The only way to avoid turning political campaigns into battles of power is to take power away from government.
Well, by what means would you propose that we the people can take power away from government?
I think that the problem with trying to set up more campaign finance rules to fix campaign finance abuses is that the people who are going to make the rules isn’t going to change. They’ll dance here, and dance there, and give you a new set of guidelines, but nothing will have changed about the power dynamics — people will, by whatever means they can, look to influence power.
My article emphasizes that if we get new people elected, the system ensures they will be mostly the same kind of people as before, but it’s also true that most of the people who are going to make the rules will stay the same, since Washington has very slow turnover.
And unfortunately people have their head in the clouds a little bit talking about how they want things to be, without mapping out a path from where we are to where we want to be. We all know Washington is messed up, but rarely do people have good, concrete proposals for change. I’d like people to talk less of ideal worlds and ideologies, and more about practical steps toward solving our problems.
Now, I think that what’s happened in Washington is that the people who ostensibly make the rules, the politicians, have actually lost a lot of power without really appreciating it. They’ve turned over a lot of their responsibilities to lobbyists. And they’ve allowed themselves to be influenced by taking calls and meetings and having endless conversations with wealthy special interests and with donors that max out their donations.
They can’t do this fundraising schpiel day-in-day-out without being influenced.
The trick with the campaign finance proposals I’ve laid out in this article is that they don’t punish the politicians at all, or reduce their power. Other rules like “you can’t become a lobbyist after you leave office”, and term limits, are taking things away from politicians, so why would the politicians vote for that? Campaign finance proposals by contrast just open up a new way to raise funds, otherwise leaving their power alone.
This, in turn, will allow politicians to be responsive to the people without worrying as much about a backlash from special interests.
That’s why I think politicians would be willing to vote for this, but only if lots of people are willing to make a fuss about it. Some groups who enjoy a lot of influence in Washington will fight against campaign finance reform because it will reduce their power. So we need to gather enough people power to overcome that.