This Fourth of July, as we the people gather together in remembrance, let’s ask ourselves this simple question: How well are my individual interests, and our collective interests, being represented today by our Washington politicians?
It’s an important question, for we declared our independence from Great Britain in 1776, fought a war, and founded our country over the issue of improper representation. The original settlers of America had come to feel that, in levying taxes on the colonists, King George the III was representing his own interests, and those of his wealthy trading company backers, without properly considering the interests of American colonists.
Subsequently, when our founders, in 1787, gathered in Philadelphia to draft our original Constitution, they were very sensitive to this issue of improper representation.
During debate, this question emerged. What if we set up a new form of government and, at some future time, a majority of the people feel it’s happening again, and Congress won’t fix it?
That time has arrived. A great deal of evidence, plus recent polls document that outcomes of legislation, regulations, and policy are often tipped to serve the interests of wealthy contributors. The minority party in Congress often engages in tactics that promote gridlock in order to hopefully become the majority party, rather than to actually resolve issues important for American citizens.
We in Vermont elect good people as part of our Vermont Congressional delegation. Then they go to Washington and operate in a current political system structured to provide improper incentives that, in turn, often corrupt outcomes. It’s a system problem.
The fundamental problem is that 96 percent of us don’t contribute a dime directly to any federal political candidate or party. Congress thus regularly represents the interests of this tiny minority of their wealthy contributors rather than our interests.
Unfortunately, many in Congress have little incentive to fix things. The present system serves their interests, provides them with the campaign cash to better stay in power, and also serves the interests of their wealthy funders. But our founding fathers provided us with a remedy. If Congress won’t act to amend our Constitution and pass supporting legislation to refocus Congress and our government to properly serve the people’s interests, we citizens can do it, through our legislature.
A few months ago our Vermont state legislature did just that, by being the first state in America to call for an Article V constitutional convention for the sole purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America that would limit the corrupting influence of money in our electoral process.
This issue affects all of us, regardless of whether we are conservative, moderate, liberal or progressive.
We all pay when Congress takes action to enable wealthy economic interests in ways that moves money out of our pockets and into theirs. We all are affected, on practically every major issue before Congress these days.
While most of us can agree we’ve got a significant problem, we’ve barely begun to reach consensus on how to comprehensively rescue our democracy and reclaim our representation. Much can go wrong along the way. Solutions can be proposed which appear to help, but which aren’t comprehensive enough to really repair the underlying problem.
We need a great deal of robust discussion and debate about how best to accomplish this. Let it involve people with wide ranges of expertise, opinion, and ideas, occurring often over time and in many forums.
As former Vermont Governor Phil Hoff has stated, "this is the paramount issue of our time, for it goes to the very core of our democracy and representation."
1: Gallop Poll - Most Important Problem:
2: Global Strategy Group 5736. Fund for the Republic Survey 2013.12.
4: http://www.leg. state. vt. us/docs/2014/Acts/ACTR454.pdf
Rick Hubbard is a resident of South Burlington.