Today New York Democrats Have a Choice Between Hope and Cynicism

Photo courtesy of Donkey Hotey, Flickr (cc)

In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. correctly and courageously stated that “genuine equality means economic inequality.” Tragically, King did not live to see this “genuine equality.” More unfortunate still, wealth inequality is even worse today than it was when King spoke those words. And more unfortunate still, the über wealthy have leveraged this increased economic power into more political power by taking advantage of a now almost fully corrupt campaign finance system, which in turn is used to implement policies that grow their wealth further. This, as you can see, creates a dangerous cycle. A recent Princeton study has concluded that the United States today is already better classified as an oligarchy than as a democratic republic.

Any chance at achieving the “genuine equality” King dreamed of first requires that we remove the money of wealthy special interests from the political process. Removing this money is thus the penultimate issue of this year’s presidential election. When a government serves only the elites, there is no liberty. When government serves only the elites, there is no economic or social justice.

Corporate tax avoidance, police brutality, crumbling infrastructure, campaign finance bribery, voter disenfranchisement, weak environmental and financial regulations, and Wall Street bailouts may all seem like separate issues upon first glance: they aren’t. But these are not unconnected issues. Rather, they are all examples of behaviors, carried out by design, with the specific intent of entrenching the power of an elite few people. There isn’t just a common thread here, there is a common purpose. There is only one candidate that acknowledges this common purpose and seeks to attack it directly with the only real solution: removing big money from politics and putting political power in the hands of the American people. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate that has rejected big money from the wealthy elites who share the common purpose of entrenching their own power at the expense of the rest of us.

Critics of this line of reasoning argue that the problems we face have more complex solutions than simply getting money out of politics. This is true, but removing money from politics is a necessary and prerequisite part of these solutions. For instance, when police departments know that the wealthiest citizens hold almost all of the political power, who will their actions protect? In truth, the police exist primarily to police only certain people; put another way, they are paid not to police certain other people. The dearth of policing and prosecution of white collar criminality on politically influential Wall Street and the over-policing of poor minority neighborhoods with no political clout lays this truth out starkly.

This type of preferential treatment in the realm of criminal justice is no different than the preferential treatment given to economic elites when it comes to tax and spending policy, regulatory capture, and decisions to privatize government programs. In every facet of government operations, the interests of those with economic power are protected and promoted. As the group Represent.Us explains in a brilliantly succinct video, the rest of us have no functional voice in government at all.

This last point is really important. It means that one every issue — despite what our elected officials may tell us on the campaign trails — the will of the moneyed campaign donors prevails and the will of the majority of the people casting the votes means next to nothing. Transforming our campaign finance system so that politicians rely on the people instead of special interests is the only solution. Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate that recognizes that we need this level of fundamental change. Sanders stands for the proposition that we can create a government that works for all people. His is a position of hope.

His opponent, Hillary Clinton, meanwhile holds a position of cynicism. She takes millions from wealthy special interests through lobbyists and is supported by multiple Super PACs — despite herself ironically acknowledging that this money is “distorting our elections, corrupting our political system, and drowning out the voices of too many everyday Americans.” Her supporters argue that taking this money is a necessary evil if she ever hopes to get elected. But this is an assumption built on a cynical forecasting of the future; in reality voters haven’t yet decided if this is true. Voters have the perfect chance this election to reject a corrupt campaign finance system and reject the notion that it is a necessary evil for our politicians to accept it.

The mere election of Bernie Sanders would throw a wrench into our current corrupt political campaign finance system by sending the message that not only is special interest money not necessary to a campaign, but that voters are so against the influence of special interest money it is actually a liability to accept it. What a change that would make on our political landscape. Electing Bernie Sanders — and similar local and down ballot candidates — would be a rejection of the corrupt politics of oligarchy, and renew hope that King’s dream of genuine equality may yet come true. �E��M �