misrepresentation, towards influencing races for selfish means for the few in an effort to further solidify control of the political process by the 1 percent. Billions of dollars were wasted on deceptive advertising in a dire economy that has hit education, culture, public safety, the poor and middle classes harder than in any period since the Great Depression. Are we to continue to have our political lives dominated by influential money that has eroded our representative democracy? Will we return democracy to our Founders' view and separate corporations and the undue influence of the rich from our political process? One person, one vote! Will we continue to tolerate the extraordinary influence through money lobbying (indirect bribery) of our politicians for the special interests of corporations and the 1 percent? Money Out of Politics! is the only means to return to the democratic process. Essentially bribed politicians will not vote for the needs and interests of the many. That is clear!
With the Supreme Court majority committed to empowering large corporations and the rich --significant adverse new decisions have occurred and will occur since Citizens United -- more and more of us are recognizing the need for a constitutional amendment that encompasses overturning Citizens United (and includes term limits for the Supreme Court as well) but goes far beyond to get money entirely out of politics save for public financing. The first step is to unite and grow behind a movement whose slogan is "Amend! Money Out of Politics." At this early stage, education, creativity and community building is more important than determining the final form of a constitutional amendment. Let us welcome all who unite behind our urgent need. Let there be a flowering of debate between those who support the limited amendment proposal with its focus on the Citizens United decision versus those who are behind the much larger and definitive goal of "Money Out of Politics."
There is and will be controversy about how to effect an amendment, some arguing that under great pressure from the people Congress will vote themselves out of money by enacting an amendment to the constitution -- 100 members are said to have endorsed some form of a 28th amendment -- and others stressing that you cannot trust the bandits to let go of their handles and do the right thing -- it will have to go to the people. There has never been a successful amendment coming out of a states convention process. The Equal Rights Amendment came close and its process facilitated a movement that inspired the further emancipation of women in this country. Building a movement is a good thing and engenders consciousness and change no matter the outcome! However, the lack of success of the states convention method does not mean that it cannot happen or that in the end this will be the only possibility for the success of our movement.
As our movement grows, it will coalesce around support for politicians who are for a 28th amendment, or on the other side, a massive No! vote for politicians who fail to come out for Amend! Our democratic power will hinge on our ability to make ourselves felt as a collective vector for this seminal cultural transformation through our presence as an anti-corruption moral and political force. Since we are neither a political party nor a single organization, but rather a community of people and organizations under the Amend! umbrella, political divisions and factions may be minimized. Our time is here. There is one objective: Money Out of Politics!. Return representative democracy to the people of our country!
Phil Wolfson MD is a writer and a practicing psychiatrist/psychotherapist in the Bay Area. He is the founder of Profound Democracy.