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Campaign finance reform, part 3: An American aristocracy?

Nearly two years ago, I began a series on campaign finance reform. The first article focused briefly on the repeal of Missouri’s campaign finance laws and Kansas City’s efforts to mitigate the consequences that repeal. The second looked at the now infamous Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which undermined and hollowed out the nation’s campaign finance laws.

With the nation’s ongoing economic troubles, the monopolization of banking and finance, bailouts for big corporations, a refusal by the political establishment to check the widening disparity of wealth in this nation, the erosion of campaign finance laws, the idea that money is speech, and the concept that corporations are people—something Mitt Romney advocated at a recent campaign rally—it truly seems as if we are witnessing the emergence of an American aristocracy.

In 2008, I authored an essay published in Voice of the Future, a book showcasing a compilation of essays by talented authors—the top five percent of those received by Elder and Leemaur Publishers from all over North America—that deal with many areas of “academic interest.”

Several of the essays throughout the book deal with campaign spending. Though it was never my intention to continue the campaign finance reform series beyond part 2, it is my hope that the efforts of people, like Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, will reinvigorate interest in the topic. And given the emergence of what might be called the American aristocracy, it seems appropriate to reprint my essay—in full—here. So, while you wait for “Campaign finance reform, part 4” I offer this essay—something old, made new again—in the meantime.

An American Aristocracy: How High Campaign Spending Is Bad for Democracy

The United States of America has offered many millions of people an opportunity to see their dreams become reality. That is why the monolithic statue on Ellis Island, standing proud and gazing out over the Atlantic, has become a long-lasting symbol of the American values of freedom and liberty. When the republic was founded, the framers envisioned a new nation-state, in which all people would have an opportunity to find success. There was to be no king, no nobility, nor any kind of despotic regime, which would infringe upon the inalienable liberties of man.

The essential foundation of American democracy is the principle that any member of the “huddled masses” could become an important representative of the people. In theory, it did not matter whether a person was one of wealth, or poverty; if he or she possessed the will, and the merit to become an important leader, then he or she could do just that. Recent increases in campaign finances are actually driving a wedge between the working and upper class. The massive amount of money required to run for many public offices is making it more and more difficult for the lower class members of society to achieve their dreams. How could a factory worker, making less than twenty-thousand dollars a year, ever hope to become president, when the most recent financial report published by CNN, indicated that Hillary Clinton, front runner for the Democratic nomination, has raised over 90 million dollars for her campaign?

Democracy is the fundamental backbone supporting the American political system. Scholars have asserted the advantages of campaign spending: it improves the general knowledge of the public and informs their opinions on candidates. It is even said that the system of campaign finance in the U.S. has made democracy more effective (Coleman & Manna, 2000). However, scholars, students, and policy makers alike, must remember what democracy is about: the people. Therefore, one should give consideration to the fact that the existing system of campaign finance disenfranchises the working, and lower-middle classes. Politicians tend to become so indebted to the special interest groups and powerful corporations that they forget about the average people, allowing for some to fall between the cracks. Consequently, American citizens of meager means, tend to ignore the political process, attributing to lower voter turnout. This problematic impact on the nation’s elections, demonstrates that high spending, is by no means good for the democratic process. Of course, this a problem that tends to cross party lines, as both Democratic and Republican law-makers are responsible for causing this mess.

What is the solution? Many argue for reform, but that requires policy makers to take action on the issue. This is easier said than done, since they are held captive by special interests. Eventually, policy makers are going to have to come to a compromise, because the current system of campaign finance is creating an American Aristocracy—something that is completely contrary to the democratic foundations of this nation—which is bad for democracy.~~

"An American Aristocracy: How High Campaign Spending is Bad for Democracy" orginally appeared in Voice of the Future (Langley, British Columbia: Elder & Leemaur Publishers, 2008), p. 44.

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