Wednesday, July 14, 2010
We're getting the government we deserve
Hiram Johnson was a crusading reformer. It didn't occur to him to try to break the bond between money and winning election. Instead, he had the voters approve several devices of direct democracy, such as the initiative and referendum, to bypass the corrupt legislature an enact good legislation.
For a while direct democracy broke the influence SP had on legislation. Later other corporations and wealth businessmen realized that the processes of direct democracy were just as susceptible to manipulation by people with money as candidates for office. Today we have the worst of both worlds. We have a legislature beholden to various moneyed pressure groups and we have ballot initiatives that got there by paying signature gatherers a dollar per signature. We have not done anything to break the connection between money and legislation.
We still have the power to overcome the influence of money. We can choose to ignore the campaign ads paid for by candidates and initiative backers with deep pockets. We can instead go to libraries, the internet, and other sources to find out some real analyses of the initiatives and the candidates. But we don't. We take the misinformation that is spoon-fed to us and vote accordingly. We may not like what we get, but we get what we deserve.
We can also overcome the influence of money by establishing a system of public financing of campaigns, both for candidates and for initiatives. We have in elections past declined to do so. Again, we get what we deserve.