If you, Dear Reader, live in the United States and pay at least a little attention to the political process, you’ll note that there is something wrong with it and with politicians. They no longer do what’s best for America, i.e. what the national interest requires. They no longer do what is needed to keep the country prosperous, safe, strong, and free. They no longer obey the Constitution.
Why? What has brought that state of affairs about? Why don’t elections change it?
These days, elections are decided by 1) special interest groups (AKA lobbies), which produce propaganda ads and have a lot of money to air them and to give to candidates; and 2) ignorant masses who are easily manipulated by these lobbies and money-awash candidates. Thus, the Congress and the White House often enact policies that are unconstitutional, restrict liberty, and/or dole out favors to lobbies, instead of enacting policies that are objectively best for the country.
Today’s constitutional system is significantly different from that created by the Founding Fathers. The one they created envisaged that the people would elect only the House of Representatives. The Senate and the Electors for President were to be appointed by state governments. That is because the Founders knew, and John Jay even explicitly recognized in Federalist #64 (in the 3rd and 4th paragraph) that the People are ignorant and prone to manipulation and minsinformation and cannot be trusted to choose good policies. Therefore, they were to elect only the House of Representatives, to ensure that there would be “no taxation without representation”. The constitutional system the Founding Fathers set up was genial: it ensured that no law could be passed without the consent of both the People (represented by their Congressmen) and the States (represented by their Senators).
Unfortunately, in 1913, the 17th Amendment was passed, making Senators elected directly by the people, or rather, by whichever special interest groups that contribute most money and buy enough air time to air their propaganda.
Furthermore, these days, Electors for President are elected by the people, not by state legislatures.
How does this system really work?
When a politician runs for office, or for reelection, he seldom heeds the Constitution and rarely pays attention to what the People want. Special interest groups, AKA lobbies, decide these elections. These groups decide on what to demand from politicians, then state their demands publicly, threaten to air negative ads against those who would oppose their policies, solicit money from their supporters, and contribute money to politicians who support their agenda.
For example, let’s say that there’s a Congressional district in California that is not particularly partisan. Let’s say that Joseph Smith (D) and Robert Jones (R) run for Congress there. Let’s say that Jones endorses the Keystone Pipeline and Smith declares himself an opponent of this project. What happens next? An environmentalist pressure group intervenes, endorsing Smith, donating money to him, and airing negative ads during primetime portraying him as a toxic poisoner of the environment, claiming that if he’s elected, water in California will be foul and the air will be dirty. Jones, who relies mostly on small contributions from ordinary people, doesn’t have enough money to air ads defending himself; he’s lucky enough to be able to afford 30 second infomercials during nighttime.
The people, misled and misinformed by the media airing ads from the highest bidder (the environmentalist group), buy that garbage and vote for Smith. Jones loses the election.
Or let’s say that a Congressional candidate in Pennsylvania or Ohio endorses the National Right To Work Act.
What happens next? Unions endorse, and donate tons of money (coming from dues from forcibly unionized workers) to, his opponent, and use the rest of their money to air negative ads against him, claiming that electing the pro-RTW candidate will mean the end of “collective bargaining rights” in the country, even though the NRTW Act would only mean the end of forced unionization (and a dramatic cut of the money in unions’ campaign warchests). The people buy that garbage and vote for the pro-union candidate.
Or let’s suppose that the Governor of Ohio puts a state RTW Act up to a vote of the people. What happens next? Unions spend tons of money on ads scaremongering the people, claiming that a state RTW Act would mean the end of “collective bargaining rights” in the state. The people, misled by the ads, reject the measure as a result.
Don’t believe me? It has already happened in Ohio once.
Recently, when Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) proposed a mild 5% cut of 8 categories of nonsecurity spending and an 11% cut of Congress’ spending on itself, 92 Republicans joined all 189 Democrats in voting down her proposal. That’s because, while some of them ideologically believe in Big Government programs, most of them were simply pressured by the lobbies defending their particular Big Government programs (e.g. federal subsidies).
And of course, the AARP and other lobbyist groups continue to make sure, 24/7, that entitlement reform is never passed by Congress.
This is how dysfunctional the federal government and the US constitutional system has become. This happened for two reasons. Firstly, the People tampered with the Constitution, ignoring the advice of the Founding Fathers, and instituted direct popular election of Senators and Electors for President. Secondly, after this happened, special interest groups that lobby the federal government and manipulate voters with their propaganda (mostly with TV and radio ads) swung into action, lobbying the federal government and ensuring that they get their way 99% of the time.
And yet, Republicans foolishly continue to defend the status quo, including the influence and wealth of all special interest groups (including lobbies), by opposing any kind of regulations of, or limitations on, PACs and campaign contributions. They celebrated the SCOTUS’ decision in the Citizens United case, which says, incorrectly, that campaign donations constitute “speech” protected by the First Amendment and that the federal government may not limit campaign donations. Now there are Super PACs which do not suffer from any limitations and are not regulated by the law at all.
This ensures that whichever special interest group has the most money, airs the most effective ads for the most air time, and lobbies most effectively, always wins.
You may ask, “why don’t politicians act honorably by voting against such bills and policies, even if it costs them reelection?”
That would be a foolish question, because politicians (except those who are term-limited and have no prospects for higher office) fear not getting reelected more than anything else. The last thing they want is to be voted out of office.
And whether they will be reelected or not depends on ignorant masses, spoonfed with propaganda by special interest groups, including PACs and Super PACs.
So no, they will never do the honorable thing. Unless the federal government and America’s constitutional system are restored to the form created by the Founding Fathers, and the influence of special interest groups is dramatically curtailed. This means:
1) Repealing the 17th Amendment, making Senators elected by State Legislatures once again.
2) Making the Electors for President being elected by State Legislatures once again.
3) Limiting in some way, dramatically, the influence of special interest groups, e.g. by dramatically limiting campaign contributions and abolishing PACs and Super PACs.
4) Strictly enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act against all lobbyist groups working for foreign countries, even countries that are close friends of the United States.
If the Senate and the Electors of the President were to be elected by state legislatures again, this problem would be dramatically reduced, although not solved completely. Some kind of law is needed to curtail the influence of lobbies.