No one needs a long lecture about how thoroughly the U.S. Congress has squandered “the consent of the governed.” It’s no secret that the current campaign finance system enables and reinforces Congress’s preferential treatment of wealthy donors and their corporate masters. The exclusive access and legislative consideration they enjoy are the expected ‘return’ on their investment. So, when push comes to shove about a crucial decision, voters can forget about their phone calls, letters or protests—they don’t stand a chance against the tsunami of large donor dollars that fills an incumbent’s (or challenger’s) campaign fund every election season.
Even after a clear majority of voters have voiced their support for a balanced approach to resolving the debt-ceiling impasse, their showing wielded no influence on legislators who were bent on forcing a national default. Indeed, Tea Party pols rushed in...
Given such dim prospects for fair, accountable representation, voters return to the polls every election with the task of choosing between "the lesser of two evils"—and regrettably they believe this is a cemented status quo, since this is how it has always been. To imagine and believe otherwise is where we should begin: to see and know that with enough effort and cooperation among voters we can elect representatives worthy of our trust; legislators whose decisions remain transparent and accountable to vigilant electors.
Toward that end it is worth mentioning one or two initiatives in politics just peering over the horizon. They present a couple of the best, though underdeveloped, prospects for voter-responsive governance.
Calling the current U.S. tax code an “insanely complicated system of special favors to the richest and most powerful in our society,” former Louisiana governor Charles “Buddy” Roemer has recently re-entered the political arena to declare his candidacy for the 2012 presidential race. Front and center in his platform is campaign finance reform. To underscore his commitment to the issue he has sworn off PAC money as well as any individual contribution greater than $100.
While everyone should applaud his initiative, one of his arguments about election financing could benefit from some fine tuning. Reform should not limit how much any donor can give, he asserts. Rather, every voter should contribute to the candidacy he or she favors. Since Congress remains dependent on large-dollar donors, “our first objective must be to remove this dependency by expanding the number of givers…” Doing so will “balance the system,” he insists.