An Aside on Factions-Special Interest Groups ~ Congressmen who on occasion form majority voting blocks versus the unmitigated & unethical influence of the 1% uber wealthy or political influential

by faithgibson on December 12, 2017

This essay can also be accessed in the page of links for stand-alone essays in our 2nd Revolutions series


Brief Aside from Chapter 2 ~

How the corruptive influence of temporary factions/majority voting blocks in the last 20th century morphed into the politics of Big Money based on political contributions by uber wealthy political donors

In 1787, James Madison’s concern about the anti-democratic effect of “majority” political factions only focused on the more narrow issue of temporary voting majorities in the US Congress or in state legislatures.

Often these temporary coalitions consisted of 2, 3, 4 or more special interest groups that had little in common except for a mutual desire to either block or pass a particular federal policy or new law that would, in different ways, provide a distinct advantages to each of these special-interest groups.

These statistical voting blocks were typically short-lived ‘marriages of convenience‘. But unfortunately for us, that isn’t the end of the story.

Madison and other Founding Fathers remained acutely aware of the disastrous end of ancient Greek and Roman democracies and never failed to bemoan the potential of political factions (i.e. special interest groups) to sabotage the democratic process. But unfortunately, our Founding Fathers paid scant attention to the issue of political money in the form of campaign contributions and quid pro quo arrangements.

Turns out, the potential harm of 18th century factions is nothing compared to the hugely disproportionate and negative influence of an unfettered, no-holds-barred political “pay-to-play” system.

No doubt these 18th century patriots could never have imagined the havoc that would be wreaked on our democratic republic when members of Congress became monetarily supercharged by tiny minority of individuals 1/10th of one percent) with inordinate wealth, political influence or great fame.

We must acknowledge that the coalescing of self-interested groups has always been a basic feature of our human nature. If you put any number of people (including school children) together, they always gravitate into two “camps” boys v. girls, conservative v. liberal, etc, so the issue isn’t factions/special interest groups per se.

The issue is what predictably happens when this natural phenomenon is fueled by a bottomless pit of “dark” money.  Suddenly, a historical and relatively beneigh human characteristic turns into a malignant force. Unfortunately, this describes our countries profoundly dysfunctional system for financing federal elections campaigns.

The Constitutional Nature of the Problem

DC Lobbyist wandering the hall of Congress

The Founding Fathers were extraordinarily successful at preventing mob rule by locking the front door to Washington, DC.

But this half-measure was (and is) unfortunately for us, as it also blocking access by ordinary citizens, while leaving the back door, cellar door, all sides doors and windows wide open for the uber-wealthy and politically powerful.

As a result, lobbyist, who are only tiny minority of our population (1/10th of a percent) get unimpeded access that allows them to have then unfettered and unfair influence over the workings of the federal government.

In the two-plus centuries since our Constitution was written, we can clearly see that the abusive use of political power by the uber wealthy and/or politically influential individuals have always been able to interject their unmitigated power into our democratic system.

While they represent only 0.1% of the population, entrenched political, hereditary or moneyed groups exert extraordinary and disproportionate by order-of-magnitude influence over the daily working of federal government. This is often more effective at tipping the scales away from the fair and free exercise of democratic principles than the votes of 70, or 80, or even 90% of the population.

We see this today when the uber wealthy use their billions to buy unlimited media coverage and leverage political influence over the federal government by financing and influencing political campaigns. This is followed by endlessly lobbying that includes a bottomless pit of money made available to members of Congress, the White House, and Cabinet members if they agree to ‘play ball’ with this political elite.

This obviously provides an unearned advantage to these special interest groups (e.g. Wall Street, big banks, big Pharma, the military-industrial complex, NRA, arms dealers, international corporations, etc.) at the expense of the people and our democratic process. The result is backroom deals and many other perversions of our democratic process, such as “earmarks” in unrelated legislation that bestow great wealth or a non-competitive advantage to an individuals and small groups.

The result is our current and most undemocratic “pay for play” system that results in “the best damn government that money can buy!”, as well as our modern equivalent of class warfare – political unrest and divisiveness earlier referred by Congressman Marco Rubio where half of us hate the other half.

This specific constitutional configuration did indeed stop the rare event of ‘mob rule’, but sadly for the rest of us, it unintentionally created a “money rule” coup in relation to an inappropriately-politicized federal government.

If we continue to ignored this issue, the patriotic valor and ingenuity of George Washington and his men when crossing the Delaware that snowy and frigide Christmas Eve will all be for naught.

If we as patriot citizens sit idly by and do nothing, say nothing then this crazy and dysfunctional system that depends on wealthy donors to funds our elections will no doubt kill the goose that laid the golden eggs of our democracy.

 

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