Realistic Campaign Reform
Wayne D. Leeper
When the statesmen, whom we call our founding fathers, established this nation they installed in our founding documents principals that would guarantee that the power would always reside with We the People of America. It was their intent that every person would have equal rights and that no one vote would carry more weight than another. When a woman asked, what form of government we would have, Benjamin Franklin replied, “A republic Madam, If you are able to keep it.” Franklin, like most of the founders of America, understood that our form of government could only succeed if protected and ministered by honest men.
A republic is different from a democracy and it is important to understand the difference. In a pure democracy, everyone would vote on every single issue. This can be seen in a classroom where the pupils are allowed to vote on a given issue. It also might be seen in church where the congregation is called upon to vote. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, in a nation approaching three hundred million citizens for every citizen to vote on every issue.
For that reason it was decided by our founders that we should have a representative form of government. This is very different from a democracy. In a republic, or representative form of government, the people elect a person to represent them in the government. That is the form of government that has served our nation since its founding.
One of the great debates during the drafting of the Constitution concerned just exactly how the ideal of one person, one vote might be accomplished. The result of that debate was know as the “Great Compromise”, or the “Connecticut Compromise,” since it was put forward by the delegates from Connecticut.
Under this compromise it was decided that there would be an upper house, the Senate, which each state would have equal representation, and a lower house, the House of Representatives, where the delegates would be apportioned based on the population of a given state. A state with a small population, such as South Dakota would have less delegates than a state with a large population, such as California, which would have far more delegates.
This system guaranteed that my representative in the House of Representatives would be looking out for my interest and would be accountable to me for his votes. Likewise, my two senators would be looking out for the best interest of my state and only answerable to the citizens of my state. There were no political parties when our Constitution was drafted, just Americans.
While giving lip service to the ideal, the politicians of today have sought to bypass the idea of equal representation. To do this they have established rules concerning campaign finance which guarantee that the interest groups and political parties will have more control over a representative than the people of his or her district. By controlling the purse strings they could also insure that a given candidate would be answerable to the interest group or the party rather than the constituents he or she is suppose to be representing. The Golden Rule of politics states that, “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Unfortunately, this is the norm in Washington today, not the exception.
There is, however, a very easy way to correct this usurpation of the power from We the People, but I can assure you that every single politician will vote against the remedy I am going to suggest. Therefore, the only way that it will ever be enacted, simple as it may be, is for the people to demand that referendums be placed on every ballot and that We the People be allowed to vote on the issue. Three simple rules would immediately return the power to We the People which is where our founders intended it to be in the first place.
Rule #1. Only people eligible to vote are allowed to give money to a political candidate.
Rule #2. A person can only give money to a political candidate for whom he or she is eligible to vote.
Rule #3. A reasonable limit would be set on the amount of money that an individual could give.
Notice the immediate results that would be accomplished by enforcing these three simple rules.
Rule #1. This rule would immediately eliminate any contributions from Interest Groups, Political Parties, Labor Unions, Corporations, and all other non voting entities. Since none of these can vote, none of them could buy influence with my representative. Furthermore, the married “fat cat” with six under age children would not be able to contribute eight times the amount of money that could be contributed by a widow woman. The candidate would be forced to regard the wishes of every person in his or her district whether they be rich or poor, black or white, young or old. That is exactly what our founders intended.
Rule #2. There is absolutely no reason that a person in California or New York should have any influence over a candidate that is suppose to be representing my interest in Tennessee. My candidate would be forced to look within his or her district for support and financing. This would make he or she accountable, and only accountable, to his or her constituents.
Rule #3. This rule is necessary to insure that the millionaire has no more influence in congress than the person who cleans his house, drives his limo, mows his yard or cleans his swimming.
These three rules would immediately place the power back where it belongs but don’t look for them to be enacted by today’s politicians. Never-the-less, wouldn’t it be great if we had been able to heed Franklins warning and preserve a republican form of government in our nation. Wouldn’t it be nice if every vote really did count and every citizen of this great nation was indeed equal.
Maybe some day, but in the meantime may God continue to bless this nation and keep us strong and free.