For proof of the corruptive influence of money in politics, look no further than the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress on the eve of the expiration of government funding. Inside that 1,600-page must-pass bill there appeared, at the very last minute, two rider amendments having nothing to do with appropriations but everything to do with further consolidating the wealth and power of those at the top. One created a gaping loophole for the wealthy to get around current campaign funding restrictions, the other repealed legislation that prohibited federal bailouts of giant Wall Street banks that have gambled and lost.
It’s an age-old story. At every critical juncture, Congress favors the interests of wealthy special interests over the increasingly desperate needs of the general public. The insatiable appetite of the super-rich for more money and power has put our political system into a death spiral from which there appears to be no escape. A tiny fraction of the wealthiest Americans now wields de facto control over every branch of government, making it almost impossible for ordinary citizens to oppose them. The omnibus-bill ploy was only the latest in a decades-long string of tactical victories for America’s plutocrats. Our “great experiment” in democratic self-rule has become a caricature of what the writers of our Constitution envisioned.
The only way to halt this juggernaut and restore sovereignty to the American people is to elect a strong majority of congressional representatives who will – over all competing interests – dedicate themselves to eliminating private wealth as the sole source for funding elections. Those same representatives could be counted on to spearhead the adoption of a constitutional amendment to safeguard those hard-won reforms against future Supreme Court activism. Failing these developments, the billionaires and corporations will continue to rule and America will remain stuck in its downward spiral, incapable of tackling the many difficult problems of this century.
As a rule, the two of us have opposed “litmus-test” voting, but in our current dire situation we see reason to make an exception. Nothing is more fundamental to true democracy than the right of all people to participate meaningfully in elections. Defending that right, in our opinion, is the moral obligation of citizens of all political stripes. The electorate should forcefully serve notice to politicians at every level that nothing short of a full-on crusade for election reform will be tolerated, no matter what other issues are in play. It has come to that.
Such a movement has already begun near the epicenter of the original American Revolution. Launched about a year ago, the New Hampshire Rebellion seized upon the idea of leveraging the state’s traditional hosting of the country’s first primaries – and the national attention it attracts – to turn an intense spotlight on the corruption in Washington. Through a campaign of cross-state marches and rallies in New Hampshire, the organization intends to foment a citizen uprising that by 2016 will compel every candidate at every campaign stop to answer clearly and specifically, “What will you do to end the system of corruption in Washington?”
Last January, a large group of these “rebels” marched 190 miles over two weeks in subfreezing temperatures from northern to southern New Hampshire, holding meetings and rallies at every opportunity. They had excellent press and hundreds of opportunities for personal interactions with New Hampshire citizens. On July 5, 500 citizens made a similar one-day march along 16 miles of the New Hampshire seacoast.
Next month, marchers will again take to the highways for four separate marches that will converge on the Statehouse in Concord on Jan. 21 (the fifth anniversary of Citizens United) for a major anti-corruption rally. We two will be joining one of those marches.
We urge Montanans to support this movement and help bring that spirit to our own elections. Two years ago, 75 percent of us voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to force Big Money out of our political system. It’s time now to show that we mean business.
In 2016, all candidates should be forced to declare their positions on fundamental election reform and be held accountable for them. Visit www.nhrebellion.org to learn more and to support the movement. Better yet, join the action.