An Occupy Wall Street activist protests the influence of corporate funding in financing electoral campaigns. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
Writing Contest Finalist
We’re delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s eighth annual Student Writing Contest. This year we asked students to answer this question in 800 words: It’s clear that the political system in the US isn’t working for many. If you had to pick one root cause underlying our broken politics, what would it be and why? We received close to 700 submissions from high school and college students in forty-two states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists total. The winners are Jim Nichols (no relation to The Nation’s John Nichols), an undergraduate at Georgia State University; and Julia Di, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School in Darnestown, Maryland, and Bryn Grunwald, a recent graduate of the Peak to Peak Charter in Boulder, Colorado, who were co-winners in the high school category. The three winners receive cash awards of $1,000 and the finalists $200 each. All receive Nation subscriptions. Read all the winning essays here. —The Editor
The contemporary American political arena has been marked by the intersection of crises that have threatened justice in a multitude of fronts – economic justice, social justice, environmental justice, etc. Elected officials and public servants alike are tasked with addressing these pressing and often extremely complex issues in the pursuit of solutions that encompass prosperity, security, and justice – in all of its forms – on behalf of the constituents to whom they owe their livelihood. This representative form of democracy is one of the great achievements – perhaps the greatest – of the American experiment. It provides the populace the opportunity to have an impact on the trajectory of their nations destiny based off of the principle of self-governance – the idea that political power is to lay in the hands of all of the people rather than being concentrated heavily under the authority of a small group of wealthy elites, a trend that has persisted throughout all of human history. This necessary dichotomy of a powerful citizenry and entrusted representatives designed to be directly accountable to that citizenry has been both the foundation and the engine of progress manifested in the promise of America.
However, the foundation has begun to come undone, as the idea of an elected official who faithfully acts upon the interests of the common man to whom he is accountable has been exchanged for the reality of the corrupt politician acting in subservience to any corporation that is willing to invest liberally into his/hers campaign coffers. This reality has been embraced with open arms by the Supreme Court of the United Statesevidenced by the 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, ruling that the First Amendment allows for unlimited corporate money to be funneled into the political system with little to no transparency. The effects of this unlimited and opaque influx of money into institutions of political power have been insidious and widespread, tearing at the foundation of the political system like an insurgency of termites. The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) estimated that approximately $7 billion was spent on the 2012 election altogether, with Super PACs, the notorious new form of political action committee that has risen to popularity post-Citizens United, reported to have spent approximately $950 million of that figure.