Saturday, September 19, 2015
A Proposed New Constitution Article 4, Ending the Buying of Elections
Also at http://alcarroll.com and http://www.dailykos.com/user/Al%20Carroll.
Article 4-Ending the Buying of Elections
“1. All elections shall be publicly funded only. Private contributions or donations to or on behalf of a candidate or party, except for unpaid volunteer work, are outlawed. Corporate donations of any kind are forbidden. Business and corporate owners and management are forbidden from intimidating, pressuring, or influencing in any way their employees, punishable by long prison sentences.”
Money is the true engine of American politics, and that should change. Few other democracies have as elitist and plutocratic a ruling political class as the US. There have only been two US presidents who were not wealthy men at the time they were elected, Lincoln and Truman. Congress is a millionaire's club.
This is not true in most of the rest of the world. Most other democracies elect people who are truly representative, rather than elites. Poland and Bolivia elected labor union leaders as presidents, Lech Walesa and Evo Morales. Hungary had a playwright president, Vlaclev Havel. Brazil and Uruguay have former guerilla leaders who fought against dictators, Dilma Rouseff and Jose Mujica, the latter donating most of his salary to charity.
But when the US wants to see “outsiders” run for office, the only ones able to are multi billionaires, Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, and Michael Bloomberg. The number of wealthy dynasties in US politics are legendary, the Adams, Roosevelts, Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Bushes.
Jesus righteously intoned that it was easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy man to get into heaven. It would almost be easier for a working class man to be the king of either Heaven or Hell than to get elected to office in America.
For the need for money to win office acts as a filtering process. Since one must win over the very wealthy to be able to run, candidates depend on them utterly for sponsorship and patronage. In turn, one must give donors what they want. The idea that money equals speech is defended by elites today, both in the media and in the courts. If money is speech, the average man is shouted down by the giant egos and wallets of plutocrats. The moneychangers have driven the priests out of the temple and demand high admission fees to receive blessings and salvation.
In 2012, the presidential campaign was the first multi billion dollar one, and 2016 will certainly be even worse. This must end. Let campaigns only be publicly funded outside of volunteer work. The billionaire should not have more of a voice than any one of his workers. Britain has had limits on campaign spending ever since 1883. The reason for it is obvious. They knew the corrupting influence of money even more than the US, with the outright buying and selling of offices turned into an art form.
In its place we should see the government provide an equal amount of air time, adjusted for its market value, to each party. This air time must be to each party that has candidates, not just major parties. The two party monopoly should end, and most of the public wishes it to end.
This should not be as expensive to the public as it might seem. For one thing, Congress can limit how much is to be spent, and few in the public will have an appetite for expensive campaigns. For another, all networks shall be required to provide this for free, since they make billions every years from the use of public airwaves and bandwidth. The only substantial expense will likely be from online advertising.
The government should also provide servers for the posting of online websites in equal measure for each of the candidates. If parties wish to set up sites to present their beliefs and proposals and recruit for their parties, that would be allowed by law. But party websites campaigning for their candidates, outside of a brief mention of who they are, would not be. Individuals wishing to set up websites, non-commercially, to promote or argue against candidates, parties, proposals, or platforms, would not be affected by this Proposed Article 4.
The billionaire or any other boss must also be prevented from intimidating in any way how his workers vote. Announcing or threatening layoffs or the targeting of workers who disagree with a boss over a candidate, party, or law should be seen as the civil rights violation it is.
“2. Campaigning and advertising for all general elections are limited to the period of six weeks before election day. Campaigning and advertising for all primary elections are limited to the six weeks before the general election period.”
Few things discourage interest in politics more than ridiculously long campaigns. Primary campaigning begins a year and a half before the general election, and at times candidates declare their runs two or three years in advance. Yet the common wisdom is that only the most partisan voters pay attention. Most of the public does not follow the election before Labor Day. This clause will limit all advertising to begin no earlier than the start of August before a November election. Great Britain has even stricter time limits on campaigning with no loss of democracy.
“3. No election, whether federal, state, county, city, special district, American Indian tribe, or of unions, civic groups, lobbying groups, or private clubs, is valid unless more than half of its citizens or members vote. If less than half of citizens or members vote, there must be immediate new elections with different candidates.”
If most of the public does not show up, an election is not a valid representation of the public's wishes. This clause works best with Proposed Article 2, where the elections would only be every four years when the president and congress are chosen. Much of the public has a de facto boycott on elections, especially local ones. Forcing parties to field new candidates gives the public a way to state their dissatisfaction with the candidates they have been given.