August 20, 2015

The presidential candidates will be taking on many issues this campaign season, but will anyone discuss the nation’s propping up of foreign governments that deny their citizens fundamental political rights, corrupt systems that allow oligarchies to bribe their way to power? Former President Jimmy Carter warned recently of “an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery” assuring political control for the few over the many.

Except he wasn’t talking about foreign governments; he was talking about the United States and our disgraceful campaign finance system.

Here is what the former president had to say on the Thom Hartman Program, as captured by firstlook.org:

HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy. … Your thoughts on that?

CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over. … The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.

Alarmism from a has-been, you say. Let’s take a look at some recent headlines:

The New York Times: Small Pool of Rich Donors Dominates Election Giving

The Washington Post: 2016 Fundraising Shows Power Tilting to Groups Backed by Wealthy Elite

Huffington Post: Oligarchy of Super PAC Megadonors Have Conquered American Politics

This is the most important thing to keep in mind as we watch the majesty of our presidential campaign unfold: the primaries, live shots from Iowa caucuses, candidates rising and falling in the polls, debates, stadium rallies, Karl Rove clinging to hope on election night on the Fox News set. The idea that we have a functioning democracy dependent on “the consent of the governed” is a farce.

And that isn’t happening in some foreign country we could impose sanctions on until it allows its people their political rights. It’s happening here.

money in politics, Jimmy Carter

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