In 2016, there will be two elections. 99.95% of us won't get to vote in the important one.
It's not every day I hear something and think, "I have to share this with everyone," and I really mean everyone. Left, right, center, inside, outside, upside-down.
Do you ever watch the endless pre-primary coverage of the 2016 election and wonder where these people came from? Like, who decides who is worth even thinking about as a candidate?
I didn't get the chance to vote for them. And the odds are good that you didn't either. That's because there's another election you don't even know about. It's called the money election. And only 0.05% of Americans vote in it.
How can that be?
Here are the numbers, from around three minutes into an amazing talk by Lawrence Lessig.
- 0.26% of Americans gave more than $200 to any federal candidate.
- 0.05% of Americans gave the maximum allowable amount to any individual federal candidate.
- 0.01% of Americans (that's the top 1% of the top 1% of Americans) gave $10,000 or more to federal candidates.
- .000042% of Americans gave 60% of Super PAC dollars. That's 132 individual people. You literally could fit them all on a mid-sized plane, comfortably.
And candidates know they need to keep the donors happy.
Can you imagine how much our government could get done if they had 30%-70% more hours in the day?
Dependence on the funders is skewing our system, and the politicians are totally aware of it. At the five-minute mark, Leslie Byrne, a Democrat from Virginia, describes the advice she received on her first day at work in the U.S. Congress: "Always lean to the green." She clarified, "He was not an environmentalist."
"[This] is a corruption. ... I don't mean brown-paper-bag cash secreted among members of Congress. I don't mean Rod Blagojevich sense of corruption. I don't mean any criminal act. The corruption I'm talking about is perfectly legal. It's a corruption relative to the framers' baseline for this republic." — Lawrence Lessig
The good news, if you can call it that, is that the corruption is equally rampant on the left and the right.
That means we can all work together to fix it.
The framers — remember them? Gentleman farmers, revolutionaries, powdered wigs? — wanted us to have a branch of government that was answerable to us, the people. Of course, at the time, they meant just landowning white men, but one of the success stories of our republic is how we've managed to expand the franchise.
And now it's contracting.