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February 28, 2006

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Dear Friends,

Here is a piece I wrote for the Detroit Free press that was published on February 25.

Best,

Marianne

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An Idea Whose Time Has Come

It's that time again: a campaign year. All of a sudden all your political friends are calling you. You know why, and they know you know why. The system is so corrupt that the only way anybody can mount a successful campaign for the extraordinarily important job of guiding our country at what is arguably the most critical time in our history, is if they raise more money raise more money raise more money - and fast. While war and terror and disasters of every conceivable kind loom large around us, candidates have to spend God knows how many hours on the phone, and traveling, trying to do everything they possibly can to raise another buck. Unless they're independently wealthy, of course.

It is preposterous that in the United States today, we do not have publicly financed political campaigns. The cost to our democracy, and potentially to the fate of our country, is beyond measure. Anybody who has no access to cash, or the talent for raising it, would not have a chance at running for political office today. Is this what so many have fought and died for, and are fighting and dying for today? So that only those with access to money - regardless of whether or not they are the smartest and wisest among us - can make decisions in our name that affect the entire world?

Several years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to give money to political candidates amounted to a right to free speech. Of course, this is the same Supreme Court that determined in 2000 that votes don't really matter all that much, so it's not exactly a shocker anymore when they come down on the side of insanity. But if we don't start figuratively yelling - from every rooftop, as loud as we can - that something has gone horribly wrong in this country, and that if we don't fix it then the most exquisite experiment in world history could go down the drain before our very eyes, then perhaps we don't even deserve to be the custodians of this experiment. I don't know how many hours of the History Channel anyone has to watch before recognizing that freedom isn't guaranteed. We need the very best and brightest that America has to offer, to be running for office and with relative ease. We need federally mandated hours of television made available, not for political ads, not for Madison Avenue to do its thing, but for brilliant Americans to have a chance to strut their stuff and give us their best ideas. For all our talk about campaign finance reform, even that is just an incremental effort. Campaigns shouldn't simply be less corrupted by money. They simply shouldn't be for sale.

As it is, we'll get through this season and then another one two years from now, with hundreds of millions of dollars that could and should be spent on other things, paying instead for political TV ads and all their related nonsense. What that will get us, most probably, is more of what we have now: political decisions that are way too green, and I don't mean environmental.

Publicly financed political campaigns. Say it, see how it feels and repeat it to your friends. Then repeat it some more, and some more, and some more. The only thing that will be stronger than the resistance to doing it is a country that decides it's really truly what we want.

Posted by mwblog at 9:28 PM