As a citizen of this nation, chances are that you assume you bear no responsibility for the corrupt and dysfunctional condition of our government.
And, unless you’ve organized with plurality of voters to blunt the outsized influence of elite, wealthy interests, you would be unaccountably wrong.
The assumption especially rings true for do-nothing pundits and hand-sitting voters who habitually blame government for the myriad difficulties we face as a nation. It is, at best, a myopic view. It never accounts for plutocrats who have paid handsomely for access to politicians; nor for well-connected lobbyists and captains of industry who continually co-opt government policy decisions.
The authority of what was once known—and exercised—as the will of the people, wields no such influence. There is no will of the people, only their quiescence.
Where were we, the people, as legal bribery became a frog-boiling reality?
Through passivity and a shameful neglect of civics, voters gave up whatever public policy torque they may have wielded in decades past. In matters like national elections, their participation amounts to nothing more than a rubber stamp of candidates selected by party bosses and large dollar funders.
Somehow the idea that the only viable candidates for public office are those who can raise boatloads of cash, has prevailed over all else—even qualities like vision and character (although we must credit the GOP for fielding a memorable roster of "characters" serving in Congress).
Given the massive amount of funding needed for media buys, political consultants and other campaign “essentials” crucial to winning election, one must see the imprint of a disengaged electorate; a supremely inert body of voters requiring the shock and awe of hyperbolic attack ads to jolt them to a decision between the lesser of two evils. There is a perverse inverse relationship between the meager involvement of voters in electoral politics and how much time and effort incumbents and candidates for public office must devote to fundraising.
It is unmistakable: voters suffer from an influence gap that privileges campaign donors with deep pockets.
However, we have no one else to blame but ourselves.
(By the way, you’ll never hear the politics of campaign finance being discussed in such frank terms by any politician or pontificating pundit who must pretend that legal bribery emits no moral stench.)
Since taxes are such a sensitive, ire-provoking subject, wouldn't it be useful for voters to acknowledge one area where the influence gap puts them at a disadvantage?
The current U.S. tax code maintains the constant churning of legal bribes for members of Congress. To keep de juris tax scoffers like Verizon, Apple and Bristol-Meyers Squibb returning as clients, special exemptions are written into law for their benefit. Such ad hoc statutes come with expiration dates that give a member of Congress reason enough to call his or her corporate client with an urgent request for support in the effort to renew said tax break.
What's the twisted irony of it all? It's how many voters went along with the tax revolts of the 1970s—a time when the middle class failed to notice that wages no longer kept up with productivity, much less with the rising cost of government. While tax bills increased, their representation in government began to wane because of the money flowing from special interests into the pockets of politicians. Voters latched on to protests against “big government” spending, yet failed to understand what actually makes government “big”. It’s not the federal budget or how much assistance a social program provides, but whether or not citizens are engaged in the struggle to hold elected officials accountable. On that effort, our failure has been stunning.
Again, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Avant garde record producer, Brian Eno, summed up electoral politics best when he said that "...we don’t do politics. We expect other people to do it for us, and grumble when they get it wrong. We feel that our responsibility stops at the ballot box, if we even get that far. After that we’re as laissez-faire as we can get away with.
"What worries me is that while we’re laissez-ing, someone else is faire-ing."
For far too long voters have been permissive while an entrenched financial principality has taken over our country’s domestic and foreign policies for private gain—always at the expense of the common good.
So, what is a manifesto without a call to action? Less harm than doing nothing (we’ve tried that, haven’t we?) would be to take about ten minutes of your time to contact your senators and member of congress. What’s the message? Simply say that your vote in the next election will go to the candidate who limits all campaign donations to $250 per contributor (including PACs, super PACs and every other money-churning syndicate that can be imagined).
Everyone knows elected officials are on the take; that the wealthy buy their favorable representation in government. Why not talk about it with your friends, family and social media contacts? Not as a problem we are too helpless to solve, but as a solution waiting for participants to put it into action?