In recent campaign appearances all of the presidential candidates, most especially Barack Obama, have made an issue of their independence from the undue influence of lobbyists and their evil, corrupting money. Obama makes much of his high percentage of individual contributions while taking millions from megabanks and trying to weasel out of his promise to run a publicly funded campaign. McCain has built a reputation as a campaign finance reformer but he also wants to renege on his promise to limit spending as well. Meanwhile Clinton says very little while collecting a record $35 million from trial lawyers and unions.
When creating our government, the founding fathers had this idea firmly in mind. They believed that those who have more money have more at risk from the actions of government and ought to have more of a voice in the policies which impact them. They even understood that the way for the average person to have the kind of influence that a wealthy individual might was to work collectively to pool resources for increased effectiveness.
Political parties are a crude representation of this idea, but there are too few parties and they represent too broad a spectrum of issues. However there are many other ways that your political interests can get well represented in Washington, through the efforts of lobbyists who often have more of a voice than any individual elected representatives. And although you may not realize it, you probably have several lobbyists working for you already.
Your union, your employer, groups you donate to or even consider supporting all speak for you and your interests through lobbyists and PACs and direct donations to politicians. Your money and the choices you make about how to spend your valuable time and effort speak for you much more clearly and specifically than your paltry single vote. It is through their efforts that you receive your most substantial and meaningful representation in government.
Our supposedly corrupt system actually represents us better in many ways than pure democracy stripped of all the financial interest ever would. The teacher earning $35,000 a year has far more influence on government through the NEA, the choices she makes for the investments in her 401k, and the $5 a week she gives to the NRDC or NARAL than she would ever have with a single vote.
These organizations deal in the aggregation of voting power and of money, and those aggregates of money and power can have much more impact in an election than a single lone voice ever could. By combining resources and efforts with those who are like-minded anyone can become politically influential beyond anything they imagined as a mere voter.
And a lot of these organizations are basically democratic. Corporations allow stockholders to vote on leadership and policies. Unions theoretically do so as well. Issue groups like the NRA or NEA are constantly polling their membership for guidance and soliciting input to help with setting policy. Most people ignore the opportunities they have to influence these groups, but that makes the efforts of those who choose to attend stockholder meetings and who campaign to influence union votes or special interest group policies that much more effective. These groups are listening, and if you're the loudest voice in their constituency they will respond and pass your message on to our leaders with money and political pressure behind it.
So rather than whining about the corrupting influence of money and lobbying and special interests, you might want to pause a moment to think about how those forces of political influence work and who they represent, because if their role is to corrupt, that corruption is in your service and ultimately to your benefit. Before you go pointing fingers at politicians and lobbyists, you might want to look in the mirror first, because ultimately the source of corruption and undue influence is you and people like you. And ultimately that corruption which you think is so evil is just a different, more effective way for people to get their voices heard in government.