Donald Trump pledged to "drain the swamp" during the presidential campaign. It’s an effective metaphor that captures the widespread frustration people have with our current political system. We’re all mad. Our government is broken. Everyone sees the big-money corruption in our election system. We the People are not being represented. There’s a long list of issues we’re facing today — health care reform, tax reform, education, etc. Nothing is going to get fixed until our representatives represent us. Right now, all the control is in the hands of the special interests.
These same frustrations are fueling a movement here in Wisconsin and across the nation. It’s the movement to amend the Constitution in order to get big money out of politics. The Supreme Court has given constitutional rights meant only for individuals to artificial entities such as corporations and unions and has ruled that money spent to influence the political process cannot be limited. Thus, our government today serves powerful special interests, foreign and domestic, instead of the American people. The Supreme Court has rigged the system to favor billionaires and corporate fat cats. Our founders had a healthy distrust of big corporations and moneyed interests. We are not going to fix this mess until we get back to that.
Wisconsin United To Amend is a nonpartisan, all-volunteer group that helps guide local citizens through the referendum process. In the 2016 election, 18 more communities had amendment referendums on their ballots — all over the state — and they passed with approvals averaging 85 percent. Amazing support. That brings the total to 95 communities in Wisconsin and over 700 nationwide supporting a constitutional amendment.
Voters want to put an end to this corruption in our election system. Unfortunately, both parties spend most of their time pandering to the donor class. If you’ve got $100 million or more, our government will work for you.
So we have a nationwide movement demanding an end to crony capitalism and two political parties that just ignore us between campaigns. What do we do? We stay mad. We call our state representatives and tell them to get on board or get out of office. We get in their faces. We vote them out of office and vote in people who really care about this core issue.
We’re seeing increased activism across the country, with more marches, protests and grass-roots organizing. However, most of this energy is spread thinly over a wide spectrum of issues, none of which can be fixed until the underlying problem is solved — the lack of representation caused by the flood of campaign cash.
Reform movements can take decades. We ended slavery. Women can vote. We recovered from the last Gilded Age. We can fix this too. We’re making tremendous progress. It’s been less than seven years since the disastrous Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. Since then, 18 states have called for an amendment to overturn that decision. In 2014, an amendment got 54 votes in the U.S. Senate.
Decades of negative advertising and party propaganda have resulted in extreme two-party polarization. We’re divided, but are we really that much different? We all love our children, we want good education and affordable health care, a fair tax system and small efficient government. Don’t listen to the party hacks and the rabid partisans. We need to work together to get America back on track. Our two-party system is another thing that’s broken. We need to look beyond party labels and find good candidates who will stand with the people.
Donald Trump says he wants to drain the swamp of corruption in Washington. Really there are 50 swamps. And it’s going to take all of us. It’s time to reclaim our republic. To learn more, please visit the Wisconsin United To Amend website.
Jim Crist is co-chair of Wisconsin United To Amend.
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