But name recognition costs money (unless you are a survivor of the Chilean mine disaster). So, there is a direct correlation to having money and getting elected, but is this how our country is supposed to operate? I hope not. I would hope that we would elect the most qualified person for the job, not the wealthiest. But how do we make that determination?
If you don’t know much about any of the candidates, how do you learn about them? Before the Internet you just watched TV, read the paper and listened to the radio. And I think that is how most people today still get their political information. If you are computer savvy you can go online and research the candidates, but my impression is that most people don’t take the time to tackle this task.
So, it appears our political process is left in the hands of media manipulators. The filthy rich and large corporations can manipulate the masses by spending millions of dollars on political ads in an attempt to influence the average citizen. There are few alternatives to counter this.
One is grassroots movements. The latest is the Tea Party and whether you like them or not, they did manage to impact the elections. In 2008, President Obama used a new form of grassroots movement by gaining support through the Internet. The other related form of popular support is the labor movement. Some people will allege that organized labor is now the same as big business, but really it isn’t. Labor is run by a vote of its members. It gives the working stiff a larger voice.
But what happened to one person, one vote? How does this play out against big money? Should campaigns be publicly funded to level the playing field? If all candidates had the same access to the media, how would that affect the vote? Or should there be a limit on campaign expenses not only by candidates but on the public as well?
The current system favors the wealthy and gives them an unfair advantage. We are slipping into a feudal state with only two social classes: the 5 percent who have 80 percent of all the money, and the rest of us peasants. This is not a democracy. We need to find a way to empower the individual voter and restrict the unfettered spending by the rich. The way it is now it is easy to see why so many people don’t vote. They feel powerless. We need to empower the people. No one person or entity should have more control of the election process than another.
Publicly funded elections are one possible solution. Restricting participation in the election process to only those who are citizens (corporations are not) is another, along with enforcing the individual cap on campaign contributions. This would level the playing field. No solution will be very easy to implement given that those in power now got there using the existing system. But whose country is this anyway?
Jeff Blanck is an attorney in private practice in Reno. He can be reached at email@example.com.