Pondering The Cost of Democracy


The last few days, ponders of democracy occupy paths normally open to cavalcades of random thought. My only hope of restoring a comfortable state of meandering contemplation is to “ponder” and move on. Consternation stems from absurd differences between American and Canadian election machines. How is democracy possible if self serving corporations fund elections, or election spending has no limit?

Elections Canada enforces allowable election expenditure and donations. Individual donations are restricted to $1000 a year, per person. Corporate donations are forbidden under any circumstance. Allowable spending for Federal elections follow a strict formula, two sets of calculations based on national and local campaigns. Nationally, parties are allowed .70 cents per registered voter in any riding a candidate is on the ballot – in translation, roughly $21 million for the 3 major parties (not a penny more from start to finish)  Locally candidates are allowed $2.07 for the first 15,000 registered voters. $1.04 for the next 10,000 and .52 cents for remaining voters.

http://www.canada.com/news/Elections+Canada+sets+campaign+spending+limits/4671757/story.html

America’s Federal Election Commission (FEC) oversees U.S. election spending. Unraveling intricacies of FEC regulations exceed my patience. Individuals may give $2,600 annually to individual candidates, $30,800 to national party committees, $10,000 to local committees, $5000 to “other” committees and as of a 2014 Supreme Court ruling –  no limit.

“The court’s 88-page decision reflected sharply different visions of the meaning of the First Amendment and the role of government in regulating elections, with the majority deeply skeptical of government efforts to control participation in politics, and the minority saying that such oversight was needed to ensure a functioning democracy.”

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Shaun McCutcheon, who brought the case with the Republican National Committee. Credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for four justices in the controlling opinion, said the overall limits could not survive First Amendment scrutiny. “There is no right in our democracy more basic,” he wrote, “than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/03/us/politics/supreme-court-ruling-on-campaign-contributions.html?_r=0

It’s important to focus on concerns of the minority justices in the decision – “oversight was needed to ensure a functioning democracy”. No shit Sherlock.

According to Wikipedia, candidates political parties and independent groups spent 5.3 billion during the 2008 election. Obama’s campaign hemorrhaged a record $730 million, John McCain squandered $333 million. The 2010 midterm elections cost 3.6 billion. On average, prevailing House of Representatives seats were secured with 1.4 million, Senate seats went for 9.8 million.

How can America bristle at the suggestion it isn’t a democracy? On what planet does a constitutional right to elect politicians translate to unlimited financial manipulation of election results? Is it “American” to mindlessly gobble assertions they live in a free and democratic society? Please tell me how Political Action Committees, sneaky navigation of loop-holes, flagrant special interest sponsorship and unfettered election spending equal fair representation. Do the American people actually believe their system represents “the people”, as in “we the people” and all that jazz.

Canada is far from perfect. Allegations percolate around over spending financial limits during Stephen Harper’s 2008 election run. That said, at least Canada strives for sanity. Canadian elections are swift, regulated and frankly a whole lot more democratic than our neighbors to the south. Why Americans aren’t calling bat shit on a system designed to coddle entitled echelons of society is beyond me.