2nd Am Rev: permanent electioneering – cut&paste from WORD files

January 30, 2018


As mentioned at the beginning of this section, older adults who have watched our electoral process over the last 50 years have seen it go from something that only dominated public life for a couple months every 4 years, to a new and decidedly pernicious model in which it is all about elections (and re-elections) all the time. Within 12 hours of the last two presidential elections, my mailbox was full of ardent pleas from the newly elected/re-elected that were already soliciting campaign contributions for their next election.

This angered and annoyed me, as I again experienced representatives of our federal gov’t who were mainly interested in reaching into my pocket or my bank account.

In 1788 the US Constitution historically wrapped a political straight-jack around ordinary citizens, making us virtually irrelevant to the daily workings of the federal government in the years between national elections. Two hundred years later, input from American citizens is still irrelevant to elected officials doing the business of the federal government. It’s remarkable how similar this is to the role of Russian citizens under Putin’s government, which is to say, they don’t have one.

But after two centuries of governing without the meaningful ‘check and balance’ of fully functionally citizen participation, our original problem has morphed into an even more pernicious one. By the 21st century, our democratic process had devolved into 24-7-365 electioneering; dialing for dollars has become the most important ‘job’ of our elected officials, which means constantly soliciting campaign funds.

This is neither the fault or the personal failing of the elected officials running for re-election, but the result of our profoundly dysfunctional electoral system that currently favors big-donor corporations and the uber wealthy individuals, who use this flawed system to simply pay for electing their ‘guy’.

National legislation in many other countries avoid this problem by restricting the length of political campaigns for federal offices, usually to the 6 weeks before a scheduled election. They also provide an equal amount of federal financing for each candidate running for the same federal office in order to level the playing field, so Americans who are not uber rich are able to run for national office. Unfortunately, what the facts testify to in the US is the polar opposite of these strategies to prevent “pay-for-play” elections and permanent electioneering.

Every day, Americans are solicited by email and phone calls from partisan political groups asking for contributions. The persistence and laser-like focus of already elected officials their next election starts the day after the previous one. Political ads run all year-round on television, radio, and on-line computer screens to raise money or manipulate the public image of elected officials. This perpetual focus on re-election often means that our elected representatives determine their public position on serious national issues based on its might affect their re-election. This often means not taking any effective position, lest it anger financial backers or upsets their ‘base’.

Raising campaign contributions per se is not “bad”, but the eternal focus on campaigning displaces the elected official’s appropriate concern for his or her job performance as a Congressman, Senator, or President. This sorry situation is a loss of dignity for our elected officials and a harmful loss of electoral effectiveness for the rest of the country.

If this sorry state of affairs is not corrected, it will continue to undermine our democratic institutions until we have pass the point of no return. In today’s highly partisan divide, we cannot realistically expect this problem to be ‘fixed’ from within the same broken political system that has become a prisoner to its own project.

We have only one choice: First we must admit that our federalized Central Government – Washington, DC – does not have answers to this problem and cannot help us. Then, as citizens and ordinary American, to join together in non-partisan affinity groups working to correct these potentially-fatal (to democracy) problems.

EDIT Line – end Oct 18th @5:16 PM