Lessig’s *Republic, Lost* Strikes at the Root
Listening to the This American Life
episode “Take The Money and Run For Office
” reminded me that whatever the crisis du jour
currently making the headlines, there is probably not a more important issue facing the United States than that of the corrosive influence of money in politics, as it distracts our lawmakers and distorts our political process, twisting Congress’s actions—and our national outcomes—on everything.
This view was strongly reinforced in February when I read Lawrence Lessig’s well-researched, well argued book, Republic, Lost, which clearly documents the insidious effects of incessant campaign fundraising and super PAC influence on Congress, the laws it passes, and from there, nearly every aspect of our lives. In addition to making the case for its ruinous effects on our economy and our well being, Lessig’s book places our current money-in-politics conundrum in a historical context. Many of Lessig’s core arguments and examples are highlighted in his “Rootstriking” lecture embedded below, the title of which is taken from the apt Henry David Thoreau quote “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to the one who is striking at the root.”
Lessig drew inspiration from Thoreau’s metaphor when renaming to Rootstrikers his political organization Fix Congress First. Rootstrikers supports public funding of elections, transparency in political expenditures, and advocates for a constitutional convention as the best, slim, hope to return control of our political system to the people. Given the McCain-Feingold and Citizens United supreme court decisions conflating money and speech, only a constitutional amendment can further control political spending. Until Citizens United, I remained hopeful that passing voluntary Clean Elections publicly financed campaign laws would be sufficient to mitigate the corrupting effects of the congressional money chase, but with the rise of Citizens United-sanctioned super PACs, I increasingly think Lessig is correct that, free (“money equals”) speech concerns notwithstanding, a constitutional amendment is the only instrument capable of cleaving this central stem of our national ills.
Care to share?