Ideally, elections are about ideas.
In our dark times of money-soaked, bitterly negative campaigns, however, policy discussions are being shoved aside by raw partisanship and vitriol. This not only means that good ideas are ignored, but also that downright bad ideas can become public policy without the public knowing it.
For example, one idea floating around would snuff out your Constitutional right to free speech and assembly by putting an exorbitant fee on public protests in our nation's Capital City. In other words, you'd still be "free" to rally for or against any issue or policy — but not for free! Believe it or not, this is an actual proposal by the Trump Team. Apparently, they're offended by all the mass demonstrations against their policies on women, immigrant children, climate change, union busting, voter suppression, Putin, the Supreme Court, etc. So they want to make each protesting group pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government for policing and other costs associated with guaranteeing the right of Americans to rally together and speak out about public policies.
Corporations and billionaires would have no problem paying, but regular people and grassroots groups would be priced off the public lawn. Such historic protests as Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 march and his "I Have a Dream" speech couldn't have happened under Trump's pay-me plan.
I'm guessing that some 90 percent of Americans — Republican, Democrats and otherwise — would shout "NO!" to this repression of a fundamental civic right. But I'd also bet that not a single congressional candidate has even mentioned it to voters in this year's elections. Worse, it's likely that most lawmakers are not even aware of it. Yet, in perverse Orwellian language, the Trumpsters pushing the plan say that it's "designed to provide greater clarity about how and where demonstrations can occur in a manner that protects historically important land."
I was born at night, but it wasn't last night! This proposal is designed to protect nothing but the bad policies of the power elites from objections by riffraff like you and me.
And if you're wondering where Congress' next truly bad idea will come from, keep tabs on a secretive far-right-wing group called ALEC.
The American Legislative Exchange Council runs a legislative brothel with an exclusive corporate clientele. The Koch brothers, AT&T, ExxonMobil, Pfizer, UPS and other giants pay ALEC to arrange private rendezvous between them and Republican state lawmakers who are ... well, on the make. In exchange for promising to sponsor special-interest bills for the corporate johns, ALEC's bawdyhouse of state legislators gains corporate sugar daddies to fund their future campaigns. It's a hanky-panky quid pro quo that's tawdry, and it has produced litter after litter of bad laws that enrich the rich, impoverish the workaday majority and destroy America's democratic vitality.
Now comes ALEC pushing a very bad proposition that is an absolute corporate wet dream, for it would remove the people's power to elect our United States senators, letting state legislators choose them instead. We don't know which corporate powers are embracing this regressive, anti-democratic idea, because ALEC promises favor-seeking corporations that it will hide their identities. This maneuver to take power from the people and turn it over to for-hire legislators would return America to the days of outright auctioning off senate seats. Until the people passed the 17th Amendment in 1913, senators were named in backroom deals between corporate bribers and crooked lawmakers. ALEC's draft proposal is bluntly succinct: "The 17th article of amendment ... is hereby repealed." Back to the future!
This idea of ripping off the people's democratic power is being touted by such intellectual giants as Rick "Oops" Perry, the corrupt former governor of Texas who's now turning tricks for energy conglomerates as Trump's energy secretary. Perry wails that the 1913 law letting the public elect senators "took the states out of the process." So now Rick and other corporate supremacists want to take the people out of the electoral process so the state can control it — the corporate state, that is.
To repeal this repeal effort by plutocratic extremists, connect with Common Cause: CommonCause.org.
Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes "The Hightower Lowdown," a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.