I read with interest your recent editorial titled “Wanted: Candidates for Congress in Idaho.” Having worked the elections in Ada County for several years, I have seen how pathetic voter turnout has been. I suspect there are other states and districts that experience the same dismal results.
For years I have pondered this matter, and I have come to the conclusion that over time, and especially during the past 30 years or so, the full negative effects of Big Money in our political process are now coming to bear. I believe the only way to correct the nearly total reliance on Big Money to fund political campaigns and the quid pro quo that goes with it is to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Following are some of the things that I believe alienate the majority of the population, and turn them off regarding the whole political process:
▪ The ill-advised decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that corporations are people and that spending money is free speech.
▪ Unlimited amounts of money that individuals and corporations can contribute to the political process, i.e., political parties.
▪ The exceptionally long campaigns that we must suffer through.
Political scientist Martin Gilens has shown the U.S. government responds so attentively to the preferences of the most affluent 10 percent of the country’s citizens that, under most circumstances, the preferences of the vast majority of Americans appear to have no impact on which policies the government does or doesn’t adopt. (Cited from the article “Inequality and Modernization” in the January/February 2016 issue of Foreign Affairs.)
Therefore, I am enclosing for your perusal proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution. I know that amending the Constitution is a very long and deliberate process, but I also know that our current state of affairs and our gridlocked Congress are not working for the betterment of all U.S. citizens and the nation as a whole. I believe that most ordinary citizens would agree that Big Money has become too great of a compelling influence on both our politicians and our political process for both Democrats and Republicans. The amendments would promote the following changes:
▪ Put constitutional term limits on the U.S. senators and representatives, ending lifetime careers not envisioned by our founding fathers. Newly defined term limits would still provide enough time so that sincere and motivated candidates could accomplish their goals, if indeed they have true merit for the common good.
▪ Limit money and in-kind contributions to individual human citizens, and no foreign or corporate money. Limit contributions for U.S. Senate and House of Representatives lawmakers to citizens of the state in which the office is representing. This will surely get candidates talking to their respective constituents as opposed to spending time pursuing “New York Wall Street money,” “Houston Oil Money” or “Hollywood Entertainment Money.” It will also stop out-of-state money from stealing candidates from their own home constituents.
▪ Make congressional members live by the same laws in the same manner as enforced upon the people.
The provisions incorporated in these proposed amendments would go a long way to assure a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
I truly believe it is past time to proffer forward some measure to the general populace to cogitate and hopefully prompt a serious discussion on how “we the people” can regain our government and correct horrible practices and behaviors that have befallen our current political and governmental processes.
Dale R. Tankersley, 80, is a native Idahoan. He retired from the state of Idaho after serving for more than 38 years in many capacities.