Sunday, 30 August 2015

Democracy is more important than climate change #WOLFPAC

I know, I know, this is comparing apples to oranges. This is a political post. I am thinking of a specific action I am enthusiastic about to make America a great democracy again: WOLFPAC is working to get a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics. If I had to chose between a mitigation sceptical WOLFPAC candidate and someone who accepts climate change, but is against this amendment, I would chose the mitigation sceptic.

Money is destroying American politics. Politicians need money for their campaigns. The politician with most money nearly always wins. This goes both ways; bribing the winner is more effective, but money for headquarters and advertisements sure help a lot to win. For the companies this is a good investment; the bribe is normally much smaller than the additional profit they make by getting contracts and law changes. Pure crony capitalism.

This is a cross-partisan issue. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump boosted:
[W]hen you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do. ... I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people. Before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me. And that's a broken system.
For Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders getting money out of politics is a priority issue. He will introduce "the Democracy Is for People constitutional amendment" and promises "that any Sanders Administration Supreme Court nominee will commit to overturning the disastrous Citizens United decision."

Bribery will not stop with an appeal to decency. It should be forbidden.

The WOLFPAC plan to get bribery forbidden sounds strong. They want to get a constitutional amendment to forbid companies to bribe politicians and want this amendment passed by the states, rather than Washington, because the federal politicians depend most on the corporate funding. They believe that state legislators believe stronger in their political ideals. This is also my impression in local politics as a student; also the politicians I did not agree with mostly seemed to believe in what they said. Once I even overheard a local politician passionately discussing a reorganization to improve services and employee moral, with his girlfriend in a train on a Saturday afternoon.

In Washington it is harder to win against lobbies who have much more money. At the state level election campaigns are cheaper, this makes the voice of the people stronger and a little money makes more impact. This makes it easier for WOLFPAC to influence the elections; try to get rid of politicians who oppose the amendment, reward the ones that work for it.

Even at the federal level there may actually be some possibilities. Corporations also compete with each other. They are thus more willing to fund campaigns that help themselves than campaigns that help all companies. In the most extreme case, if only one company would have to cough up all the money to keep money in politics, this company would be a lot less profitable than all the others that benefit from this "altruistic company". In other words, even if companies have a lot of money, you are not fighting against their entire war chest.

Almost all people are in favour of getting money out of politics. Thus a campaign in favour of it is much cheaper than one against. WOLFPAC was founded by the owner of The Young Turks internet news company, which has a reach that is comparable to the cable new channels. This guarantees that the topic will not go away and that time is on our side. Some politicians may like to ignore the amendment as long as they can, but will not dare to openly oppose such a popular proposal. With more and more states signing on, the movement becomes harder to ignore.

Wealthy individuals may well bribe politicians now, but be in favour of no one being able to do so. Just like someone can fly or drive a car while being in favour of changing the transport system so that this is no longer necessary.

It needs two thirds of the states (34) to call for a constitutional convention on a certain topic. The amendment that comes out of this then has to be approved by three quarter of the states. The beginning is hardest, but at the moment I am writing this, the main hurdle has already been taken: four states—Vermont, California, New Jersey and Illinois—have already called for a constitutional convention, see map at the top. In
Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri and New Hampshire, the amendment already passed one of the houses. In many more the resolution has been introduced or approved in committees.



I would say this has a good chance of winning. It would feel so good to get this working. For America and for the rest of the world; given how dominant America is, a functioning US political system is important for everyone. It would probably also do a lot to heal the culture war in America, fuelled by negative campaigning. As such it could calm down the climate "debate", which is clearly motivated by politics and only pretends to worry about the integrity of science. The nasty climate "debate" is a social problem in the USA, which should be solved politically in the USA, no amount of science communication can do this.

A recent survey across 14 industrialised nations has found that Australia and Norway are the most mitigation sceptical countries. This does not hurt Norway because it has a working political system. A Norwegian politician could not point to a small percentage of political radicals to satisfy his donors. In a working political system playing the fool seriously hurts your reputation; it would probably even work better to honestly say you do this because you support fossil fuel companies. The political radicals at WUWT & Co. will not go away, but it is not a law that politicians use them as excuse.

[UPDATE. Politics in Australia also works, just a little slower, mitigation sceptical prime minister Tony Abbott toppled after two years by science accepting Malcolm Turnbull.]

Please have a look at the plan of WOLFPAC. I think it could work and that would be fabulous.


1 comment:

Victor Venema said...

Maybe I should add that a second amendment to get money out of the media would also be great, but television, which is the main problem, may become irrelevant soon. Already now TV news is largely something for pensioners. The readers of tabloids probably do not take them that seriously, they are not just wrong on climate change.

If politicians have more mainstream opinions that would likely also moderate what is seen as a normal opinion in the mass media.