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Saturday, 16 May 2009 23:00

Will President Obama support FENA?

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This month's "Money On My Mind" column by Dr. Jay R. Mandle of DemocracyMatters.orgpaints a fairly gloomy picture of FENA's near term chances to succeed.  Dr. Mandle discusses the natural reluctance of reform activists to work on process issues such as Clean Elections, because they want to work directly on the issues they are passionate about, and whose outcomes matter to them directly, no matter how long the odds against them.  Mandle thinks Obama, as a liberal reformer, has the same tendency.  Furthermore, he thinks that Obama may be blinded to the need for public financing by his own huge fund raising success outside the presidential public financing system.

Mandle suggests that Obama may become more receptive to the Clean Elections message, and may sign on to FENA, if his reform agenda is sufficiently thwarted by Congress (presumably if he also recognizes that the influence of private money is the main source of his frustration).

These concerns are clearly borne out in the current health care and financial sector reform debates. Much has been made of the fact that there is "no seat at the table" for the single payer health care option, and there is also significant resistance to restoring real regulation to the financial systems. Private political donations will no doubt have a huge impact in both cases.  In fact, private money is probably the only reason for not even discussing the single payer health care solution, which polls have shown is very popular among the general population.
 
We Clean Elections advocates appear to be hung in limbo at this point: Congress is unlikely to give FENA serious attention unless Obama signs on, and - as Mandle points out - Obama is unlikely to see the need until and unless he learns the hard way that our privately financed Congress can't act in the country's best interests.  We can assume that Congress will provide the lesson, but will the President learn it, or will he instead rationalize and settle for whatever legislation he can get passed?
 
This puts us Clean Elections activists in an awkward position. We can't in good conscience hope for failures in the health care program or financial sector reform, yet we recognize the bad bargain of losing out on the long term benefits of election finance reform in order to gain the inadequate legislation that our privately financed Congress is likely to pass.
 
For those of us working in Florida, now is a good time to offer strong support to the Fair Districts referendum initiative.  Not only is the issue critical to increasing democracy in the state, we can also hone our canvassing skills here so that we will be that much more effective in promoting the Clean Elections / FENA issue.  It is also worthwhile, if you haven't done so already, to write or call your Congressman and both Senators to encourage their support for FENA.
 
Fred Markham
17 May 2009

Last modified on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 19:05
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