A Half Billion Reasons to Reform Election Laws

I went to the New Jersey gubernatorial debates last weekend and it was a bit underwhelming. Not because my candidate, Chris Daggett, an independent with real ideas didn't clearly win like in his first debate or that his competition was clearly more polished than in their first debate, although all that didn't help. And not because the pre-debate rally wasn't fun. I secured a megaphone, led 50 people in cheers and made fun of the other candidates and their supporters (clever retorts about college republicans, bad suits and trench coats and raver antics). I even had a professor protect me from Corzine's union boys who were looking to get violent.

No, instead it was just another reminder of why this system is so screwed up. It took half a billion dollars to elect an eloquent, Harvard educated law professor against a party who led the collapse of two wars, the world financial markets and a major American city. Let's reiterate. $500 million. For one candidate. Maybe that's just $2 for each American. And maybe that's 7,000 more teachers. It's a big bloody number. Like a corporation. A conglomerate. If the democratic party were a corporation, it would be a fortune 100 company at the very least ($25 billion in revenue).

So why is campaign finance reform so hard? Do we really need all the TV ads? All the commercially directed, poll influenced, slandering attack ads that make you want to hot snack in your mouth. The complete lack of understanding of the policies, the counterpoints and any semblance of a policy debate is sickening, maybe even more than the fact that your average American couldn't understand it if it were to go on.

"Mr. Corzine, NJ is so far in debt it is on the verge of bankruptcy with a record deficit and debt burden. How do you get back to fiscal sanity without constricting the fragile economy with higher taxes? You have 1 minute, sir, and please contrast your plan with each of your opponents'."

What a joke. Just enough to smile, spin and throw someone under a bus.

Isn't it simpler? Drastically less money for commercials. More mandatory debates with a round table format, lengthy answers, candidate questions to each other and full back and forth. Specifics to plans mandated. No BS Palinesque avoidance answers.

We live in a world where the more you say, the more material your opp0nents have to attack from their war chest on mainstream TV. Ideas are penalized. Marketing speak rewarded.

I saw today on CNN that 7 out of the top 10 radio shows are conservative talk shows. So much for liberal media right? Yet 65% of America believe in the public option. In the battle of ideas, Democrats are winning. No, no. That's not right. It's more of a liberal trend with which Democrats are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If the Democrats could get their ideas straight, they could change the political game to reduce the election process to ideas.

Maybe that's naive. Maybe the Democrats know that they are just as bad at talking about ideas as, well, a third grader. But how can they think that they will get more money than the big business Republicans. And who wouldn't support massive campaign finance reform? Wouldn't they win big votes by being anti big business and pro voter? You could be the voters' party.

I don't get it. But this spectacle has all the intellectual honesty, strategic intricacy and the production values of a McDonald's commercial. Well, I saw it first hand. Sorry to say it. But I'm not lovin' it.