Jerry Moore and I agree on at least one thing: Far too few people participate in our democracy.
I’d like to join him in encouraging more people to vote, petition their representatives and run for public office.
But Moore’s recent column criticizing the movement for a 28th Amendment (Second Opinion, “Amending our thinking on big money in politics,” Aug. 4) argues that political apathy is “killing our democracy”— not big money in elections.
These challenges are intertwined, not mutually exclusive.
Big money prevents our representatives from being responsive to voters’ preferences and, as a result, people tune out of politics.
You need a lot of money to win an election.
In New York’s 21st Congressional District in 2018, nearly $4.5 million was spent between the top three candidates, with more than 78 percent coming from PACs or donations of more than $200.
And the way you convince wealthy people to donate is to convince them you will vote in their interests.
This is what happens in our democracy.
The preferences of ordinary citizens have little or no influence on public policy.
Instead, our laws represent the preferences of special interests and economic elites who contribute the vast majority of political money.
Moore is right when he says, “Elected officials respond to those who put them in office and keep them in power.”
They respond to the .47 percent of Americans who contribute more than 70 percent of political money.
The argument that an amendment would get rid of group rights also misses the mark.
The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment would remain intact for protected classes like the racial minorities Moore identified.
The right to associate, protected by the First Amendment, also would be unaffected. What would be affected is the ability of special interests to claim those protections for their own political gain.
Of course, campaigns require money. Our goal is to make sure that the voices of big business, unions and economic elites don’t crowd out ordinary Americans, and reasonable limitations are possible.
Healthy democracies around the world have enjoyed vigorous political discourse while regulating the cost of elections.
And if our democracy worked as intended, maybe more people would make an appearance on Election Day.
The writer is state manager of American Promise. He is a 2016 graduate of Syracuse University.