In today’s polarized political climate, it seems like there’s no issue that people can agree on — except for maybe one.
Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and people on all parts of the spectrum largely agree on one thing: There’s too much money in politics. And it’s only getting worse.
For me, this goes beyond numbers on a page.
I’ve been active in the political process for years, and I’ve campaigned hard for candidates I support. But I can’t help but feel more disenfranchised than ever by wealthy donors who can give their hand-picked candidates hundreds of thousands of dollars with a single check.
I’m hardly alone. Recently I was telling my brother about my efforts trying to get signatures for a candidate here in Virginia. He replied with something that touched on doubts I was too fearful to voice.
“Money is more influential than campaigning and votes,” he said. “So why are you wasting your time bothering to even campaign?”
Is he right? Let’s look at those numbers after all.
$6.9 billion: That’s how much money was spent during the 2016 election cycle — over a third of that on the presidential race alone. Just the top 10 individual donors together donated more than $300 million to Super PACs, many of which don’t have to disclose their donors at all.
So it’s no surprise that in a recent poll, three-quarters of respondents believed that elected officials put their own interests first. A similar number said politicians don’t care what “regular people” think.
Another less than surprising result? About 40 percent of eligible voters abstained from voting last year.
Like my brother, many people I’ve spoken to while campaigning say they choose not to vote because they don’t see a point. They believe, not implausibly, that our political system is being taken over by a small number of wealthy people.
After all, Trump and his cabinet picks now make up the wealthiest administration in U.S. history. And Trump’s Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch has sided with big donors over and over again, cynically believing that donors are just exercising their right to “free speech.” On the bench, he could well vote to dismantle the few remaining campaign finance restrictions in place today.
Is all hope lost, then? Are we stuck with representatives who don’t truly represent us anymore?
Represent.Us and Wolf PAC are two grassroots organizations that are working to pass laws and constitutional amendments to stop political bribery and get big money out of politics. They’re working in red states and blue, and in local communities all over. Represent.Us has already helped pass anti-corruption laws in Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Oregon, and beyond.
Since the recent election, more and more people have felt a drive for civic engagement. To effectively capitalize on this newfound movement, we need to talk about the source of what drives most of the issues in our country: the few, but powerful, who are able to get their way in politics through their money and influence.
This country is for all of us, not just the top few who are able to buy their member of Congress. But there’s a catch for them: They’ll always be few.
The power is with us to get big money out of politics.
Razan Azzarkani is a Next Leader at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by www.OtherWords.org.