Former President Jimmy Carter has come out demanding that the United States institute publicly-funded presidential, gubernatorial, and legislative general election campaigns, in which candidates’ campaigns are funded exclusively, or near exclusively, with public money. All candidates who have a certain threshold of support would receive equal campaign financing, making for a balanced and leveled playing field. More importantly, this takes dark money out of politics – candidates aren’t incentivized suck up to the Koch brothers or the National Rifle Association (NRA) in exchange for millions of dollars in campaign donations since they don’t have to .
In the infamous 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, corporations became persons and earned the right to free speech, which can be expressed through donating of outrageous sums of money to political campaigns. This inevitably led to a deluge of donations from multi-billion dollar corporations, buying off politicians to do their bidding. As a result, politicians no longer truly represent their constituencies – they simply represent the monied interests that can give them the most money, because having the most money makes it much easier to win an election.
President Carter’s proposition would roll back the clock to an era when politicians were held accountable by all of their constituents, even poor and working class voters who cannot not – and shouldn’t have to be able to afford campaign donations at all. When politicians are allowed to solicit donations, they are motivated to pander to, and disproportionately represent the rich. Additionally, politicians who stand up to big corporations and lobby groups struggle to fund their campaigns and often lose to candidates who sell themselves in exchange for campaign funding.
President Carter himself would not have been able to win the presidency if his campaign was not publicly funded; his opponent, incumbent President Ford, could have out-fundraised Carter many times over. But Carter and Ford were on a financially level playing field, and Carter was able to win a competition on policy. We should learn from the past, and take a hard look at the corruption that has become the backbone of our political system. Politicians should not be for sale, and elections should turn on policies and ideas rather than fundraising competitions.
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