Sunday, June 08, 2014

Outside Money Undermining Democracy?

As outside money continues to flood into Senatorial and House elections in places like Alaska, with the GOP seeking to regain control of the former and solidify their dominance of the latter, something occurred to me about the nature of our separation of powers and balance of powers. The judiciary is supposed to represent the law/constitution, but the other bodies of government have specific roles tied to their proximate location. For the executive branch, their responsibility it to look after the interests of the nation and the people. Given this reality, one can make a reasonable argument for spending by any American (and even foreigners, though this seems to undermine the national interest). Senators are supposed to represent state interests and the house of representatives the people – IN THEIR DISTRICT.

So recognizing the roles of Senators and Congressman, does outside money make sense? In fact, it appears to be contrary to the intentions of our founding fathers and contradictory to the whole notion of a bicameral system, balance of power and the fight against tyranny. If a Senator is supposed to represent the interests of Alaska, isn’t it a little troubling if he or she is receiving money from say Texas – whose own interests might be at odds with those of the citizens of Alaska? What of a Representative who will represent a predominantly minority population, or working class population, or middle class white population even, receiving Wall Street money, or Tea Party money from out of state?

The reality is that money has corrupted our political system to such an extent that the notion of politicians representing the interests of the people seems almost quaintly de mode. But is it? Don’t we live in a representative democracy where our representatives are supposed to, like, represent our interests? Is money really the same thing as speech? Do corporations really live and breath like human subjects and, if not, should they really be proffered the same rights as human American subjects? As the Supreme Court has moved in the opposite direction over the past several years, it becomes incumbent on the people to demand change. Now, more than ever, this is at the heart of the democratic challenge facing us.

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