February 11, 2002
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I received a begging letter from a nominally liberal politician the other
day, saying all the right things about several issues. He lambasted
predictable targets on the right and was sure I'd love to give him some
money to fight the bastards.
But I have a new strategy for begging politicians: Just say No.
I scribbled across the donor card: "No. I'm not contributing to another politician until you pass serious campaign finance legislation."
Now I know that my tiny donations to politicians have never had any influence on their votes, or consciences, and my withholding them won't even be noticed. I'm not one of the fat cats who can make $50,000 bribes, .... excuse me, "campaign contributions," and so I've never been invited to sit in on congressional caucuses to help write laws to benefit me and my causes. I'm not the CEO of a multinational, a media mogul, a billionaire sports or entertainment personality, the heir to an ancient fortune.
In short, like millions of other non-rich Americans, I'm not represented by my representatives in Congress.
Nearly everyone who has been paying attention realized years ago that we have lost control of our government to the corporations and wealthy individuals who buy politicians almost as casually as they buy yachts and jet planes. The bought politicians in turn pass the laws that trash the environment, ravage the poor, suck tax money from the middle class, encourage the plundering of smaller companies by bigger ones leading to mass layoffs and emptied pension funds. The government no longer represents us, the collective us, it only represents the ruling wealthy elite.
Most people are aware of this at some level, but they don't know how it happened, don't know what to do about it, and fear that even to question it is somehow unpatriotic. The 'War on Terrorism' is one of the most powerful tools for squelching dissent that has ever been invented.
Sit down, shut up and just give us your tax money to build more expensive war toys to use on any (small, poor and defenseless) country that gets out of line, we're told. Don't you know there's a war on?
Once upon a time, the media would raise awkward questions when governments got this far out of line. Not all of the media, of course. There was never a golden age in which the media honestly, fairly and relentlessly reported on every nefarious thing that a government did. But there were nearly always a few courageous voices who dared speak out about some particularly egregious government action, and not infrequently they made a difference. But now the media is owned by a dozen giant corporations who prefer to be partners with power, or at least cheerleaders for power.
The only possible way out of this morass is true campaign finance reform. Only then can we find politicians who haven't already sold their souls to the soulless corporations. But, of course, the current crop of politicians isn't much interested in campaign finance reform that would endanger their campaign funds and chances for reelection. And for both philosophical and financial reasons, the media likes the status quo.
So are we hopeless? Perhaps, perhaps not.
There is something we can do. We can just say no to the politicians who seek our help and our money.
With most of the campaign money coming from corporations and the wealthy, our $20 and $100 donations may not look like much. But taken in total they are a significant political force.
Moreover, most political campaigns depend heavily on unpaid volunteer labor - to send out campaign literature, stuff their envelopes, man booths, canvass door to door, wear their buttons, ferry voters to the polls, etc. We can say no to that, too.
Tell the next politician who solicits your vote or your help that you're not going to get involved until he casts a vote for campaign finance reform.
Don't be an enabler.
Just say no.
Deck Deckert has spent nearly two decades as copy editor, wire editor and news editor at several metropolitan newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Miami News, before becoming a freelance writer. His articles and stories on everything from alligator farming to UFOs have appeared in numerous U.S. publications. He has written two young adult novels under a pen name, and co-authored a novel about the NATO war on Yugoslavia, Letters from the Fire, with Alma Hromic, who he met in an Internet discussion group. Deckert and Hromic subsequently married and are writing a book about their experience with Internet romance, Cyberdance.
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Deck Deckert 2001. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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