Although I am a passable photographer and writer, my career for the last 24 years has been that of a paralegal. So to ask what single law I would enact if given the power puts me in quite a quandary. In our current political climate there are so many from which to choose, including gay rights, tax reform, end of life, right to privacy, and on and on, each having the ability to affect a large segment of the American population.
However, my aim would be to positively affect all Americans, as individual people, not as members of an agenda-specific collective. Our nation was founded on governance of the people, by the people and for the people. It is no secret that this country has been taken over and monopolized by the obscenely wealthy and privileged few. For an average schmuck like me to rise to the level of a D.C. incumbent in this day and age is an understated impossibility. I will have had to attend Harvard, come from money, have political influence, etc.
Therefore, my law would concern political campaigns, elections and lobbying. Strict accountability would be required and any violations would eliminate a candidate from continuing to run or, if already elected, would be grounds for immediate termination and the runner up would be appointed. If I cheated at my I would be terminated, so why not them?!
Regarding campaigns, I would level the playing field by imposing a maximum dollar amount to be spent on campaigns. A flat budget of $10 million to be used as the candidate saw fit, whether it is newspaper ads, TV commercials or radio spots. This statute would also eliminate any and all corporate campaign contributions, ensuring that private interests no longer determine the path our nation follows. Additionally, no candidate would be permitted to use their name, gender, ethnicity, picture or references to their past political service. It would be completely blind and negative messaging and mud-slinging would be strictly forbidden. A candidate would only be permitted to discuss themselves based on what the candidate feels they could bring to the table going forward.
I would also mandate a limit on the amount of time any candidate is permitted to campaign. I mean how many of you are sick to death of the now 24 month barrage of messaging with which we are all inundated? I for one and beyond over it! All candidates would have only four months to present their case to the people as to why they should be our leader. If people cannot determine in four months who is fit to lead then they aren’t paying attention.
Debates would be reformed as well. Candidates would no longer set the terms to be skewed in their favor. All candidates, regardless of party affiliation, would be required to participate. There would be three separate debates which address foreign policy, domestic policy and the economy. There would be no media commentary before or after each debate and there would be no party speeches concerning the perceived outcome of the debate.
Elections would be held over a period of one week, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. This would provide a better opportunity for single parents, shift workers and anyone else currently disenfranchised by the existing system to cast their vote. Votes would be cast electronically on machines that are designed, manufactured and serviced by a foreign, disinterested third party company. Now before you start getting all pissy about the loss of American jobs, think about how valid that argument is every time you spend money at a Walmart or any other big-box store that continually supports the national economy of India and China! The voting machines would not only require the entry of a valid social security number, but would also have a paper back up tape as well as a real-time encrypted data stream to a separate fourth party storage facility. This would ensure that there is one vote per citizen, that the machines cannot be rigged and that the results are not in the hands of those who built the machines in the first place.
Finally, and not the least important, when the people do select a candidate and that person reports to office, they will find themselves free of the shameless influence of lobbyists and all other forms of political influence. The only people permitted to roam the halls of Washington’s elected officials’ offices would be the elected official, their staff (who are hired in a fair, open application process free from nepotism), and the individual citizens who elected them. No corporate representatives, no special interests, just the incumbent, their staff and the people who put them there.
Since the elected official is an employee of the people, they will be required to account for all of their time spent on the people’s dime and, to that end, like most Americans they will be required to work at least 5 days a week for 50 weeks per year, with two weeks off for vacation and the standard national holidays and personal days permitted any other working citizen. They would be required to contribute to the cost of their own health insurance and would receive a standard 401k contribution. And, since corporations are no longer offering pensions, they wouldn’t be offered one either. In short, their benefits will mirror those of the average American in order to give them perspective. They would hold office for no more than six years and, should they choose, would have to run for reelection with every other potential candidate, following the same rules. However, they would not be permitted to campaign while on the people’s clock, they would have to use their own free time and resources.
I believe this process would weed out the greed and corruption, the undue and shameless political influence by those with the money to do so, the epic amounts of wasted time and resources and, most importantly, level the playing field to ensure that any citizen could truly run for office and be elected, no matter their background.
I realize that this is a completely utopian view, and that all topics political invite harsh if not scathing criticism. However, in my mind, this would be a gigantic step towards eliminating the encroaching feeling of futility and hopelessness I have felt in the last 20 years concerning the rapidly increasing pace at which we are approaching plutocracy.