Public financing of elections amplifies the voices of all citizens in a democracy of, by, and for the people. A well-designed public finance program for elections can create an incentive for candidates to fundraise and connect with the people they seek to represent. There are multiple models for us to explore. Publicly financed campaigns can translate into a donor base that looks more like the fabric of the community, rather than a handful of wealthy elites. We deserve a real democracy.
Not suggesting: declaring it. We have too much money in politics and not nearly enough money in democracy. Without a voice calling for reform, we won’t be able to trust our elected representatives to change the system they benefit from. But money, given by companies treating legislative races as business expense and the most wealthy, rewarding the party they believe to be friendlier to their status of wealth, harms our communities by pushing one narrative or position without bringing opposing positions to the community.
Money in elections does not express the will of their constituents, and often does exactly the opposite: it forces upon a community a premise that is in conflict with the beliefs most of us have. Repairing the harm and setting up systems to strengthening North Dakota election through bottom-up investments in our local civil society and democracy will be hard, but we must talk about doing so.
Organizations like International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance have labeled the U.S. a “backsliding” democracy, and The Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School recently released a national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds that indicates a majority of young Americans believe our democracy is “in trouble” or “failing.”
Many people who care about improving their communities choose to donate to political elections as their primary strategy to advance preferred policies. That is logical, of course, but insufficient. Public financing of elections amplifies the voices of all citizens in a democracy of, by, and for the people. A well-designed program can create an incentive for candidates to fundraise and connect with the people they seek to represent. And this translates to a donor base that looks more like the fabric of the community, rather than a handful of wealthy elites, because we deserve a real democracy.
We must explore options that provide for public financing of some of our elections. I have options, sure, but I also need partners. What would you hope for in such a system?
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