Senator Gillibrand’s bold and creative idea gives more voters a voice.

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Let me first say that having spent this past weekend off of Twitter and away from the political world, I felt a sense of relief. I highly recommend this to any of you out there who have been suffering from Trump derangement syndrome. No Trump tweets. No Trump comments. No Trump. I have to admit … I feel pretty damn good.

That being said, this is a political blog and I’m in this game for the long run. I care about politics and I’m not going to let the occupant in The White House ruin it for me. And, on cue, I see he’s already weighed in on The Kentucky Derby, lied about aid to Puerto Rico, and stated his desire that Robert Mueller should not testify before Congress. Yep, if it’s a day that ends in y, the President of the United States is either lying … or complaining. Nothing has changed.

But back to politics. There are a whole lot of Democrats running for the presidential nomination–in case you haven’t heard. I think we’re in the low twenties at this point and I think we should be near the end of those declaring–at least I hope that’s the case. Enough is enough.

I have not decided as of yet, who I will support. But I do like some of the proposals I’ve been hearing from various candidates. I’ve already weighed in on some of Elizabeth Warren’s policies, and she has certainly been very impressive in the early going. But we’re starting to hear from the others as well. And when I hear any of them come up with something I feel sets them apart from the others,  I promise I will highlight it.

To that point, before my brief self-exclusion from all things political this past weekend, I saw an interview of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC. She spoke of a new policy initiative on an issue that’s near and dear to my heart: money in politics.

Senator Gillibrand, to be fair, has not been able to muster a whole lot of attention thus far. The latest polling doesn’t even have her registering 1%. So, it’s going to be an uphill battle for the Senator from New York. Nevertheless, I hope her newest proposal at least gets some attention.

Her plan’s goal is to get more small-dollar donations into politics. She wants to give every voter $200 they can donate to the presidential candidate of their choice. She calls the plan “Clean Elections” and she unveiled it via Medium last Wednesday, and then on her interview with Hayes.

The gist of the plan is this: every voter who opts in would receive $200 to donate for each presidential election, split across the primary and the final race. Voters would also receive the same amount of money for both federal Senate and House races, which could ultimately mean they could get a total of $600 per person, depending on the cycle.

How would she pay for it? By eliminating a tax subsidy that CEO’s receive, which her campaign estimated would result in roughly $60 billion revenue over a ten-year period. Look, the bottom line here is that the Senator feels it’s a pretty good idea to try and give more voters a voice in federal elections, instead of the oversized one that rich donors now enjoy. I could not agree more.

In her Medium piece, Gillibrand writes, “For too long, small groups of wealthy donors have had outsized influence over our government. These groups also tend to be disproportionately white and male. My plan would flip the equation–empowering more women of color to have a say in our government and set our course for a more equal and just future.”

The plan itself is modeled after “Democracy Vouchers,” enacted by the city of Seattle in 2015, and it’s a plan I wrote about in this space. Vox has a good piece examining the pros and cons of Seattle’s initiative, as well as what it might mean for Gillibrand’s going forward.

It’s far too early to speculate if her plan will ever see the light of day. But, she deserves credit for being bold and creative. And let’s also not lose sight of the fact that it’s the Democratic Party that’s at least trying to address an issue that I think goes to the heart of what’s wrong in our Democracy. The Republican Party is nowhere to be seen on this. The more Democrats running for the nomination go down this road, the more the American people get to see which party is willing to change, and which party is quite comfortable with the status quo.

Most of the candidates have expressed the desire to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision of 2010. The House of Representatives has already passed an anti-corruption/voter enhancement initiative(HR 1), which didn’t see the light of day in the Republican led Senate. These are the kind of things that must be pointed out to the American people on a daily basis. Until we get control of money in politics–we’re screwed. The people who are putting up roadblocks need to be voted out. Period.

So, while Senator Gillibrand may be having a tough time gaining traction with her campaign, she deserves some real credit here for putting some specifics out there for all of us to digest. The debates are coming soon. Here’s hoping the Senator’s idea gets a fair shake from the media.

