Public losing voice

Democrats are petrified as they see one election after another decided by corporate political contributions.
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court unraveled the already-frayed laws limiting political contributions, money has flooded the system at astonishing rates.
And no wonder. For many corporations, political contributions are a financial investment with an expected financial return. By backing a candidate that opposes regulations, they can reduce their expenses. By backing candidates who want to roll back corporate taxes, they can improve their profit margin. By supporting anti-union candidates, they can reduce their labor costs.
Non-corporate interests — with the exception of rapidly disappearing labor unions — have no corresponding expectation of a financial return. When they make political contributions, they are spending money, not investing it.
We are not worried about the survival of the Democratic Party. Both parties do what they have to do in order to survive. The party of Abraham Lincoln became the party of states’ rights when that became more expedient. The party promoting slavery became the party pushing for civil rights when that helped it win more elections. Parties change dramatically over time as they seek out positions that help them maintain power.
The greater concern is how the influx of corporate money will pervert both parties. If they cannot win elections without corporate contributions, they soon will adjust their platforms to ensure that the money is forthcoming.
Corporate interests and the interests of the public are not inherently at odds, but sometimes — most notably on tax and environmental issues — they are. America is rapidly headed toward a two-party system in which neither party will dare to champion the people when corporate and popular interests conflict.
Our representative democracy depends on voters having a meaningful choice between candidates. If both parties conclude that victory requires courting corporate interests, both parties will do so.
If we continue on the course before us, neither party will suffer in the long term. The people, though, will lose their voice. In a nation designed to be governed by the people and for the people, that would be a tragedy.

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Filed under Democracy, Election 2012

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