Big Money Is Responsible for Our Dysfunctional Democracy

Special interests – from Big Oil, to the Military-Industrial Complex, to tech giants like Amazon – want what’s best for them, and not for workers, communities, or the planet. And they know how to get it by spending big money to buy influence. As a result, Congress supports hawkish military policies, a business environment that prioritizes Wall Street over Main Street, and environmental deregulation.

And corporate interests are again gearing up to “defeat” the top threat to corporate greed – federal regulations – by spending even more Big Money in the 2024 election cycle.

To restore a functioning government – and a healthy political culture – we must limit the influence of Big Money and elevate the voices of everyday citizens. Americans are accustomed to solving problems in their homes, in their jobs, and in their communities. Regardless of political party, we find ways to come together and tackle the challenges that face us.

If only our elected officials could live up to that standard.

The recent near-shutdown and ongoing leadership crisis in the Republican Party shows just how dangerous this polarization can be. A handful of extremists can bring our democracy to a halt, and there are precious few responsible adults in the room to counter them. How did we get here? 

Extremists like tech billionaire Peter Thiel take this polarization even further, spending more than $20 million backing extremist candidates who sought to oust the handful of Republicans who didn’t grovel to Donald Trump. Thiel literally calls such Republicans “traitorous.”

For folks like Thiel, it’s not enough to flip swing seats (which are increasingly rare these days) from one party to another. The goal is more sinister. In his words, he is “hopeful” for an “apocalyptic” outcome in which he forms his ideal society by “breaking” U.S. democracy. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Thiel and other Big Money donors helped bankroll the “stop the steal” movement and had deep connections to organizations involved in the January 6 Capitol riot.


Political dysfunction threatens the legitimacy of our democracy

The polarization and dysfunction that pervades our politics has already undermined the legitimacy of our democracy. More and more, Americans – especially younger Americans – lack faith in our basic institutions (like voting).

According to Pew Research, only 52 percent of Americans younger than 30 believe that voting can affect the future of the country, compared to 65 percent of voters 65 and older.

If voters can’t affect the future of the country, who can? The answer is simple. When that same Pew survey asked Americans who had too much influence over members of Congress, huge majorities responded: big business, lobbyists and special interest groups, and “people who donated a lot of money to their political campaigns.”

The solution is simple. Pew found that 72 percent of adults feel that there should be limits on political spending by individuals and organizations. While only 11 percent say they “should be able to spend as much as they want.”

A presidential election year is almost upon us, so it is unlikely that we’ll see any significant movement on campaign finance reform. Perhaps some underfunded candidates will take a principled stand, or maybe we’ll hear more of the same empty promises.

But if we hope to strengthen our democracy, it will have to start from the ground up. Help us build support for the movement to stamp Big Money out of politics by joining our Society of Stampers today!