The Broken Election System in America
Written by Peter Huston.
Over the course of the last several years, I have grown tired of always hearing about political campaigns. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hearing about politics and different issues, but it seems like the 2012 presidential campaign has been going on for the past four years, and to some degree it has been. The official start of the campaign was in May of 2011, when the Republican Primary debates began, but Mitt Romney had been campaigning ever since his loss to John McCain in the 2008 primary. What followed were 27 debates of the Republican primary. Interspersed with the debates were the meaningless straw polls and the countless hours of coverage from the 24-hour news networks. Finally, at the Republican National Convention in late August, Mitt Romney accepted the nomination as the Republican candidate for president. President Obama has also been on the campaign trail for too long, going on bus tours and giving speeches in swing states. He has also attended high brow fundraising events in order to help his campaign. This means that for the past year or two, his focus has been away from his current term as president, and on seeking reelection.
Not only is the campaign process far too long, but it is also far too expensive. According to OpenSecrets.org, almost 600 million dollars have been spent by the two presidential candidates combined and over 700 million dollars have been raised by the campaigns. This does not include the unknown millions of dollars spent by Super PACs on advertisements for certain candidates. A Super PAC is a type of political action committee that can receive unlimited amounts of money from corporations and unions. This is thanks to the 2010 Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled that limits could not be placed on the amount of money corporations and unions spent for political purposes as long as the money was not spent in cooperation with a political party. Instead, corporations and unions give their money to Super PACs that support a specific cause. The Super PACs can then spend the unlimited amount of money in support for, or against, a particular candidate. This means that the political adds we see on TV are funded by corporations that have their own interests in mind since they are only driven by profit.
While Super PACs are supposed to be operated independently of the political campaigns, both parties have Super PACs that have contributed heavily toward the cause of getting their candidate elected. The main Super PAC supporting Romney is called Restore Our Future, and has spent over $97 million to get Romney elected. The one supporting Obama is called Priorities USA Action, and has spent over $35 million according to OpenSecrets.org.
I would like to offer four suggestions that would improve the current state of our election process. The first is to do away with the Super PACs and to reinstate the regulations on campaign contributions from corporations and unions. This would help prevent the voice of special interest groups with lots of money from dominating the political discussion. Doing away with Super PACs would also lessen the number of terrible political attack ads on TV. Second is to put a cap on the amount of money each campaign can spend. This would help prevent politics from being dominated by those who can simply afford to run. Money is no indicator of governing competency. Third is to limit the amount of time the presidential candidates can actually campaign. The presidential election process does not need to take any longer than six months. Fourth is to do away with the current two party system, and the party system all together. Third parties rarely have an impact on our elections. Third party presidential candidates are also not included in debates, with the exception of Ross Perot in 1992. This means that our political system is dominated by only two different voices and those voices are starting to agree less and less. In his farewell address, George Washington warned the new nation about the dangers of having political parties:
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”
Video by The Young Turks
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