Are Our Politics Determined by Money or Self-Reflection?

As someone with a theoretical, rather than a practical understanding of our political system, I ask how we reconcile the popular view that money is ever present in the Republican party with the popular view that money dominates both the Democratic and Republican political parties? Some believe that only with the overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), and the enactment of new Federal campaign contribution limits on individuals and corporate entities, will American government be accountable to the electorate. The influence of the wealthy does dominate and determine our elections. Yet, there are large donors on both sides who are benevolent and offer a view of the common good in which they sincerely believe. And, some on both sides are less sincere and more self-interested.

Journalists covering campaigns do bring controversies to the public regarding those who are influential by virtue of political power derived from financial assets and not a given expertise or experience. So, the public is aware that the views of the majority do not determine elections, and that voters defer to those with known views who they feel have a better vantage point from which to decide what is best for the country. Even in the American history of not long ago, the public conceded to the Railroad Tycoons and the FDRs with an appreciative deference, though a resentment resulting from socio-economic status. Since that time, the majority has sought to cast off the yoke of paternalism. Our society possesses a more equal sense of opportunity, as well as of access to information and knowledge.

In America today, there is a greater sense of adequate materialism and a secure safety net. Yet, are the American working and middle classes of today more familiar with the profound blessings and power of the highly educated who have an understanding and role in society which they will never achieve themselves? They do not truly have economic want and they possess opportunities for their children of which they could not dream. Is their resentment, though existing without want, producing a disrespect for hierarchies and authorities generally?

Do those of the working and middle classes now resent the very academic institutions which produced their individual freedoms and the ability to exercise them? Are they not voting because they feel truly unable to duly consider the issues of government for want of formal education in the very complex and specialized subject matters citizens consider when evaluating candidates and reaching decisions on issues of referendum? As they do not participate, they cease to have a vested interest in the growth and development of their communities, commerce suffers, new residents are sparse and the communities decline.

In “off-year” elections, when voters are not moved by the issues of a Presidential campaign, few vote. In 2014, 40% of those eligible to vote in Ohio voted. This is local government by an interested few. Would more have a sense of personal interest in government if we brought before them the ideals and lessons on the manner in which they can affect government and their communities? With a sense of personal efficacy, would they then appreciate what they have amassed, can amass and what their children can amass.?

Even if new campaign contribution regulations are elusive in the anticipated future, I think that perhaps a sense of the efficacy of individual participation in politics might be achieved if we look to the basics of the American philosophy of government and encourage people to ask those offering ideas and public policies to explain how their suggestions are premised upon and strive to achieve our fundamental principles. To do this, we must frequently discuss the ideology of American representative democracy and ensure that all citizens and residents of our country, regardless of age, may look within and develop a sense of self-governance that believes in America. This November, and in the interim days, will you vote and or express your views and opinions?

Lori Gayle Nuckolls

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