Let's Fix This Country

What’s Wrong With America? A Canadian’s Spot On Critique

Dear Let's Fix This Country:

I applaud your stated objective of fostering a non-partisan dialogue to make the US a better nation.

The view from a foreign country (we live in Canada) may not be of interest to you but I can state with knowledge and conviction that the US is viewed very negatively at this time from north of the 49th parallel — and speaking with friends and acquaintances from around the globe, that view is shared by many in countries that have been traditional allies of the US. This is not good for the US and it is also not good for the rest of the world — other than the primary opponents of the US.

The US did not end up here in one sudden leap, although the election of Trump was very negative step-change, but instead has been a progressive deterioration. In the time of Reagan, I admired the US — despite some of his administration's flaws. One could point to the US and, despite some flaws, feel that the country was in general ethical and a positive influence on the world. I no longer feel that way and I am by no way unique.

There are many things wrong with the US at this point. However, in my opinion, they are all presently unfixable for one simple reason: campaign finance. Those with money can completely dominate communications and all other facets of the election process in complete disproportion to the influence they should have: the principle of one person, one vote has been completely subverted by your campaign finance rules.

There are also many things wrong with Canada in my view, but one thing we have correct (at the federal level) is campaign finance:

 Only donations by individuals are allowed.

 No donations by foreign entities.

 No donations by companies.

 No donations by unions or other organizations.

 Any one individual is capped in terms of how much they are permitted to donate — currently just under CAD$1,600 per year to any one (registered) party.

 Third-party election advertising is restricted during the elections — this would be problematic to institute in the US as your 'campaigns' run for such massive periods, however no problem is insurmountable.

 Strict accounting rules apply to which everyone who is standing for election must adhere.

These regulations prevent anyone from buying undue influence with politicians and also prevents anyone buying the communication channels that reach voters. Only those who represent the mainstream of society are in position to raise sufficient funds to run effective campaigns — the fringe elements / extremists do not gain a voice of significance as they are unable to raise sufficient funds to unduly influence the outcome.

This of course will be difficult for the US to adopt due to your free speech mindset — and don’t get me wrong, free speech is fundamental cornerstone to any strong democracy. However, what you have on your hands today is a sick perversion of the intent of your founding fathers. The debate needed within your borders is a discussion asking: do you put limits on 'free speech' by limiting the money spent on partisan activities (during an election) or do you permit the free-for-all where those with money can totally dominate the message?

I suggest to you that your efforts would bear the greatest fruit in the long term, if you take this topic on and are able to influence a change related to campaign finance.


J von Specht


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