Written by RTV guest blogger, Steven Aldridge (see bio below)
When money is voice in politics, American youth can only whisper in a shouting match.
As a college student, I can easily get involved with politics. I can vote. I can campaign for the candidates I support and join protests. All Americans have these rights under the First Amendment. Unfortunately, billionaires, huge corporations and special interests are looking to use the First Amendment against people like me, who don’t have millions of dollars to throw into politics.
In just a few weeks, the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments for McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Alabama millionaire Shaun McCutcheon is arguing that limits on direct individual political contributions are unconstitutional, after the floodgates on indirect political contributions have already been lifted following Citizens United and related cases.McCutcheon is yet another case poised to muffle the voices of American youth in the political arena.
The effects of Citizens United have already been devastating. A recent Political Science Quarterly study showed what we’ve all assumed for a while – that politicians are more responsive to big donors than to their constituents. In fact, most Americans feel that politicians care more about the people lining their pockets than their own constituents.
No matter how hard I protest or campaign for the candidate of my choice, those billionaires and huge corporate interests can quickly drown me out with television ad after television ad. It is hardly surprising that many young Americans see the political system as a hopeless means to accomplishing something.
Individuals are already able to directly contribute up to $123,200—an amount that is unfathomable to your average American family, let alone a college student living on a steady diet of jumbo slices. Shaun McCutcheon is claiming that big donors are not allowed to give nearly enough, which is hard to believe after the 2012 election finished with a $7 billion price tag.
Big money is fighting to become even bigger money, and the youth in America will be the first voices silenced. With record-high student loan debt and tripling interest rates, the campaign donations race is not a strength competition that the youth can win. However, we outmatch corporations in our passion and in our persistence.
Those in favor of removing limits on individual contribution often state that limits set on contributions are restricting free speech. However, the people actually having their First Amendment rights restricted are those that cannot compete with large donors to have their voices heard. If we are truly concerned with maintaining a democracy where the voices of the youth are just as valuable as the older and deep-pocketed, the Court must side with the people the Constitution was written to protect rather than wealthy interests represented by Mr. McCutcheon.
We have been highly effective at organizing and energizing our peers around issues we were passionate about in the past. From online privacy, to the Arab Spring and the Defense of Marriage Act, we have been able to use social media and other methods to engage members of our generation.
We must revitalize ourselves again around the issue of money in politics. Wealth should not be equated with clout in our political system, and we may prevent this comparison from being strengthened any further if we join together. Join us at https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/5259-stop-big-money-in-mccutcheon and let your voice be heard.