With our own Associated Students elections just around the corner, I thought it would be a great time to discuss elections. And no, I’m not talking about 2016, though I am very ready for Hillary. I’m talking about midterm elections people! These elections get a mere 40 percent voter turnout versus about 60 percent during a presidential election. And although I’m sure most of you are thinking that clearly these midterm elections are not as important, guess how I’m going to respond? You’re wrong. Midterm elections are debatably more important than presidential elections for multiple reasons.
First of all, the election of your represented officials affects you far more than the election of your president. The President of the United States does not decide on local issues that have a direct impact on you. But your state senator, congressman/woman and senator all do, and they are re-elected at alarming rates despite the fact that everyone seems to be complaining about their lack of competence (though a 90 percent incumbency rate points more to the incompetence of voters, in my opinion).
In addition, midterm elections fly by us, and if we don’t pay attention, they can literally be bought by parties. Whether it is through sneaky gerrymandering (the manipulation of drawing districts to favor certain parties/candidates), voter disenfranchisement through the location of polling places or voter registration (America remains to be one of the only large democracies that does not allow voter registration on the day of an election), everything comes down to money. And unfortunately, our Supreme Court struck down one of the few restrictions keeping democracy in check, a.k.a. placing caps on individual donations for political campaigns. Writing from the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stated: “There is no right in our democracy more basic than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” “Participate,” Justice Roberts? I think you mean take over.
What chance do any candidates stand today if they don’t come into the race with a sack of money on their shoulder? Those who run for Congress and spend over $1 million on their campaign win almost one-third of their races. And when challenging an incumbent, don’t even think about it, unless you’re a Kennedy or a Bush. Challengers who spend less than $600,000 only have a one in ten chance of winning. It truly does all come down to your checkbook, and no one can honestly tell me that they believe that is democracy.
The definition of democracy, according to Dictionary.com, is, “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” A free electoral system means that everyone has the same opportunity to be both represented and elected regardless of his or her income. Those who have the least are usually those who need to be represented accurately, yet they aren’t. Right now, our 113th Congress is made up of a whopping, record-setting 18.8 percent women! Although, we aren’t China, so that isn’t that impressive considering women make up just over 50 percent of America’s population… and Congress is 8.1 percent African-American (versus 13.1 percent of all citizens), and 6.9 percent Hispanic (versus 16.9 percent of all citizens). This means that approximately 80 percent of Congress look exactly like John McCain: male and white; not at all representative of the people they supposedly work “directly” for.
The problem that is posed by the unlimited amount of money that any individual can throw at a campaign is that it takes democracy directly out of the hands of the people and places it in the few palms of the one percent. It’s actually quite impressive how much these people can get into their hands, and you know what big hands mean … way too much political power, duh. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Unfortunately, I can’t blame this problem on Republicans. Well, I can’t blame it all on them. Both sides of the ridiculous seesaw we call our political parties encourage and continue the reliance on big checkbooks as the main deciding factor in elections. Both parties have huge donors that love to donate “anonymously” and through various donor groups within their businesses and philanthropies. The majority Justices argued that political contributions are equal to our First Amendment rights, but what does that say about those who have less to contribute? Is our Supreme Court saying that because I can only afford to donate $25 to Hillary that my voice should be heard less? That sounds like the opposite of democracy to me.
The moral of the story is that, a.) We need to acknowledge the pivotal role that money plays in even the smallest of local elections, b.) If we don’t turn out for ALL elections, even though midterm ones are hyped up less, our elected officials will be chosen without our consent by those who share absolutely zero interests with us and c.) No one knows whether or not someone was playing a joke on James Franco, so let’s all just forget about the whole “he tried to sleep with a 17-year-old thing.” It’s old news and we don’t appreciate the bad publicity, as we will be announcing our engagement very soon.
Also, vote in A.S. elections! I won’t place a shameless endorsement in this, I’m just super down with voting, and the party I’m voting for, if you know what I mean. ;)
Mckinley Krongaus knows that if there’s one thing that can get people interested in voting, it’s a James Franco mention (A.S. candidates: take note).