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Chapter 13: Election reform desperately needed

What’s wrong with our elections

  • Voter gullibility. Uninformed voters can doom any democracy. Too many voters complete their public education without a basic understanding of American history, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the branches of government, and economics. Many avoid politics until Election Day, and then base their votes on the superficial and often intentionally misleading sound bites or attack ads from the politicians who will stoop to almost any level to get elected.
  • Money rules. There’s too much money in political campaigns, and most of it comes from special interests. All other things being equal, the biggest spender wins. That’s usually because the biggest spender can hire the slickest campaign staffers—the ones who best know how to use demagoguery and sound bites to win elections.
  • Special interests have the money. This means candidates often sell their souls to the special interest group that can provide the most money. This usually means Big Business support for Republicans and Big Labor, and trial lawyer support for Democrats.
  • Politicians play a self-serving game. It doesn’t take politicians long to figure out that they can win elections by promising to take care of people. So they make promises to voters, create more bureaucracies to “serve the people,” construct more rules to make sure everybody performs to the government’s standards, and create even more bureaucracies to enforce the rules. At some point, which in large measure is now, government is no longer limited, individuals are no longer free, and insolvent America is no longer an inspiration to other nations.

How to fix the problems with our elections

  • Election reform. Only individuals should be allowed to make campaign contributions to politicians. Campaign contributions by businesses, political action committees, labor unions, trade associations, and other special interest groups should not be permitted. (It is ridiculous to argue that these groups are entitled to free speech in the form of campaign contributions. Free speech is an individual liberty, and this right can only be diminished by extending it to special interest groups.)
  • No tampering by special interest groups. It should be a felony for special interest groups to unduly pressure their members or employees into making political contributions by threatening them, underwriting any individual’s contribution, or promising anything of value.
  • Full & early disclosure of all contributions. No contributions should be allowed within a month of the election, and full disclosure of the amount and source of all contributions should be posted online at least two weeks prior to the election.
  • Constitutional Amendment. If citizens put enough pressure on them, members of Congress could be forced to impose bold campaign finance reforms. If Congress fails to act, a citizen-driven constitutional amendment—as described in the “Take Back Congress” chapter—may be necessary. It could be worded something like this: “Candidates for elected federal offices shall accept campaign contributions only from individual citizens. Campaign contributions by businesses, political action committees, labor unions, trade associations, and other groups shall not be permitted. All campaign contributions must be made a least one month prior to the applicable election, and full disclosure of the amount and source of each contribution shall be posted online at least two weeks prior to the election.”
  • Less campaign spending. There would be less money spent if we limit campaign contributions to individuals, cap the amounts that individuals (including the candidate) can donate, require that contributions be made at least a month prior to the election, and require full and timely disclosure of contributions. Less campaign spending would be a big improvement. Fewer political ads, fewer sound bites and fewer politician robo-calls wouldn’t hurt anything.  Even with less money to spend, each candidate could still reach voters via a comprehensive website outlining his or her positions, as well as by issuing press releases and participating in candidate debates.
  • Competent voters. Does it make any sense that we require people to qualify for a driver’s license, but there are no limits except age on who can vote? States should develop competency tests for voters to determine whether they have at least a basic understanding of American history, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the branches of government, and economics. The federal government could properly challenge any state law that violates the Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibits denying the vote because of a person’s race or color.

“A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” —Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw

“Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.” —Oscar Ameringer, socialist and labor organizer

“Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.” —Oscar Ameringer, socialist and labor organizer

“No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems—of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.”—Economist and columnist Thomas Sowell

10 Comments
  1. Republicans don’t mention it, because I guess they like it, or like the results.The media didn’t mention it, because they were at the behest of the politicians who won to give them access and their corporate bosses who liked the results (as they want more media consolidation/deregulation, which Republicans want to give them).Democratic politicians don’t mention it, because who knows, they’re intimidated?The general public doesn’t want to believe that their government officials can be all that bad, and they accept the propaganda.There are too many selfish, cowardly and diabolical motives for me to ascertain, as well as general apathy and disinterest on the part of the public. But I am worried about this election, too.

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  2. Good points, Aurica. Ultimately, the most meaningful reform would be to allow campaign contributions only from individuals. Big corporations, unions and PACs have far too much influence on our elections, and there isn’t enough transparency in who is influencing whom.

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  3. Most politicians are sociopaths, and all that’s needed to corrupt our government is for 51% of them to be sociopathic. We currently have no way to elect a non-sociopath, thus two years back I published “Time For a REAL House of Representatives” at my website. Nothing will change, nor can be changed, unless at least 51% of the House of Representatives are non-sociopathic.

    Dr. Robert D. Hare [author of Snakes in Suits] defined sociopath as “intraspecies predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, and violence to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs. Lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, they cold-bloodedly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret.” I think that pretty much sums it up.

    Hope every non-sociopath orders a copy of your book.
    Well done, sir! Hope folks listen.
    The story about you and the book was on Page 8 in the “P.V.Independent” today.

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    • I’m afraid you and Dr. Hare are correct. Those descriptions certainly fit the career polticians to whom we citizens have delegated our “government by the people”.

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. An ugly money-fueled campaign « Fixing America's Broken Politics
  2. Chapter 13: Election reform: What’s wrong & how to fix it « Fixing America's Broken Politics
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  4. Ugly campaign, but Romney/Ryan could reduce the deficit & partisan gridlock « Fixing America's Broken Politics
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