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In these days of polarized politics there may be little those on the right and left can agree on.
But one principle that both still seem to share is that one person’s vote should be worth the same as another’s in a congressional election.
The truth today, though, is that Hawaii voters no longer believe that’s the case. A recent Civil Beat Poll found that the state’s registered voters believe the wealthy — whether corporations, labor unions or individuals — have an outsized impact on elections and the decisions of members of Congress.
This raises the question: Whose interests should representatives and senators give the greatest weight? Those of the people in their district? Or those of the people who contribute to their campaigns, whether or not they live in their district?
We think the answer is obvious: The people in their state or district.
What the poll revealed is that the current dissatisfaction with Congress is at least in part driven by the influence of big money, donors who’ve been freed by the 2010 Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision to pour millions into campaigns and help elect candidates who’ll serve their interests.
As the Sunlight Foundation’s Influence Explorer website points out, just 26,783 Americans accounted for 24.3 percent of all political contributions in the 2010 election.
We can see the distrust this influence causes in the words of the tea party on the right and Occupy Wall Street on the left.
There’s a feeling among many that the elected officials responsible for setting the direction of the country aren’t working for the people.
If the public believes that they’ve lost control of the political process, that the people in Congress are not working on their behalf, that’s a serious problem.
But it’s also a problem that Americans can do something about.
If Hawaii voters’ belief that Congress is primarily influenced by donors is widespread, it seems clear that fundamental reform will be necessary.
While history tells us that passing a constitutional amendment is a huge challenge, that doesn’t mean the effort isn’t worth exploring. At a minimum, consideration of an amendment would force into the open a necessary debate about the integrity of our political system.
Should members of Congress be put into office by anonymous groups with unlimited funding, as is permitted in the 2012 election? Or should the people have the say?
If we want to have a government that retains the trust of the electorate, the latter must be the case.
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