To the incoming members of the 116th United States Congress,
For years the American people have been forced to accept a political system tainted by partisanship and corruption. Enough is enough. It’s time to reform the system that we’re all part of.
From extreme gerrymandering, to a campaign finance system corrupted with legal fictions such as “corporations are people” and “money is speech,” we’ve somehow replaced our democracy with a disturbing form of plutocracy.
If we don’t work together to fix our democracy now, we’ll have no one but ourselves to blame if we lose it forever.
In the past half decade alone, Russia has proven that it’s possible for hostile foreign powers to control everything from special interest groups with significant political clout (such as the NRA), to controlling the very content we’re exposed to through social media (and thereby manipulating voters to vote in precisely the way that best suits the needs of those foreign powers)… to possibly even controlling the candidates themselves.
What the Russians (and other wealthy powers) have figured out is that you don’t need to manipulate election results to get the election results you want… you simply need to manipulate the voters. And in a world where money is speech, all it takes to manipulate the masses is the right amount of money in all the right places.
Further complicating our current problems is that it’s no longer possible for the American people to definitively know where the media and content they’re being exposed to is true or not, or even what the source of that information is. It’s no longer clear that the American people are really in charge. We’ve created a system where we’re all puppets in someone else’s game, never knowing whose really pulling the strings, and never knowing what to really believe.
As the 116th Congress of the United States convenes today, your top priority should be working across party lines to pass the following critical reforms necessary to restore integrity to our republic’s democracy.
First, partisan gerrymandering needs to be outlawed at every level of government, with all jurisdictions required to redraw their districts within the next year, and on a regular schedule thereafter, to ensure that that the voice of every American citizen is given fair weight, and that no citizen is disenfranchised to benefit a any specific political party.
Second, the role that money plays in our elections needs to be eliminated. Given that we now live in a world where the Internet offers Americans a broad platform for free speech, we no longer have a need for expensive, inefficient, information-poor political campaigns. The federal government should provide a single, secure website where every political candidate in the country can provide voters with everything they needs to educate themselves prior to an election, including biographies, campaign platforms, issue summaries, Q&A’s, press links, interviews and debates. Instead of having campaigns inundate voters with a constant stream of expensive glossy mailers, each jurisdiction should provide voters who lack access to the internet with a single printed booklet containing all the important details each candidate or campaign believes that their voters should have before walking into their voting booth. Our elections need to be a place where policy battles are won by reason, and not fundraising ability.
Third, the legal fiction that corporations are people needs to be brought to an end. The American people deserve to live in a country where “We the People” are in ultimate control of our democracy. While corporations should be entitled to numerous legal rights, giving soulless legal entities the same rights as “The People” has corrupted our political system because corporations don’t necessarily have the same interests at stake that human beings do. Perhaps the best examples of this have been the telecommunications industry’s recent successful efforts to eliminate the Net Neutrality laws that required Internet service providers to treat all data equally, and the fossil fuel industries’ efforts to sabotage reasonable regulations designed to protect our environment.
Fourth, legislative action needs to be taken to ensure that the American people know what information is true and what isn’t – both within the Press, and on the Internet. While free speech shouldn’t be repressed, new tools and policies need to be developed to help people distinguish what’s true, what isn’t, which sources have established track records that are credible, and which sources aren’t creditable at all. To this end, no person or party should ever control the system used to provide the public with this information, but instead, statistical tracking and impartial analyses should be used to guarantee that the public is always given fair and accurate information, know where their information is coming from, and cultivate a system that rewards truth within that framework.
As you, the members of the incoming 116th American Congress, take your oaths of office, we plead that you reflect on our common need as Americans to put the good of our nation, as well as the good of the planet, before partisan shenanigans from this point forward. The time for that has past.
Please, work together to end this madness. Do whatever needs to be done to save our Republic from the threats it faces – both internally and externally.
Enough is enough.