 

8 comments

  1. I’m passionate about democracy too, but I’m not sure that paying people to ‘donate’ will achieve much. After all, what’s to stop the candidates from just accepting all those small donations and /adding/ them to the big donations already on offer?

    As an Australian I’d suggest using that money to make the actual process of voting easier. Here in Australia, voting always happens on a Saturday so everyone can get to a voting booth. We also have pre-polling and postal votes. Everything is designed to make the process as painless as possible because…we have compulsory voting.

    As I understand it, registering for and actually getting to vote is really hard in the US, especially for those on limited incomes. If the middle of the population bell curve got into the habit of voting, the greed of politicians might be neutralised by the fear of being voted /out/ entirely.

    Apologies if I’ve misunderstood how the US system works.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No, you have a very good understanding of how America works. It stinks, quite frankly. The Australian model would be wonderful over here. But here’s the thing, we have a political party on one side that has no desire whatsoever to make it easier to vote. On the contrary, voter suppression is alive and well. The only way we could possibly get anything close to your model is if the Democratic Party were to win the presidency, and control both houses of Congress with supermajorities. Otherwise, all we can hope for is incremental progress, mostly at the state and local level. It’s a sad and pathetic realization that our Democracy is basically controlled by the rich and wealthy…with corporations in control of our politicians.
      Senator Gillibrand’s proposal has a slim and none chance to ever see the light of day. But, my point is to highlight the fact that she belongs to the political party that is at least TRYING to make things better for the common men and women in our society. She’s trying to make it easier to vote. She’s trying to make our Democracy more inviting to those who have so little.
      And we have a Supreme Court of the United States who are clearly more inclined to side with those who have the power and the money. I would love for us to move closer to your model. I fear I will go to my grave with the status quo still intact.
      Thanks for reading…and commenting!!! I appreciate it

      Liked by 2 people

      1. In many ways, Australia was lucky to become a nation at the start of the 20th century. We could innovate our democracy more than either the UK or the US, but I think we all need to work at keeping our democracies relevant. How is not so clear.
        I can’t see the US giving up on the idea of democracy so change will come, in time.
        Stay strong. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thank you. Yes, democracy is messy..but like you said….we can’t give up.. I certainly won’t!!

        Like

  2. Hmmm … I hadn’t heard Gillibrand’s proposal. It’s interesting, and has some merit, but I don’t see it ever coming to fruition. I do give her a high five for innovation and for trying to give us all a voice that we currently lack. Like the rest, I think it is imperative to overturn Citizens United, for until we do, the gun manufacturers, fossil fuel industry, big ag, and automakers will own at least half of our elected representatives. But beyond that, I think some of the most important things that need to happen in order to assure fair elections are: re-districting of gerrymandered states by independent, non-partisan groups; re-instate the portion of the Voting Rights Act that was dropped some years ago; reverse discriminatory voter ID laws; make polling places more accessible to everyone; all states should have “no excuse” absentee voting. Those are the ones that could easily be done before the next election. There are a couple of others that would require more effort, but would go a long way toward making elections fair: end the electoral college; move election day to a Sunday when people don’t have to find a way to juggle job, kids and voting; mandatory voting.

    Hats off and thumbs up to you for taking a break from it all! I have tried, but … I cannot. I need to. But I cannot. It calls me, even in my sleep. I wake frequently during the night (on the nights I sleep, that is) to check my phone for ‘breaking news’. Sigh. This is going to be the death of me yet!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, this alleged POTUS has us all in an uproar doesn’t he? Our 242 year sacred document is being tested on a daily basis…we’re at such a crisis point now….ughhhh…
      I agree with all your points on making things easier to vote. In the divided government we now have however, it’s going to be next to impossible to achieve. The Senate must go to the Dems in 2020, as well as the presidency of course…and keep the House. It’s a tall order Jill. It’s doable though. Absent that, we’re in big trouble….

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think we are definitely in a heap of trouble, and I cannot help but wonder if the Constitution will hold this time. Ah well, you and I and others will keep trying to open the eyes of our country. 👍

        Liked by 1 person

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