In the most recent Democratic presidential debate, the candidates addressed one of American voters’ top issues of concern: political corruption and big money in politics. Elizabeth Warrenand Bernie Sanders highlighted government corruption; Tom Steyer talked about coalitions of Americans taking on unchecked corporate power; and Amy Klobuchar directly called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the Supreme Court landmark case concerning campaign finance, saying it is the solution to dark and foreign money influencing elections.
In a notable uptick from this year’s earlier debates, reform issues accounted for 15 percent – tying for second among all issues – in talk time, according to this interactive graphic, with gerrymandering, voting rights, and public campaign financing all getting airtime. But voters want more than platitudes and talking points.
Over the past decade, a deluge of special interest money has engulfed our elections, surpassing $5.7 billion in election spending in 2018, with no signs of slowing. What is more, studies reportthat the American public’s support for any piece of legislation has zero correlation with its likelihood of being passed.
Meanwhile, elite interest support is strongly linked with the possibility of success. The fact that the average American is not represented in our political system is no secret.
Americans are fed up with a system that’s not working for them, and they are taking action to fix it. People across the country are working for, and winning, reform. Led by citizen activism, more than 25 reform measures have passed on ballots in the past two years, from New York to San Francisco and from New Mexico to Maine. It’s time for elected officials to catch up with the American people, clearly state how they plan to address the problem, and then follow through on those solutions.
Candidates are getting on board. In 2019, citizen leaders worked with more than 250 candidates for offices at every level across the nation to sign the American Promise Candidate Pledge, promising if elected to use their office to support an amendment to overturn Citizens United.
Thirteen current and former 2020 presidential candidates have also done so, including Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, and Bill Weld. So far this pledge has proven effective for building tangible congressional support: of the 12 pledge signers elected to the U.S. House in 2018, everyone is now among the 179 co-sponsors of House legislation supporting the amendment.
Americans know there is not a single solution to the issues that face our nation. But they also understand that until we are able to end the undue influence of big money in our political system, no other issue will be meaningfully addressed.
While the mainstream narrative is that Americans are divided on every issue, as one law professor writes, the actual story of our time may be the oppression of the supermajority of Americans. Citizens are actually united on several issues; they don’t get addressed in Washington because of astronomical spending by special interests.
The American people are telling candidates for public office that political corruption is a critical 2020 issue. Those who hope to win election and re-election should support substantive, meaningful ways to address the foundation of reform, starting with a constitutional amendment and then furthering this crucial issue once in office.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The London Post.