Sunday, December 12, 2010

Campaign finance reform preserves your right to be heard

Free speech is a wonderful, universal right that everyone the world over ought to enjoy. We Americans despise any attempts at abridging or circumventing this right; we consider it a "sacred cow," a privilege granted to us not through the benevolence of our government, but rather guaranteed to us by whatever force in this world terms itself our Creator.

We are all equals, regardless of where we may think we stand in society -- none of us, through name or privilege, is "better" than all the rest, nor deserves greater political rights because of who we are (or aren't).

It is that last sentiment especially that most of all embodies the liberal belief on campaign finance reform. While conservatives wrongly associate the term with a restriction of liberties, liberals look to reforms of how campaigns are financed as a righteous battle towards ensuring every voice, from people of modest means and living standards to those with insurmountable income, is treated equally.

Sadly, over the past couple of decades, conservative lawmakers (and their wealthy benefactors) have increased the influence and "speech rights" for the wealthy elite. Taking a skewed view that campaign donations are a form of speech, the right has perfectly and deliberately orchestrated a coup on the electoral process in America, allowing mega-corporations the right to take part in the influencing of campaigns with absolutely no spending limits.

If the right truly cared about speech rights, they would understand that spending limits are necessary in order to ensure the speech rights of ALL remain protected. With limits in place, everyone who can can donate whatever cash they can expresses their speech rights in a fair and decent way. But without those limits, the working-class family that somehow manages to scrape up $50 in support of their candidate pales in comparison, with regards to speech rights, to the mega-corporate elitists that are more than able to finance and produce multiple 30-second commercials on their own over national airwaves.

Lifting the restrictions on spending isn't enabling greater free speech rights -- it's diluting them, making it impossible for everyday Americans to have a voice. It's giving a bullhorn to the corporations while telling the rest of society that they're only allowed to whisper, and then telling everyone to engage in a shouting match under those terrible conditions.

Who will yield the greater influence, the person who can hardly be heard, or the corporate interests that are near-impossible to ignore?

In the marketplace of ideas, every voice deserves to be heard, with the democratically popular ideas gaining the most influence, eventually coming to fruition through the election of representatives that recognize them as popular and desirable. That formula fails to work when elected officials are unable to recognize popular ideas of the people at-large. When a multimillion dollar ad campaign is waged by corporate interests, and when the electorate makes misinformed decisions based on that flawed campaign, the people's true sentiments get clouded, and our lawmakers instead base their policy decisions on what's best for the corporate elite, not the people themselves.

Under a model of campaign finance reform, spending limits ensure that everyone's voice is treated equally, that no one's ideas are treated better or worse based on their class or level of income. Political rights, including the right to express your beliefs and opinions, should transcend forces that require a person to have a leg-up on everyone else within society to really matter.

A good idea is a good idea, whether it comes from Wall Street or Main Street. Don't let conservative beliefs on "free speech" ruin YOUR right to speak your mind, destroy your right to be heard. Campaign finance reform enables everyone to have an equal voice in our elections.

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