A Real Idea to Reform American Politics

“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”

—John Adams (1735-1826), Journal, 1772

As America once again approaches what’s come to be thought of as the season of accusatory political pandering, a revolutionary, but not exactly new, idea has come to mind to truly change America’s campaign process; an idea so fundamental to both the hearts of politicians and lobbyists that it may well re-create the America that once felt a duty to serve its people and not the world.

Is there anyone in America who hasn’t seen how politicians — mostly lawyers by profession — present the appearance of attempting campaign-finance reform but somehow overlook a myriad of loopholes to ensure that lobbyists’ money continues to find some avenue into their war chests? Trusting politicians to reform electoral fundraising is about as wise as parents trusting the twice-acquitted Michael Jackson to baby sit their children.

American culture, by design, is centered on self-interest (democracy) and self-determination (capitalism). To do for oneself is as cornerstone an idea of the Founding Fathers as a healthy distrust of a centralized government. It is in the departure from these principles that America finds herself with two monolithic political parties, which scarcely devote themselves to the American people without some degree of personal or party profit. But can Americans fault their politicians for attacking the money tree with such enthusiastic fervor that supersedes any other obligation or duty?

Money is the physical and tangible manifestation of self-interest and self-determination. Money may not be the root of all evil, but money does allow for the hearts of men to be expressed and their hearts’ desires to be pursued. Politicians, despite the opinion of some, are human and are not immune to self interest or desire. The process of becoming elected into any significant office requires broad and prolonged exposure to a voting base (national or otherwise). To attain this degree of public saturation to sell oneself to the voter, a campaign could require tens of millions of dollars or much more. Although America’s population is fast approaching 300 million people, it’s far easier for politicians to pursue organizations for large donation rather than solicit millions of $20, $50, or $100 donations from individuals. To further complicate matters corporations seek to solicit politicians’ favor by promising sums of money to politicians who are at least sympathetic to their needs. The pursuit of corporate donations is nothing new to American politics nor has it ever been the exclusive domain of the Republican or Democratic Party. Each party panders to corporations, unions, and groups capable of furnishing the money necessary for a party’s or politician’s desire to attain power. This process is as old as American politics itself and there is nothing wrong with lobbyists or politicians in this process.

The American people and their interests are the least represented party in contemporary American politics. Elections come and go and more often than not the choice given by the dual party system to a voter is to choose the candidate who is the lesser of two distasteful flavors. Republicans present half-hearted shells of conservativism wrapped in nationalism while Democrats present the American people with socialist dullards, draft dodgers and manufactured war anti-heroes. Both candidates feed the public what their party thinks the public wants to hear to win votes. Once elected those promises for the most part are either forgotten, become impractical for some reason, or were never sincerely offered to begin with. In the end, with donations given and votes spent, the American citizen feels like a dupe in some street corner shell game.

There is a solution to the mess American politics finds itself in. The fix cannot come from the legislative or executive branches since it’s their methods that require curtailment. The solution should not put a limit on free speech as McCain-Feingold has done but should allow the American people to have complete choice in the matter of who is elected into government. The solution shouldn’t cost the American people very much money to enact. Any solution must revitalize the value of the American vote by placing faith and power in the hands of the populace.

The answer to America’s ailment may be as simple as adding “none of these” option on every ballot for every election across the nation. If a majority of voters were to choose this option, the consequence would lay to waste tens, if not hundreds, of millions of Republican and Democrat campaign dollars. It’s this “none of these” option that would reject any party dictating by lack of choice who governs America. “None of these” would send a clear message to both parties that their idea of principled politics doesn’t coincide with the vision of leadership demanded by the American people.

How deep are corporate pockets? Could a company or group afford to repeatedly donate millions of dollars year after year across both political parties only to watch their “boys” be rejected by the American people on Election Day? How many half-truths and misdirections can a politician continue to sell when his financial supporters understand that the American citizenry doesn’t have to buy the rhetoric anymore? How many politicians would be daring enough force issues like amnesty for illegal aliens when Americans are demanding border security before a guest worker program?

The only way citizens can once again be assured that politicians will answer solely to the American people is to place even greater emphasis on voting. Let’s see how long it will take for the face of American politics to change as many billions of corporate campaign dollars are squandered by the political parties. Let’s see how long corporations and special-interest groups will continue to donate millions as candidates begin to be rejected by the public for a lack of sincerity, integrity, or ideas (or patriotism).

Why should an American ever be forced to settle for anything when it comes to his representative government? Why has election time been reduced to choosing the lesser of two evils when approaching the ballot box? Why do so many citizens see voting as futile, meaningless, and a waste of time?

Americans deserve better.