The Occupy movement has caused my wife and I to talk, at length, about the merits of said movement. Why are thousands out in the streets protesting? Do I agree with what they have to say?
It seems as though many people are complaining about Occupy because they don’t have a unified message. They don’t have a spokesperson. They’re just fighting and whining. While this is certainly true in some instances, I can’t help but be puzzled that so many people are disdainful of a movement that includes thousands of people young and old, poor and middle class protesting the fact that 1% of our country is getting away with wrecking our economy and not being held accountable.
At some point, there will be a unified message. Populist movements are ever this way.
What Can I Do Right Now?
In our discussions, Lissie and I have considered whether it makes the most sense to go out and get arrested as an act of civil disobedience, or to work within the system. Where is the facet of this movement that I can get behind?
After much discussion and thought, I think I’ve seen something that I can clearly get behind. A campaign finance amendment.
In 2010, for reasons that make sense to only a few, the Supreme Court struck down 30 years of campaign finance law. They gave corporations, in the guise of corporate personhood, the ability to buy access their favorite candidates.
At the beginning of November 2011, NPR’s Planet Money podcast gave a good overview of how politicians in Washington DC are beholden to those who can donate money to their campaigns. They hold constant (daily) fundraisers that are only open to those who donate to their campaigns – and the required sums are not small.
There are a couple of ways that a campaign finance amendment could be worded. I like this one from Scott Turow:
“The Congress and the States shall regulate the direct and indirect expenditure of private funds on the electoral process in order to ensure that no group, entity or individual exercises unequal influence on an election by those means.”
I also like:
“Only individual persons may donate private funds to the electoral process. Corporations, Unions, Political Action Committees and other organizations may not donate money, directly or indirectly, to electoral campaigns. Corporate personhood does not apply to the electoral process.”
I also think that publicly funded elections are a great idea – but let’s just focus on getting big money out of elections for now.
As Scott Turow so thoughtfully points out, Citizens United essentially makes money the single most influential part of our political process. Those with unlimited funds have unlimited voice. Money should not equal political influence.
Okay. I Have A Vision. Now What?
While I am certainly passionate about the idea of campaign finance reform, I’m not sure how much support there is at large. In 1974, after Watergate, Congress passed a raft of legislation in a two-thirds override of a presidential veto. It’s taken 30+ years, but most of that has been undone.
Occupy has many facets, and no clear direction. I’m no political leader, but I’m making a public declaration that beginning today, I’m going to start learning how to make a difference.
Since I became old enough to vote, it has been my distinct displeasure to listen to people complain about the political process. It’s disheartening to hear people say that that their individual vote doesn’t make a difference. It obviously does – that’s how elections happen. I’ve always believed that.
So…if you were going to try to make a difference politically, what would you do?