Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer has been making the rounds on Comedy Central’s late night political humor shows to talk about his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. And although his bid for the party’s endorsement is no laughing matter, it’s clear that most establishment types aren’t taking him seriously.
You see, Roemer, who also served four terms in Congress in the 1980s, favors a radical approach to the sordid business of presidential electioneering. Not for him the high-dollar, poll-driven mud wrestling that passes for political campaigning. The soft-spoken Harvard graduate is a road man for accessible, citizen-driven government. That is to say, he wants to make it to the White House on the strength of small contributions from average people — not bundles of cash from shadowy lobbyists.
“What I’ve done to control the money is to take no PAC money,” he explained to comedian Stephen Colbert. “That’s the same way I ran for Congress, that’s the same way I ran for governor. No PAC money, a $100 limit and full disclosure.
“Money is speech … I have no problem with that. The Constitution protects it, but I have the God-given and constitutional right as to who I listen to. I will not listen to the special interests with the big checks. I will listen to Americans with $100, $5, or zero dollars who have an idea about how to build a better country.”
The special interests, Roemer likes to say in his Cajun drawl, are “hogs in the trough, and we gonna kick ‘em out.”
Laugh at his dreamy idealism if you will, but the quiet crusader makes a powerful case. Our electoral system is sick, he told The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart. “You can’t tackle the jobs problem, the tax problem, the budget problem, or America rising, until you tackle the first problem — money and politics.”
People can only feel represented in government when those who speak for them think and act like public servants. That’s hardly possible in a system corrupted by the power of private wealth and privileged access to decision makers. How democratic can a nation be when average people — the kind that send in a $50 check — have only a slim chance of picking candidates most like them?
When big money determines political viability, our vibrant representative democracy contorts into a greedy and narrow plutocracy — one in which elections serve only as Kabuki theatre for the masses.
This is no way to run a country.
So on this fundamental issue, Roemer has it right. There should be no place in our democracy for what he calls “the tyranny of the big check.”