Bennett hopes an emphasis on fixing the system boosts his presidential bid
Longshot presidential candidate Michael Bennet released a comprehensive plan Thursday for reforming the political system, vowing to make it "a top priority of mine" if he makes it to the White House.
Combined, the details of the Colorado senator's package – which touches on almost all the major aspirations of the democracy reform movement – and the signal that he'll prioritize the issue in the months ahead make him stand out a bit from the other 22 Democrats running for president.
And he has little time to waste if he wants to distinguish himself. Having entered the race relatively late, his minimalist standing in the polls and lagging fundraising mean he almost missed the threshold for an invitation to the first candidate debates.
In the end, though, he made the cutoff and will be on the June 27 stage for the second night of the faceoff in Miami. The nine others include frontrunners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, giving Bennet a pivotal moment for introducing his ideas for regulating campaign finance, limiting gerrymandering and controlling lobbyists.
In unveiling his platform, Bennett said that while large percentages of Americans favor action on a variety of important issues – including controlling gun violence, revamping the immigration system and responding to climate change – nothing is getting done in Washington because of the broken political system.
"His plan is yet another sign that he's committed to rooting out corruption and putting people first," said Tiffany Muller of End Citizens United, which advocates for much stricter regulation of money in politics, adding that she hopes other Democratic presidential candidates make the issue "a pillar of their campaigns."
Bennett's plan, which he announced on Twitter, includes a laundry list of ideas popular with many of the Democratic presidential candidates.
Bennet's proposal includes:
- A constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United court ruling allowing unlimited spending by corporations and individuals on campaigns.
- A lifetime ban on former members of Congress becoming lobbyists.
- Automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration and expanded early voting nationwide.
- Protections against partisan gerrymandering, voter suppression and interference by foreign countries in U.S. elections.
Bennet's plan also calls for reforming the Federal Election Commission by reducing the size of the panel to five from six, so there can be no deadlocked votes; requiring candidates for president and vice president to release 10 years of tax returns, and providing more government resources to protect of our voting systems.
With the presidency on the ballot in less than a year, fears of another attempt by Russia or other foreign powers to interfere in the election seem to grow with each passing day.
But in the battlegrounds where the outcome will be decided — the 13 states almost certain to be most hotly contested by both parties — election security has been tightening and the opportunities for a successful hacking of American democracy are being greatly reduced, a review of the procedures and equipment on course to be used in each state in November 2020 makes clear.
"There's been a huge amount of progress since 2016," says Elaine Kamarck, an election security expert at the Brookings Institution. James Clapper, a former director of national intelligence, says his assessment of the fight against election interference results in feeling "confident that a lot has been done to make it better."
In fact, many who work on the issue now cite the public's perception that our election systems are vulnerable as a problem at least as great as the actual threat.
Along with the candidates and the issues, the 2020 presidential election is also going to be about the voting process itself.
Russian efforts to hack into the voting systems of 2016 have boosted election security to a critical concern this time, prompting states to spend tens of millions buying new equipment, hiring cybersecurity wizards and installing software that warns of intrusions — among numerous other steps. More purchases of hardware, software and expertise are coming in the months ahead.
Whether enough money gets spent, and wisely, won't be known for sure until Nov. 3, 2020 — when the system will be subject to the one test that really matters. And whether the country decides the presidential election result is trustworthy will likely come down to how reliably things work in the relatively small number of states both nominees are contesting.
With 11 months to go, The Fulcrum reviewed information from state elections officials, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Election Assistance Commission and news reports to get a sense of the election security landscape. Here's the state of play in the 13 states likeliest to be presidential battlegrounds.
Gatheru is the outreach manager at American Promise, which advocates for amending the Constitution to permit laws that regulate the raising and spending of campaign funds. She graduated two years ago from the University of Connecticut.
When young Americans come together, we can make a big impact. That's what we've seen throughout history. Alexander Hamilton and Betsy Ross were in their early 20s during the American Revolution. Frederick Douglass was 23 years old when he took the stage at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Alice Paul through her 20s led the fight for the 19th Amendment and women's voting rights.
And that's what we're seeing today in youth-led climate movements around the globe and the movement to end mass shootings here in the United States. But one issue that doesn't get as much attention sits at the root of our modern problems: big money in politics.
Money in our political system has completely eroded the promise of a functioning and just democracy. Due to a series of Supreme Court cases, corporations have the same rights as humans, special interests control Capitol Hill and democracy only works for those who can afford it. This is the dystopia my generation has inherited.
The explosion of small-donor political contributions is often celebrated and extolled as one of the few positive developments amid all the problems facing the democracy reform movement.
Not so fast, argues New York University law school professor Richard Pildes. In a new essay published in the Yale Law Journal Forum, he argues the proliferation of modest contributions to candidates may be contributing to more political polarization and, at least, requires more careful examination.
Pildes also says the proposals to promote more small-donor giving that are part of the House Democrats' comprehensive political process overhaul, known as HR 1, could have unintended negative consequences.