Facing Electoral Realities in the United States

Bill Nerin

Since the election of 2000, we have encountered many problems in our democratic process. In Florida, there were confusing ballots (remember ‘hanging chads’?), and eligible voters were purged from the voting rolls. The Supreme Court, by the slimmest of margins, chose the president. In Ohio, too few voting machines caused people to stand in line for hours, becoming so discouraged that they gave up. Congress has tried to pass campaign finance reform legislation, but the loopholes allowed wealthy individuals, including corporations and foreigners, to contribute disproportionately through PAC’s and even Super Pac’s. The 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission opened the floodgates for the rich to control who hears what messages. What are the realities in our electoral process? Is there a better way to fund campaigns? What can be done to bring back the concept of ‘one person, one vote’? How many people support the two major political parties?

Reality One: A Pew Research Center poll taken in October, 2013 revealed that only 19% of Americans trusted the Federal Government.

Reality Two: It is now common knowledge that Big Money controls our Federal Government, spending enormous amounts of money to get their candidates elected.

Reality Three: The only real solution includes the following:

  • mandatory public funding of all candidates who will then spend the exact same amount of money to fund their campaigns; [Note: In the 2012 election candidates spent over 6 billion dollars in the campaign (the most ever). Given the number of eligible voters, that would have amounted to just $28 in taxes for each eligible voter! Thus this is a very affordable alternative to the current campaign financing scandal.]
  • equal access to the debates on television and radio;
  • instant identification of persons who buy ads;
  • candidates must use no money except that of public funding;
  • to qualify for the ballot, a person must have a sufficient number of voters in one's district sign an endorsement and contribute a certain amount of money, such as $10 each.

Reality Four: To achieve Reality Three would require a constitutional amendment as well as laws passed in Congress requiring the five items listed in "Reality Three."

Reality Five: Given that the present 535 members of the House and Senate, with few exceptions, gained their seats with money contributed by the 1%, it is highly doubtful that they will pass such an amendment.

Reality Six: A Gallup poll in 2012 revealed that 40% of American voters consider themselves to be Independents, 31% to be Democrats, and 27% to be Republicans.

Reality SevenMost of the 40% Independents vote for either a Democrat or a Republican based on the philosophy that "it’s better to vote for the lesser of two evils" -- which is still a vote for evil. As a result, since 1970 we, the 99%, have seen our "equal power" decline.

THE CRUCIAL QUESTION IS -- If there are not enough members of Congress who will enact and pass the constitutional amendment cited in "Reality Three", and our elected officials are among them, would we vote for an Independent or Third Party candidate in the next election who promised to vote for that amendment?  Or do we continue to vote for the lesser of two evils?