The New York Times wrote an editorial yesterday entitled “An Idea Worth Saving.” This editorial points out that this November’s Presidential election will be the first election in 36 years where both candidates for the Presidency will opt out of public financing for their campaigns. The more I think about some of the significant issues facing our country, the more I think that this is truly one of the defining issues of our times.
Regardless of political affiliation, the American public should demand public financing of political campaigns. Honestly, who isn’t exhausted by all of the negative campaign ads from both parties within a week after the Presidential campaigns begin?
The Citizens United Supreme Court Decision has only further complicated this issue. Now that corporations have been given carte blanche to influence political campaigns, it is easy to see why candidates are unwilling to abide by spending limits required as a condition of accepting public financing. It’s like a game of chicken, where neither candidate is willing to turn down big money, for fear that the other candidate will not do the same, which would put the publicly financed candidate at a disadvantage in terms of visibility with the electorate.
And how does all of this money in politics influence policy decisions? NPR did an excellent series on the role of money in politics earlier this year. There is no question about it – campaign donations grant access to policymakers. And it is not difficult to understand how access leads to the adoption of laws that benefit those same wealthy corporate donors.
Wouldn’t it be great if Congress took some initiative and provided leadership on this issue and began to wean itself from the corporate cash that dominates the system? This might even enable people who are not millionaires from considering a run for public office, which would certainly widen the pool of potential leaders.
And perhaps this would help minimize the polarizing rhetoric, where politicians jockey for media coverage. How much of this jockeying is about representing constituents and raising awareness of important issues facing the country and how much of this posturing is simply to garner more campaign cash?
Publicly financed campaigns, with a diverse pool of candidates from a broad range of political parties, could revitalize the political discourse in the United States. Now that would be change we could believe in!
What do you think? Do you see a problem with the way campaigns are financed in the United States? Are you concerned about the role of money in politics? Does this inspire you to be more involved in politics? Or does it, instead, make you disengage with the process? Do you have any ideas for ways to improve this system?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!