Last Week’s Gun Legislation Failure Is Yet Another Symptom of a Much Bigger Problem: Money in Politics
However you feel about the issues of gun rights and gun violence, the fact that a measure that had the support of a super-majority of the American people failed in the Senate last week should be deeply troubling to ALL Americans.
Last Wednesday’s vote shows just how distorted our government has become by the influence of money in politics. Polls have consistently shown that expanding background checks to ensure terrorists, violent criminals and the mentally ill can’t buy guns online or at gun shows had the support of 90% of the American people, 82% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members. Yet it still could not pass the Senate.
The fact that the gun lobby, a special interest if ever there was one, has the ability to stymie efforts to enact legislation the American people want should disturb everyone who believes in government of, by and for the people.
Because the gun lobby isn’t the only lobby in Washington, DC.
It Happens ALL the Time.
Though most Americans have been blissfully unaware, the very same thing happens with EVERY piece of legislation introduced in Congress. The special interests and secret donors that fund our political campaigns force our legislators to do THEIR bidding, not OURS. So reasonable regulations and initiatives are watered down, loaded with loopholes or eliminated altogether.
That’s why Obamacare was so beneficial to healthcare and insurance companies, delivering them new customers and better reimbursement for serving indigent patients, subsidized by the federal government. Yet our government is still unable to negotiate better pricing from pharmaceutical companies to reduce our national healthcare costs. And that’s why Wall Street banks are even BIGGER than they were when they were deemed “Too big to fail,” and continue to receive $83 billion in taxpayer subsidies each year on top of the $700 billion government bailout they received. Yet Congress isn’t doing anything about it.
THIS is not what democracy looks like. This is bought government. Corporatocracy. Plutocracy. Government of, by and for the corporations and a wealthy few, not We the People.
Single-Issue Lobbying Won’t Fix This Problem.
Lobbying Congress harder on any one issue will not fix this. Even if we were able to overcome the undue influence of special interests once (and it’s doubtful we could, given the overwhelming level of popular support for background checks and yesterday’s failure of gun legislation), the larger problem would remain and the same thing would happen with all of the other issues.
Special interests have pockets deep enough to fight for what they want forever, and it isn’t possible for our citizens to stay engaged enough long enough to win on every issue that matters. We all have lives and other things to do, which is why we elect representatives to do this for us.
Except they don’t. They can’t anymore, because the system is broken.
Amending the Constitution Is the Cure.
That’s why it’s time to stop fighting on individual issues and instead fight for the ONE thing that will at least start to address the underlying problem: a constitutional amendment to get money out of our politics once and for all.
Representatives that vote for measures supported by their donors and lobbyists aren’t bad people, and they’re not evil—they are simply adapting to the broken system they are forced to work in. As long as corporations have the rights of people under the law, and the wealthy fund our elections and lobby our representatives to do what they want, there can be no government that works for the rest of us.
We the People didn’t create this problem. But only We the People can fix it.
Only We the People can remove the incentives for our representatives to serve the interests of others over ours, and the only way to do that is to get money out of politics and return corporations to the status of fictional legal entities, not people. The only way to do THAT is to amend the constitution, and that’s going to take the support of ALL of us to achieve.
Passing a law to reform campaign finance or require disclosure of all political donations is not enough.
Existing campaign finance reform laws are being continually weakened over time, and the same thing would happen again. Whether the laws or federal or state, a bought legislature will always be able to undo any legislative fixes.
It must be an amendment. And it’s going to take some time to get this done. The process of amending the Constitution is difficult by design. Difficult, but not impossible.
Step 1: Pay attention-- look below the surface.
If you are upset by what happened in the Senate yesterday, the first step toward creating change is becoming aware of the problem. Rather than focusing on the merits of the individual issues, find out how the majority of the public feels about that issue, and then see whether the government is acting accordingly.
If not, think about whose financial or personal interests would be negatively impacted if the government DID follow public opinion, and then follow the money to find their influence at work behind the scenes.
Step 2: Share the truth with others.
Point out all of the dots, connect them, and share the patterns you see with your friends, family, social networks and the public. And then do it again, with another issue. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle people support— there are examples of the will of the people not being carried out on both sides.
As The Coffee Party says, it’s time to wake up and stand up, America. The only way we can eventually restore government of, by and for the people is if more and more of us first see the light and spread the word. Consider this my contribution to the effort for today.
Jamie Logan writes about money in politics, corruption, good governance, equality and other issues every chance she gets. To read more of her work wherever and whenever it is published, like her page on Facebook, facebook.com/jamieloganwrites, or follow her on Twitter, @jamielogan24.