There must be reform! At the rate the United States of America is evolving at, it wouldn t be a surprise if it is on its way to becoming an oligarchy. This country is governed by the dollar, not by the president or even the people. The campaign for the presidency is becoming like a campaign for president of the student council it is a popularity contest. The president is no longer elected due to his credentials and beliefs; his is elected by how much in can get into the public s face and make them smile.
Presidential candidates say whatever will please the public and win them some votes, this is no surprise and this isn t really the bad part. The bad part is money controls the means for a candidate to even gain enough recognition and notability to arouse the publics interests. This stands true for not only presidential elections but also Senate and House campaigns. Being the year 2001 candidates now have more options available to them to make themselves known. The only problem is, all these new methods (television, radio, the Internet) cost money to use.
This immediately brings up two problems. The first being that the candidate with the most funds has a great advantage to winning just based on their ability to gain exposure. The second is that campaigns (presidential or otherwise) turn into a race for money and valor rather than for the benefit for the country and the people residing within. The lack of money can make a good candidate fail miserably if they do not have the funds to support themselves and on the opposite end of the spectrum, it can make a horrible candidate the victor due to an unequal advantage.
The object of democratic elections is to allow the people of the United States vote for whom they feel would be best to run their country, not to coerce them to vote for the guy that had the most media appeal (for example, President Reagan). The road to reform is the road to recovery for our media-weakened country. There are five specific areas that could greatly use some reforming in our electoral process. The issues of hard money and soft money are the two most important issues, but the others, such as issue ads, television time and public financing are not to be ignored either.
Candidates receive money is two forms; soft money and hard money. Soft money is money that is contributed to a state of local party for party-building purposes that does not have to be disclosed under federal law, this means a candidate and rake up a large amount of money and never have to be held accountable for it. Hard money on the other hand is regulated and must be disclosed to the government under federal law. The problem here does not lie in the hard money situations, but rather the soft money. Since hard money is accounted for and regulated it is rather hard (and illegal) to appropriate it in the wrong ways.
Hard money, if evenly granted, is a delightful boost to either party and causes no harm to the election (if used justly and legally). Soft money is the culprit of undermining elections. Since it is not legally required to disclose the money before the government, there is no regulation on how much a candidate can receive and this can lead to problems. This amount of soft money given to a candidate or party can be at price. Often candidate and parties receive this soft money from large corporations and this is translated into big bucks, sometimes hundreds of thousands or more!
This money not only makes the battle unfair due to the vastly unequal levels at which the two candidates stand but it can also affect the public in ways that are often overlooked. For example, in 1998 Senate Republican leader Lott and National Republican Senatorial Committee head Mitch McConnell called the meetings and organized the votes to kill Senator John McCain’s legislation to control the use of tobacco. The use of tobacco is growing (especially with teens) and is without a doubt detrimental to the health of anyone who uses it.
The republicans voted against McCain s proposal due to some soft money that the Republican Party received from large tobacco companies. So basically what it comes down to is that the Republicans put the health of America (and its youth) in jeopardy in return for some hush money. Something just seems so uncouth about this situation and this happens all the time. The next two issues dealing with ads and television are very much media related. The media controls almost everything in our society including how we perceive people and to an extent how we think.
Ads can be a beneficial way to gain a candidate exposure. In its purest form, ads can be a relatively effective way to arouse public awareness of a candidate and their stance on popular issues. What ad campaigning has become is a childish mud-slinging contest. Currently the purpose of ads seems to be defaming an opposing candidate in hopes of pushing them out of the race and leaving the other to be the only decent candidate left, some choice they give the people. The only problem with regulating phony ads is that it violates the 1st Amendment s freedom of speech clause.
Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech, this is true, but people should have the dignity to use this right in a proper manner. All candidates should also be allowed equal free time on television. This will allow an equal amount of televised competition and if it is free perhaps the candidates will use their time wisely and promote themselves, not denigrate their opponent. Recently the Supreme Court has ruled that the FCC has powers to regulate televised political propaganda. The FCC has formulated a few regulations that are enforced to ensure both the benefits of all candidates and the American public.
The FCC has formed the following: the personal attack rule, which provides free reply time for certain attacks on a candidate’s honesty or integrity made during discussion of controversial issues, the political editorial rule, which provides free reply time when a candidate’s opponent is endorsed on the air and specifies that the offer to appear be made in advance where the editorial is to be broadcast in the 72 hours prior to an election and the Zapple Rule, which provides a reply right when an opponent’s supporters appear ( the response time is free when the opponents’ initial appearance was also free).
What this all breaks down to is equality between candidates and honestly for the people. With regulations such as these the people are promised a bit of closure when dealing with televised politics. The media is the ultimate brainwashing tool. Rules like these are implemented to give both the government and the people a chance to operate properly and unbiased. Public financing is the last facet of campaign finance that should (although it is difficult) be reformed. Public financing is a procedure by which the United States government draws from its personal funds as well as from the taxpayer s pocket to support candidates and parties.
A question of equal funding is raised immediately. It would be unfair to take a Republican citizen s money and hand it over to the Democratic Party, but if the money taken was equally distributed this would cease to be a problem. Besides obstacles in Congress (which most can be easily remedied by loopholes) the other great problem facing public financing is public cynicism powered by soft money. The public citizen believes that the health of our democracy cannot be fully restored until large, private contributions are removed from political campaigns.
People have long endorsed public financing of congressional campaigns and their support is unwavering. Unfortunately, the current Congress will not pass public funding, and the people cannot wait for it to do so. With major national priorities such as environmental, public health and safety programs at risk under the current campaign finance system. So what would be the most beneficial campaign finance reform for both the candidates and the people? That is a very difficult question to answer due to personal opinion and differing partisan values.
The most productive way to figure out what is best for the country is to think solely for the benefit of the people. What will make them less apprehensive to vote? What will make their choices more clear and defined. Many people are not involved in politics because it scares them. All the mud slinging they see on television all this talk of hard money and soft money it is all a bit intimidating. The best way to ease the public s anxiety and make the election process more dignified in general is to first and foremost eliminate public spending completely.
This would not only equalize the level on which both candidates stand but it would also assuage the public opinion on the way political campaigns are run. The next step is to put some serious regulations on the ad issue. If an election is to be won it should be won with minimal amount of mud slinging. This would put more pressure on each candidate to prove their self and not focus so much on brining down the other candidate and at the same time it would make the election process seem less dirty to the public eye thus easing their anxieties towards voting.
If regulations can not be made because they might infringe upon the 1st Amendment then society should make it their duty to show politicians that phony ads are frowned upon greatly. The government is taking proper action in the realm of television, giving the FCC the ability to regulate political advertisements is a great step to equalizing election grounds. As far as public financing goes, perhaps if the government would reform the statistics and stipulations listed above public support for public financing would increase.
The majority of financing should not be based on public financing but a minimal amount should be granted to each party just to settle the score. If these reforms were to take place the most important result would be that it would appease the masses. Who cares if the candidates are happy? One of them is going to be elected into a high office, which should be enough. The most important thing is to please the people. If the people are less apprehensive to vote because things are less corrupt the government will become empowered. It will start with campaign reform and then permeate other areas of society.
More people will become involved with government and if they do not get involved they will at least become more aware. Most importantly a finance reform will lead to stronger leaders. If large sums of money weren t handed down from large corporations with the sign of a contract the candidates would have to fight harder for their goal. This would bring about a new Darwinistic survival of the fittest competition for the seats in Congress including the presidency. This in turn will leave our country with only the finest people leading this fine country. Reform is the way to go!