Democracy or Dependency: The State of the US Congress
In a recent THE NATION article, Harvard Law Professor, Lawrence Lessig, lays out compelling evidence for the following conclusion about the state of our democracy due to the state of our Congress:
“Rather than being, as our framers promised, an institution ‘dependent on the People,’ Congress has developed a pathological dependence on campaign cash.”
“The point is simple, if extraordinarily difficult for those of use proud of our traditions to accept: this democracy no longer works. Its central player, Congress, has been captured. Corrupted. Controlled by an economy of influence disconnected from the democracy. Congress has developed a dependency foreign to the framers’ design. Corporate campaign spending, now liberated by the Supreme Court, will only make that dependency worse. ‘A dependence’ not, as the federalist Papers celebrated it, ‘on the People’ but a dependency upon interests that have conspired to produce a world in which policy gets sold.”
And why is Congress so vulnerable to such dependence on corporate money? Because it is so expensive to get elected to Congress! Here is the noxious chain of dependency: It costs an incredible amount of money to be elected and to stay elected. Right now, there is only one primary source for such money: corporations and the vested economic elite. Therefore, political survival requires dependence on corporate economic power.
So if, as Lessig states succinctly “dependency betrays democracy” and if dependency is rooted in our campaign system, the logical solution is: “to enact an idea proposed by a Republican (Teddy Roosevelt) a century ago: citizen-funded elections.”
Voila! — Therefore, we need to support the “Fair Elections Now Act” sponsored in the house by Democrat John Larson and Republican Walter Jones, and in the Senate by Democrats Dick Durbin and Arlen Specter.
To restore democracy in Congress we have to remove the dependency in Congress.