As readers of my columns note, I attempt to mix humor and wit to make my points seem at least somewhat enjoyable to slog through. However, I find that this week I can only lay bare some of my thoughts on how best to make this country better. Most of these are simple solutions, but as the famous acronym K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple, Stupid – makes clear, sometimes simple is best.
First – Campaign Finance Reform. Now, I’m sure that comes as a shock to some of you, since you are all scratching your heads, going “Didn’t we do that already?” Well, yes, but if the law manages to make the National Rifle Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and pro-life organizations bedfellows in a suit against it, someone royally screwed up.
I agree with all of these organizations in that our current “reforms” infringe upon people’s freedom to support any candidate for office. So, my conservative solution is very simple – no limits, total transparency.
You can use whatever hard-earned money you’ve put together to support any candidate you like. It’s your money – use it, as you will. The government shouldn’t be able to take endless amounts in taxes and then dictate where the rest goes – especially when it comes to elections. This freedom would come at the price of total transparency – every single donation would be tabulated and each candidate’s backers would be revealed, from smallest to greatest.
If Bush got $80 million from the oil interests, he couldn’t hide and pretend the Sierra Club was his best friend. If a candidate got a ton of money from Planned Parenthood, they couldn’t go and call themselves pro-life. The solution is not to restrict the ability of people to give freely, but to keep candidates accountable for what they’ve taken.
Second – bipartisan electoral redistricting. In the last House election cycle, there were only a handful of races that were deemed “competitive.” Four of those nine races were in Iowa, simply because electoral redistricting was taken out of the hands of the parties. A commission was set up that would go through and redistrict from the census without party influence. The proof is in the success – Iowa actually has democratic races that mean something.
We all know candidates who seem like they will never lose, and situations like that are bad, no matter which party they’re in.
The key to elections is ideas, and ideas are lacking if a candidate is safe – they can simply say whatever they want. You won’t get a true fight between a liberal and a conservative, because there’s no reason to take a stand – that would only make you lose votes. Only by forcing incumbents to have positions they care about and defend their seat in each election can we truly see what good policies are.
Lastly – a government growth cap. This is an amendment to each state’s constitution that limits the growth of government to population growth, adjusted for inflation. One state possesses this amendment, Colorado, and it is the only state that still has a budget surplus.
The good thing about this program is something that, as a conservative, I have recognized for a long time – if you give the government money, it will spend it, no matter which party is in power. If you hold the growth to a minimum then you ensure that the government focuses its funds on useful things, rather than pork. If this had been in place in California, the state would have a surplus of around $30 billion.
The key is not where the money is spent – Davis could still have used what little extra money he got through population growth for blatant vote buying, but he wouldn’t have been able to spend as much as he did. Also, voters would be able to easily see how he wasted their money.
Government cannot depend on virtuous representatives. We may hope for it, but we cannot expect it. Therefore, the key is to put in place a structure that keeps the bad representatives in check.
Each of these reforms is focused on improving our democracy’s ability to function. As a conservative, I long for nothing more than a system that fosters a smaller government that forces its representatives to have positions and ensures that elections are focused on issues, not on sound bites.
I believe in my positions – all I want is a system that would allow them to be tested.
Clemm can be reached at email@example.com.