Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Whatever you think of Trump, we can all agree with him on the corrupting influence of money in politics

It didn't get much air in the last election cycle, but someone came up with a short list of things that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders actually agree upon. From this article at Hot Air by Taylor Millard published nearly a year ago, we learn that Trump and Sanders find a fair amount of agreement on trade, health care, infrastructure spending and Social Security. And both are highly critical of wealthy donors and their immense influence in politics. Millard's article is a critique of another article at Vox which gets into the details of just how much Trump and Sanders sound alike or find agreement with each other.

I believe that, love him or hate him, we must find the points where we agree with Donald Trump and work with him there. Yes, it's easy to take him down a notch on one point or another any day of the week. The protests are good because they're getting people involved in politics. But as I've mentioned before on this blog, if you're protesting an issue, you're late to the party. What we are experiencing in America is a result of decades of political constipation and now, the body politic can no longer deny the pain they're in.

There is one other aspect to the choices we make in politic and civil discourse that we must take notice of: target fixation. If we focus on the negative, we're going to get the negative. Yes, it's helpful to give Trump the feedback for we need to let him know if he's not acting upon the will of the people. But if we are too focused on what we don't want, we tend to get what we don't want.

Many of us didn't want Trump and many liberals, including Hillary Clinton were very focused on not getting Trumped. That kind of focus became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The brain speaks affirmatively and focuses on the target. It can't hear the word "not" or "no" and tends to focus on the subject of the declaration. So instead of hearing, "Noooooo, not Trump!", it hears, "Trump!". This sort of behavior is addressed in the Law of Attraction.

I also have some personal experience with this as a parent. I have a 4 year old daughter who will sometimes say "no" to everything. When I see her denying everything, I explain to her that if she says no to everything, she is not telling me what she wants. So I try to get her focused on what she wants rather than what she doesn't want. If what she wants is within my sphere of influence (and within reason), I find a way to deliver, if not, then I explain how that's just not going to happen. I've seen her spend 10-15 minutes denying everything only to learn that she just wants water.

We can lose ourselves in the act of denying everything Trump, too.

While I find some agreement with Trump on trade, healthcare, Social Security and infrastructure spending, the Big Kahuna, the one that is most important to me is campaign finance reform. Both Trump and Sanders agree that we must reform campaign finance to reign in the influence of the wealthy donor class so that the rest of us can be heard.

Campaign finance reform tops my list for many reasons, and I've laid out the arguments here in, Bernie is the only candidate willing to say it: there shall be no other reforms before campaign finance reform, and that is one among many in my blog. If you're strapped for time, the argument is simple:

  1. The wealthy own the primary elections process through a pernicious political disease called "Tweedism" (video featuring Harvard law professor and one-time presidential candidate, Larry Lessig). If the wealthy get to decide who wins the primaries, our choices in November are limited to their choices.
  2. If the only people who ever get elected to higher public office at the state and federal level owe their success to the wealthiest among us, the rest of us will never be heard. See, "Testing Theories of American Politics:Elites, Interest Groups, and AverageCitizens", a study that proves without a doubt that the average American has next to zero influence in politics.
So if you're not happy with the current state of political affairs, the majority of the blame can be squarely placed on a small minority of Americans, roughly 0.02% of us, who have hijacked our political system with the corrupting influence of money. Given the current system in place, there really can be no other reforms before this one, even if you do find agreement with Trump on some other issue.

Trump is acutely aware of the issue of campaign finance reform, amply demonstrated here in the nugget from the article at Vox mentioned above:
Some of Trump’s appeal, like that earlier of independent candidate Ross Perot, rests on his being able to finance his own campaign so he is not dependent on campaign contributions from the wealthy and from business lobbyists.
"I don’t want lobbyists. I don’t want any special interests. I don’t want any strings attached," Trump told Face the Nation last August. And he wants to curb the power of PACs and Super PACs. As a billionaire, he is making the case against the business- and lobby-dominated political system.
Trump has been a donor and knows firsthand what kind of pressure he can apply to members of Congress or anyone running for office as a member of the donor class. He understands the powerful and corrupting influence of money in politics. He knows that he can be rendered moot if that tiny 0.02% minority has sway over Congress. Congress holds the purse strings. Congress gets to fill out the checks. Trump can only sign them as president.

Bernie Sanders doesn't take large campaign donations from wealthy donors. He has won 14 elections with small donations. He raised more than $200 million, with an average donation of $27, during his campaign for president last year. He understands the influence of big money in politics and has studiously avoided that influence.

Since Trump is the most powerful conservative in America, and Bernie Sanders is widely acknowledged as the most powerful liberal in Congress, and both agree upon the need for campaign reform, then we must seize on this issue and this issue alone. If there are any in Congress who disagree, let them defend their reasons for denying this one reform. Let them embarrass themselves as men and women who would rather spend their time dialing for dollars than to be doing the work of the people.

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