Today, we peacefully transfer power to a new president. You may hate him, or you might have convinced yourself to be cautiously optimistic. However you feel about the respective ‘teams’, he’s our POTUS now. Even so, it feels very very wrong.
That said, I contend that Trump isn’t the problem. He’s merely a symptom of many systemic flaws. They are: The current state of the press, the rise of corporate personhood, money in politics, the two party system, first past the post voting, and overt propaganda campaigns that light up authoritarian mindsets.
Today’s topic is the privately funded two party system. The RNC and DNC regularly vomit up extremist and appalling candidates. How is voting a choice when it’s between two poor options?
A question for you: What do you think about more?
A: How much you want to work with your fellow Americans to improve our country?
– OR –
B: Endless reasons why you hate the members of (insert rival political party here)?
If the bulk of your political thought centers around despising ‘evil liberals’ or ‘dirty trick Republicans’, then your answer is B. That’s my answer, and I suspect this is the case for most of us. And if you agree that this is the case, then the privately funded two party system has achieved it’s goal.
We are living the product of divide and conquer tactics. We are a part of it. While we were distracted by the party v party antics of say, Mitch McConnell or Nancy Pelosi, the people who foment our discourse of us v them, are achieving their goal.
Who are these evil manipulators? (First – bear with me okay? Don’t roll your eyes, just consider this for a moment. ). The answer: corporations. Corporations, through funding the two party system, and with the election of Trump, have finally taken over our law-making bodies, and are soon to re-take our judiciary.
(To be clear – I don’t believe corporations aren’t evil. As a 44 year old retiree, I’m gleefully living off of the dividends they pay. Corporations absolutely have a legitimate place, and they should be encouraged to grow and develop. The free market is the best method we know of for allocating non-critical resources, and for generating prosperity for the nation in general. But now more than ever, the sole duty of corporations, as explained by Milton Friedman in the 70s and generally accepted there-after, is to shareholders not citizens. The problem is, only a subset of citizens are shareholders of any given corporation, and some more than others. Couple this with the rise of corporate personhood, and we should all be wary of unchecked corporate power. But that’s precisely what we’re unleashing with Trump – unchecked corporate power. And far too many of us citizens have been convinced that that’s a good thing. Hint: it’s not … because you’re a citizen, not a shareholder.)
Before Trump, it was appalling enough when corporate lobbyists wrote their own laws, or when senators spent half of their days in call centers dialing for dollars from rich constituents. But now, who cares about finance or lobbying reform when CEOs are appointed to head up the very agencies tasked with protecting our rights against the everyday business decisions of their former corporations?
In my opinion, one of the parties plays way dirtier than the other, and has traded its principles and integrity for power to an appalling degree. But you may feel the opposite is true. I imagine it depends on what news you read. Whatever party you prefer, ultimately, both are toxic to a functioning and healthy democratic society. John Adams wrote,
There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
John Adams didn’t know the half of it. Two parties, viciously pitted against each other, is bad enough. Add to this the the fact that today, their primary funding sources are private. In 2010, public funding of the parties was less than 8%. The entire rest came from private sources – including this new anathema to democracy: PACs.
And here’s the kicker, corporations and private people don’t just contribute to the colloquially ‘business friendly’ GOP. They contribute to both parties. They don’t care who wins, because both parties have risen to power on their dime. They have access. They have favors to call in. And call them in they will.
This privately funded system gave us two awful presidential candidates to choose from in 2016. Both nomination processes were flawed. Trump happened to tap into a GOP mindset that’s been cultivated for four decades – since Nixon first began railing against the ‘liberal media’ for reporting daily casualty rates in Vietnam (a war that made a casualty of 58,000 of our countrymen, including my uncle).
Two crappy candidates that listen to corporations over citizens – that’s precisely the objective. The more they keep us screaming at each other about whose candidate is worse, they take over the agencies whose missions are to protect citizen rights, not shareholder rights. I still think the person we elected is just about the worst person we could put into our top office, and I’m bracing myself for witnessing the destruction of the country I love. But the other candidate had terrible problems as well – mainly her heavy financing by corporate and private interests.
So as you either watch the inauguration, or turn away, please take some time to take a step back and have a good hard look at our privately funded two party system. A system which polarizes and puts into office people on the fringe. Is this how we to be governed? By extremists?
If you want to put an end to it, I suggest reading what the Wolf PAC organization has to say. The idea is to adopt a constitutional amendment that gets money out of politics once and for all. If you agree with this idea, call your *state* representatives in your *state* legislature (as amendments are proposed by 2/3 of the states) and tell them you demand they call for a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics. Barring a constitutional amendment, we’re leaving it to the judiciary to decide whether money is allowed in. Citizens United proved we can’t leave it to radical activist conservative judges. We need clear law.