On Tuesday the New York Times and CBS News released one of the most in-depth surveys in recent history on Americans’ views about money in elections. The results weren’t hard to interpret: across the board, Americans agree that money holds far too much sway and that sweeping changes are needed in our political system. A full 85 percent of respondents said our current system is so flawed that it needs to either see fundamental changes or be rebuilt completely.
Although advocates working to get big money out of politics already knew this was an issue Americans care deeply about, the extent and strength of support for fundamental change revealed in the poll is significant. Voters don’t want small tweaks to an otherwise functioning system. The message coming through is a far-reaching call for reform: the system is broken.
Notably, support for change was strong among those from all political backgrounds, underscoring the fact that Washington is the only place where campaign finance reform is a partisan issue. Support for restricting campaign donations among Republicans polled was almost as strong as support among Democrats polled. National party leaders who want to roll back what’s left of our nation’s campaign finance laws (we’re looking at you, Sen. McConnell) would do well to take note that Republican voters are not on the same page as Republican leadership on this.
How did we get to a place where most Americans think the system is broken? Much of it is thanks to the conservative majority of the Supreme Court, which has been steadily knocking down the rules remaining about money in politics. From finding in Citizens United v. FEC (2010)that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited funds to influence elections to deciding in McCutcheon v. FEC (2014) that limits on the overall amount a wealthy donor can give to candidates, parties, and PACs are unconstitutional, this court has continually jumped at opportunities to weaken our democracy.