Campaign to Ruin

The constant media attention directed towards Republican candidates recently—particularly Donald Trump—has reminded me of an issue that is generally not given enough consideration: campaign reform. The campaign trail for presidential elections in the United States lasts over two years. There is no law in the US limiting the length of campaigns, whereas in many other democratic countries, election cycles have limits of two months or less. Candidates often begin fundraising almost as soon as the last election is over; a super PAC backing Hillary Clinton was launched just days after Obama’s inauguration in 2013. The US is also the only first world country with a democratic election system that puts no restriction on how much money can be spent in a campaign—or rather, there is a spending limit on how much the candidate can spend in order to receive public funding. But there is no limit on spending for PACs or super PACs. The most recent attempt to reform campaign finance, the bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, was summarily picked apart by the conservative Supreme Court over the course of several different cases. In effect, the Court declared that corporations, being people too, should have the same right to free speech as any individual, and therefore be unrestricted from “independent political expenditures.” Of course, those independent political expenditures happen to be aligned with the campaigns of specific candidates, but who’s keeping track?

This overblown campaign process contributes to generalized platforms for candidates--vague promises that are rarely upheld--as well as a distinct lack of voter turnout, a whole other issue in itself. The underlying problem here is that the only people who can effect a change to this policy are the ones with the most to lose from doing so.

--Wendy Chao