E Pluribus Unum

The Poughkeepsie Journal published an editorial today that crossed out public financing of elections as an integral part of ethics reform for Albany. Their argument: “But it also means taxpayers would have to help candidates they might find detestable and an affront to their beliefs.”

Our tax money inevitably contributes to policies with which we do not agree. We may, as the Poughkeepsie Journal reminds us, even find an elected’s policies to be detestable. However, in a vibrant marketplace of ideas and with the rule of law, Americans have consistently shown themselves faithful through a long series of peaceful transitions of power.

And this peaceful transfer of power is no small deed. History is replete with violent struggles and ploys. If a democracy is to remain tenable and stable, the majority can never stymy the guaranteed rights of the minority. Those in power, while wielding great power, cannot exercise it arbitrarily. With this constitutional guarantee, the United States have enjoyed both a prosperous and free society. I emphasize these points because in a greater sense–in a sense of a citizenry–public financing of elections helps to ensure elections stay focused on principles and voters.

In a sense, elections and voting may be our greatest public good. As the president of our national affiliate, US Action, William McNary reminds us, “We are the government.” If a candidate garners enough grass roots support, then we as active participants of representative democracy should provide those without the monetary means to launch a modern campaign a way forward. Or especially for those with the monetary means, encourage them to opt into a system of public funds.

It is often remarked that money flows like water. In other words, money is an omnipresent concern. Public financing of elections recognizes the importance of money in running a campaign and in doing so, encourages candidates to reach out to more voters, encourages voters to engage back, and places money out squarely in the open. Right from the get-go, trust is more easily established. The resulting election can then be more aptly called “people-powered.”

By Jia-Jia Zhu on January 13th, 2011

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