What responsibilities do we have as citizens of the United States of America?
- Adhere to the laws so long as they are fair and impartial. When they are not, actively seek to change them and gather support to do so.
- Uphold the US Constitution and participate in supporting amendments that make sense in an evolving culture, so long as those amendments do not take away anyone’s rights.
- Support freedoms of choice for all living creatures regardless of species, age, creed, culture, size, shape, sexual preference, or political perspective.
- Vote. And, if so moved, campaign in support of candidates or issues.
However, we have no responsibility to financially support candidates. We should not be made to feel guilty if we do not want to contribute money. And because we donate a meager amount to one candidate, that does not mean we should be pursued relentlessly via phone, email, and snail mail with aggressive solicitations for more money.
The current practice of democracy in the United States is despicable on so many levels: the process has evolved into dialing for dollars. The Supreme Court justices who ruled that money equals speech are the most culpable for the deplorable state of American democracy today. They will likely go down in history as the progenitors of the metamorphosis of American democracy into American oligarchy.
Corporations that bankroll candidates (Democratic or Republican), AND candidates who receive those donations knowing that they “owe” special favors to those corporations and their leaders, are leading the way over the cliff for American democracy. Money equals speech is an unfortunate circumstance and one that has the potential to scrap our fragile system.
Every issue, every campaign is about money. “Give me $5, give me $3. How about $25 a month? How about a $1,000 donation?”
Campaign solicitation is now a nationwide free for all and citizens are badgered to support candidates in other states.
No one cares what individuals think or believe. Our only value as voters is our individual abilities to donate money. Apparently this proves our support.
Really? Is that how we show support for candidates? With money? I thought it was by campaigning and voting.
And what happens to all that money? Slick ads on television no one watches. Gazillions of emails that go straight to virtual trash. Flyers that go into the landfill. Annoying Internet ads that get clicked off. Fleeting Facebook posts that no one remembers. Parties and barbecues and stump stops and hotel rooms and meals for staff and volunteers.
One could argue that such expenditures stimulate the economy, but there must be more useful and effective ways to stimulate the economy. And more meaningful and important uses of our weekly paychecks: Food and shelter for the homeless? Money for our local school systems? Infrastructure improvements? Alternative energy resources? Small business development? Hometown rule? Protection of the environment, especially water and air quality?
Instead we are funneling trillions of dollars into political campaigns.
The powerful players with unlimited funds are the dominant forces in this game. That is a disadvantage for citizens, regardless of political party. This idea is outlined pretty clearly by Benjamin Page, the Gordon Scott Fulcher Professor of Decision Making at Northwestern University.
It’s way past time to put politics back on a money diet.
Let’s insist that candidates create detailed resumes and let investigative journalists and political analysts and nonprofit media groups figure the accuracy of the content of those resumes and lists of accomplishments.
Let’s encourage coherent individual candidate speeches—rather than emotional and poorly moderated debates. (We saw how well that worked in the Republican arena, which devolved into adolescent shouting matches and uncontrolled bullying and name calling—with the moderators at a loss to maintain order. A reality TV series rather than any meaningful dialog.)
Emotional stumps and rallies are part of campaign history in the United States—and for sure, they should continue in order to build voter support and turnout—and maintain democracy, our most precious asset and a priceless commodity that must be sustained.
But we cannot marginalize citizens who cannot afford to play. We cannot allow only those with money to rule this nation. At that point we are no better than the monarchy we forcibly ejected in 1776.
Instead let’s listen carefully to what candidates say and watch what they do–with eyes wide open. How about Americans demand that substance, decency, and compromise be infused into the democratic process. And let’s demand that money, fear, and vitriol take a backseat.
To level the political process, we must overturn Citizens United.