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We all know there is too much money in politics. Running for office has become outrageously expensive. Politicians, who are suppose to be “representing” us, spend all their time fund raising. Big donors have too much influence and elections are being bought by a few deep pockets. Obviously the country needs serious campaign finance reforms. But this isn't likely to happen. So we, the people, must counter the corrupting influence of big money by supporting candidates that actually serve the public. Most people don't have deep pockets but collectively we have MANY POCKETS. We can overcome the power of money with people power.
I am reminded of a song by Pat Scanlon, an east coast peace advocate. The song “We Can Do It” talks about movements for change being build one person at a time. The chorus is,
“We can do it, yes we can
We can change things throughout the land
But we all must lend a hand
We can do it, oh yes we can.”
It is easy to complain about politics. It is easy to take the apathetic road and believe the politicians are all bought, my vote doesn't count, money talks, and there is nothing I can do to change the world. But as the song suggests, people can make a difference. If we all “lend a hand,” we can change things.
This is especially true for funding political campaigns. Many small donations can compete with big dollar donors. The Wisconsin Supreme Court election coming up April 7th offers an opportunity to prove this is possible. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the Republican backed conservative candidate Brian Kelly raised $187,463 in January and had $462,864 on hand. Judge Jill Karofsky, his opponent, raised $65,354 in January for a total of $83,393 on hand. It's easy to see who is winning the money game.
A little math shows how to even the playing field. It would only take 3795 $100 donations to raise Judge Karofsky's total to $462,000. In 2019, over 600,000 people voted for the progressive Supreme Court candidate. If these people contributed only $10 to the Karofsky campaign she would have $6 million! Deep pockets are nice, but MANY pockets are very powerful.
It is the same story with the Wisconsin 7th Congressional district race. Republican Tom Tiffany has raised $719,000, and had $208,000 on hand as of Jan. 29. Democrat Tricia Zunker, who has pledged not to accept donations from political action committees, has raised $145,000, and had $64,000 on hand. The only way to level the financial playing field is for voters to donate.
People have to use their collective power. Many hands make for light work. There are very few people who couldn't afford to contribute $10. Many more could easily chip in $100 and a few could give much more. Democracy only works with broad public participation. Now is the time for everyone to participate by supporting candidates that will actually represent the majority of citizens.
Giving money is only one way to help. There are many other ways to help support your candidate. Every campaign needs volunteers to do many small tasks. Keeping campaign offices open, staffing tables at public events, answering phones, or even making coffee or goodies for other volunteers are things that need to be done. Many volunteers are needed to do the important task of calling people and knocking on doors to remind voters of the election and promote your candidate. This doesn't require special skills. You don't get into arguments or debate issues with people. It just takes being polite and the willingness to spend some time.
There are things you can do from home. Putting up yard signs is very effective at developing name recognition for a candidate. You can put them on your own property or contact neighbors and friends with good locations. You can even make your own signs and save the candidate money. Put them on your car and the daily commute becomes an effective advertisement for your candidate. Again it is not hard to do and doesn't require special artistic skills.
Writing letters to the editor is another way to help. Local newspapers are declining but the letters to the editor still get read by many people. Other community publications, like the Duluth Reader, are actually doing fine as regular newspapers struggle. They are excellent places to give you opinion. Simple statements about why you support a candidate or why certain policies and issues are important to you make effective letters. You don't have to be eloquent or an English major to write a letter. Perhaps the best thing you can do is talk to other people. Politics is the way we make important decisions in our society. We should not be ashamed to discuss public issues in polite company. Don't be afraid to let your friends, neighbors, relatives, and co-workers know what you think and what is important to you. You need to be polite, respectful of others, and do this at appropriate times and places. But there is no reason be silent.
Wisconsin has two critical elections coming up on April 7th and May 12th. The first is for for a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. The second is for the U.S House of Representatives in NW Wisconsin. Will these elections be bought by a few conservative, wealthy special interests? The extreme far right of the Republican party are confident they can purchase a compliant lap dog for both of these positions. They are pouring in money to make it happen.
Oligarchy – government by and for the few – is not good for most of us. John Adams said,
“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men.”
There is little doubt that the quality of life is declining in Wisconsin because promoting the common good has been replaced by profit and private interest for the few. This situation will continue and intensify unless more people get active. Edmund Burke, an 18th century English politician said,
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
The far right will succeed in replacing democracy with oligarchy unless the people of Wisconsin do something and do it NOW.