5 minutes

Unlimited campaign financing and lobbying is the century’s corruption of our politics

In what state is our democracy today my friends? Do we have democracy at all? I’d love to believe that. After all, where would we be without the Seneca Falls convention? Where would we be without the leadership of Dr. King and Malcolm X and the movement they led? I’m scared even to ask these questions. Our mothers and African-American brothers aren’t the white man’s property anymore. Who we are we owe to the people who struggled against injustice before us. Yet, today I must mourn. Today I’m conflicted on the state of American democracy: On the one hand it’s an example of a history of struggle and success, on the the other it is a growing disappointment. What I find most disappointing is that today we are betraying this history.

We have gotten too comfortable my friends. Like it had been during slavery, today democracy is in crises again. But today is a crises of unprecedented neglect toward the working-class that America has learnt to sugarcoat as the middle-class just to make us feel good. Yet we aren’t. For 40 years Americans have been working with no wage increase. How is that possible when America is wealthier than ever? 40% of its people lack $400 for an emergency for god’s sake. Instead of ads, the screens in the Times Square ought to show these numbers in bold at least one day a week. It’s the reality we must confront. It’s a reality we must push to the forefront of all other crap, such as following the Russiagate a conspiracy theory the media had been obsessed with.

So how come our democracy has betrayed us so? How come in spite of the chronic poverty in America, Republicans steal money from the working-class and give it in form of a tax break to the rich who abound in unprecedented wealth? (It’s no surprise that every headline and poll tells us that working families haven’t noticed a change to their paychecks.) It’s the incredible influence of corporate America on Congress, my friends, that has been ruining our democracy. That’s why I mourn. The Wall Street, after all, spends more on lobbying our Congress than we spend on funding it to serve us.

Why is this even legal, my friends? This ought to be illegal when nonprofits and labor unions have no money to lobby the Congress and compete with corporate America. 95% top-spending lobbying organizations are corporations. Of course this is a gross unfairness. And this is corruption in plain sight, my friends. It’s no rocket science to understand that a lobbyist—whatever bill he or she pretends to improve—is going to always push onto Congress an ideology that benefits the Wall Street. Exxon will never lobby the Congress against oil extraction. Exxon will never lobby for a sound policy against climate change, even if its magnates knew of it 40 years ago. Why are we allowing Exxon to even come near Congress?

This is a fact so simple that I’m baffled when I hear people who argue in favor of money in politics. Yes, my friends, to our misfortune they push a distorted argument that we ought to be aware of. In regard to corporate America contributing millions into political campaigns through PACs, what they say is that this isn’t corruption; instead, they claim that corporations and its tycoons—such as the Koch brothers—merely invest the in the politician that already has won mine and your support. We should say thank you. The Wall Street does nothing but boosts democracy these ideologues shout. Well, of course they invest millions in the winners. It’s them who these plutocrats will expect something in return from. This is no brainer; even members of Congress are open about it. Once the winners are in Congress, the corporate blackmail begins. A corporation won’t pour money in a campaign unless it sniffs a profit in it. It’s an investment like any other. To believe they do it for the betterment of our democracy is to believe in the tooth fairy. But is time for America to mature.

A ban on corporations to give money to political campaigns is long overdue. Since as far as 1980s, we have seen with an eerie regularity and in every election that those who spend the most money on a campaign get the most votes. Think about it for a second. In every election since the 80s onwards the political winners have had an implicit obligation to repay corporate America for its so-called generosity. And since the disastrous Citizens United decision in 2010, campaign financing has become superfluous. The Wall Street poured $1 billion in the 2012 election and $1.6 billion in 2016. That’s close to 16 times more cash compared to the 2008 election.

How far is it going to go? Half of the democratic world has a necessary spending limit, but not America. America is exceptional, remember? But without a limit on private money in politics, our democracy becomes noncompetitive. It becomes an oligarchy. To have a fair chance of winning, you must raise an impossible amount of cash. With every £100,000 increase in the spending limit, our campaigns cost £43,000 more and fewer candidates run for office.

But election for office shouldn’t be a luxury my friends. Yet that’s what the Congress tells us when Republicans mock AOC for her working as a waitress before running for Congress. It’s classism. Democracy shouldn’t be a privilege for the rich. Everyone with an honest desire to serve the public ought to enter a race, without corporate America meddling in it. Yes, we do need money for an election. But during an election America is indulging in cash like a child indulges in unlimited chocolate. When America is going to get sick?

And the shape of this macabre stain on our democracy is right under our nose. It suffices to recall the herd that chanted “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville in 2017. This is collective fear, my brothers and sisters. Fear had brought this herd together at night. I don’t condone these white nationalists, but they are a victim of an economy that hasn’t worked for them. They are a victim of a president with a plentiful media attention to incite widespread hate.

Yet the Congress adheres to the status quo even if 77% of Americans want a limit on money in politics, even if 65% want laws to that end. This gross inaction is a message that corporate America is more important to the Congress. After they leave it, 50% of congressman and congresswomen become lobbyists for corporate America. So much for their promise to serve us. This reveals their unfaithful characters, my friends.

It’s a message we must answer to in protest. It’s important to recall that 40 years ago, lobbying wasn’t so aggressive. The revolving door begun to take off in 1979. It’s important to realize that the oligarchy is not permanent. We can squash it with our collective foot. You can support candidates who refuse money from super PACs. This is the future, my friends. This is the right side of history. It’s no surprise why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, among others, have appealed to so many. Yet, ultimately, meaningful change starts with you: Talk to your family about it, write about it, and call your representative. Whatever you do against corruption, your democracy is in your hands. Our hands.