Who Gets Elected?

Boss Tweed depicted by Thomas Nast in a wood engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, Oct. 21, 1871.

Whether for a nation or even an organization, the nomination process is crucial in determining who gets elected. William “Boss” Tweed famously figured this out when he ran New York City from Tammany Hall in the 1860s. Tweed said that he did not need to care who got elected, as long as he controlled who got nominated.

As a nation, the gatekeepers of our nominations (and hence our leaders) are those who have the wealth to fund and support the candidates of their choosing. Globally, the 62 richest billionaires own and control as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population.

Here in America, only about 5 percent of Americans give the maximum amount possible to any candidate and, in 2012, 132 Americans gave 60 percent of all the Super Pac money spent. If you are not a part of the 1 percent, you must have their support and funds to run.

It is true that Bernie Sanders was able to make a credible run for the Democratic nomination on funding from the people. But he failed and it was found that the national party organization actively worked to defeat his candidacy. Individuals like Ross Perot, and now Donald Trump, have shown that a single person with the resources to finance their own campaign can drive the primary process. It is only a matter of time until it will become billionaire versus billionaire in a head-to-head match.

In a 2014 paper in Perspectives on Politics, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page stated America’s government is demonstrably responsive to the “economic elite and organized business interests.” Gilens and Page found “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

China has figured out the same thing. China is bringing democracy to Hong Kong via their insiders, rather than letting voters pick the candidates that get to run for chief executive. Beijing has the candidates selected by a tightly controlled “nominating committee,” thus ensuring an ultimate victor is a person of their choice. Any nation or organization that uses an insiders group to control the nomination process, the candidates and, ultimately, the winners, has a biased filter in their so-called democracy.

To open up our national elections to all candidates, we must take money and those who control it out of the equation. The way to do this is to shorten the election cycle and use public funds for all campaigns. For other organizations, all interested candidates should be allowed to run in a series of primaries to winnow the field down to a final two.

These are not radical or even new ideas. They are already in place and function well in many nations and organizations. The real question before us is how we get from a leadership structure of the few, by the few, for the few…to one of all the people, by all the people, for all the people.

Submitted by Craig Donovan


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