Years after the Citizens United decision, constant campaigning and endless griping has become the new normal.
No, we didn’t get a breather in Wisconsin. After a rocky gubernatorial campaign, a recall campaign, and a re-election campaign, our governor is now cavorting across the country as a presidential candidate. It’s all politics, all the time.
America has created an abusive cycle with money and politics. In a 24/7/365 political environment there is a great amount of money changing hands. The politician takes money from a lobbyist. The politician makes a decision that keeps that lobby happy. Another politician steps in to call attention to the first decision. Both start demanding money. The incumbent wins again because he can fund the media in incredibly expensive campaigns, then the same media pushes back by pretending to be a watchdog over the process. Next thing you know you are angry and opening your wallet to the cause of your choice, funding the very lobby that started the cycle.
They – the politicians, the media, the political class working for the elected, the reporters filing stories, the attorneys filing lawsuits, the special interest groups formed as not-for-profits to influence your opinion, the PACs and Super PACs formed to support a candidate, and the radio talk show squawkers just telling you the facts, man – all make better money when you are hacked off about something. They get paid to keep you angry.
That’s why a candidate like Bernie Sanders is scary. He’s drawing large crowds, but he’s funded at one of the lower levels for a presidential candidate. It means his popularity is organic – truly grassroots.
That’s why a Senator like Russ Feingold is scary. He tried to reform the system but only made it worse after the lawsuits were finished. Citizens United, a not-for-profit organization “dedicated to restoring our government to citizens’ control” won a Supreme Court of the United States case against the governing Federal Election Commission.
“[SCOTUS] upheld the First Amendment rights of individuals acting through corporations and labor unions to participate in our political process, and it struck down an oppressive thicket of statutes restricting – and even criminalizing – their political speech.”
Although state laws still exist — even in Wisconsin — to cap campaign donations, were they challenged, they would surely fail against the Citizens United opinion. But, the laws remain on the books. These laws project the appearance of control over the money in politics. It’s grand to maintain an appearance of ethics, don’t you think?
I’ve said it so many times, and I’m going to say it again: Our current system is legalized graft. Scott Walker’s antics provide easy examples:
–There are Walker’s campaign donations from those receiving WEDC funds.
–There are Walker’s campaign donations from those receiving the blessing of reduced competition like the Potawatomi and Las Vegas billionaire and big GOP donor Sheldon Adelson. Adelson’s pow wow with Walker took place one month before he denied a Kenosha Casino.
–There are Walker’s super PAC donations from investors from the Bucks basketball team prior to his decision to spend taxpayer dollars on the new Downtown arena.
So what can be done? Not much. I’ve heard at least one acquaintance proclaim the importance of a constitutional amendment to change money in politics, but good luck finding enough politicians to agree on that. Instead, I suggest a more personal approach.
- Hide your wallet. Stop giving them money. Don’t be a name on their list. Don’t be one of those fabled grassroots supporters.
- Know your facts and use them well. Talk to your neighbors and family about politics instead of running from the subject. Encourage respectful intelligent conversation. Discern the reason someone needs that outcome, and you have a better chance of changing his or her mind. (Here’s a lovely essay from BrainPickings.org on Blaise Pascal and the art of persuasion to get you started.)
Reduce the 24/7/365 cycle by monitoring your exposure, and then if you have a little extra energy, work for change. Some of the smartest people I’ve ever met live in Wisconsin. This state has been the first home of the Republican party and the birth of the labor movement in America. I say it’s time we take on one more cause and find less money and more civility in our politics.