All very fair points, Chris. I’m not disillusioned to believe that there is a quick and easy solution to the tangled mess that we have woven. Humans are flawed, greedy individuals, so it’s no surprise that money plays such a huge part in our political system, and always has.
To answer your first question: polling numbers. Our democratic system is based on polling the people, why shouldn’t our need to cull candidates use the same? They don’t need to be formal polls. After all, it worked for American Idol—not that I’m suggesting that our democracy should be taken as lightly—perhaps more people would participate if they could select the slate by texting their pick to 70322.
I would never advocate for the repeal of the First Amendment — far too much of our democracy rests on this one major belief in our nation.
However, options 1 and 2 or a combination of those don’t seem too far fetched, really.
Business donations (for profit or not), don’t belong in our politics. Our nation is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Not of the business, by the business, and for the CEO. This is where the back-room deals for favorable legislation began. Individual citizens should be the only ones eligible to donate to a campaign. Repeal of Citizens United would be a good step in this direction.
I don’t agree with the idea that contribution limits would be a violation of the first amendment. Individual campaign limits and prohibiting the formation of super PAC’s would be a positive step. If money is the only means of influencing votes, who does our democracy actually work for? Certainly not the poor, the tired and the huddled masses.
Your example highlighted exactly why we lost equity in our political system. However, campaign finance laws do not prohibit Fred Fatcat from spending his money with other entities who have a common interest in influencing votes in the same direction as he hopes to see. And Joe Littleguy can work with the same entity in other ways that allow him to use his influence where he may not have money.
We could also limit our campaign cycles, thus reducing the demand for deep pocket campaigns. Every election year, it seems that the campaign cycle gets longer and longer, thus requiring the need for more money to stay in the game. Which is exactly the problem that Harris ran into.
For other thoughts and ideas on how to limit the power of money in politics, check out what Common Cause has to say on the issue