We can’t reclaim our democracy

In our story last week about Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig’s talk at the Amato Center, he was quoted as saying:

“This is the moral question of our time: Can we reclaim our democracy?”

No, we can’t.

At least not as long as money is democracy’s defining characteristic.

It is money that supports candidates, it is money that pays for the abhorrent television ads that say nothing positive but only attack, it is money, in other words, that determines who governs the country.

The days when a Huey Long could rise from nothing, with nothing, to a seat in the United States Senate are long gone. Long might be a bad example because he was, or strove to be, a demagogue, but he was able to campaign and get elected without selling his soul to corporate America.

Huey Long would be impossible today. So would Bob LaFollette. Or Henry Wallace. Or, for that matter, George Wallace. Anyone unwilling to do the bidding of the monied interests would be on the outside looking in.

The answer, of course, is public financing of political campaigns with an end to corporate and union donations of any magnitude.

But in a country where some people still think that health care for everyone is some sort of socialist plot, public financing hasn’t a chance and the slick and the sordid will continue to hold sway.

So, Prof. Lessig, we say again: No.