If there is one thing we can agree in the 2016 election, it’s that our democracy is rigged.
This cost of this election is on track be upwards of $8 billion – the highest it’s ever been. Most of that money comes from a tiny group of super-rich donors, but almost none from students, young people, or the vast majority of Americans. According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, individuals in the finance, insurance, and real estate industries have already given more than $677 million to candidates.
What does this mean for the rest of us? Well, it means that the wrong voices are being heard. We need a democracy that is responsive to the interests of the people it serves. Instead, our democracy answers to the political power of the ultra-rich before it answers to the rest of us. If we want to solve problems like climate change, rising student debt, mass incarceration, and growing income inequality, this needs to change. We need to prioritize getting big money out of politics and putting people back in. As students, we have a huge role to play.
What can we do? For starters, we can vote for candidates who support real solutions to big political money. One solution is the public financing of election campaigns, so ordinary Americans can afford to run for office without depending on mega-donors. Another is overturning Citizens United – the Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money through super PACS.
Now, I know that many of us are so fed up with electoral politics that voting doesn’t seem like an adequate solution. It seems like we’re in a catch-22. Voting may seem silly until we reform our election process. However, it is unlikely that this reform will happen unless we vote. I urge you to ensure that any decision you make about voting moves us closer to a fair, responsive democracy.
No matter what you decide, our involvement needs to continue even after this election. We need to continue advocating for a real democracy – writing, calling, emailing, petitioning, meeting with politicians, rallying, and using social media to hold politicians’ feet to the fire.
We need to do everything we can to support campaign finance reform and stop big money campaign donors from dominating politics and leaving the rest of us behind. Whether that’s voting, holding politicians accountable, or raising awareness, we all need to do our part and get involved. Join me – let’s reclaim our democracy.