My Turn: Can’t we all just get along and rebel?

Last modified: 1/10/2015 1:27:06 AM
When it comes to politics, we generally disagree.

Take health care. One of us, a progressive, believes health care is a basic human right and government should see to it that everyone is covered when markets do not. The other of us, a conservative, believes government has a troubling tendency to get in the way and markets are capable of providing coverage when left to their own devices. (As it happens, we both go to church, love our mothers and eat apple pie.) But there’s something about health care – and politics in general – that we have found we have in common: a profound aversion to special interests calling the shots instead of the American people.

Although we disagree on political issues, we couldn’t be more aligned when it comes to the political process. That’s because when big money dominates the policy-making process, neither the progressive vision of universal, affordable coverage nor the conservative vision of competitive and efficient markets stand any chance at all.

Consider the bottom-line incentives:

To maximize their profits, drug companies naturally prefer monopoly pricing and prescribing of pharmaceuticals. As such, their lobbyists seek to bend the nation’s health care laws and standards of care away from alternative therapies and negotiated pricing. Billions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions later, they’ve more or less had their way since the 1990s, producing a return on investment that is hundreds or even thousands to one. The staggering rise in child prescriptions of psychotropic drugs and the bloated cost of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit are a sobering case in point.

In similar fashion, incumbent HMOs and health insurance companies naturally seek to protect their market position rather than face competition. As such, their lobbyists have been hard at work simultaneously blocking a single-player system of “Medicare for All” and preventing relaxed regulations that could allow new entrants into the field. And like their friends in the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance lobbyists come armed with more than just ideas. Billion of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions later, they too have had their way with an Affordable Care Act that isn’t particularly affordable for most American families.

In a political system based on dollars instead of ideas, where politicians are forced to spend countless hours raising money for their next campaign and policies are little more than the “sum of all lobbies,” these outcomes should come as no surprise.

What’s surprising to us is that more people on both sides of the aisle haven’t started working together to flush out systemic corruption in Washington. High ideals about democracy aside, there is no denying the fact that we, and the vast majority of Americans who share our views on either side, are getting taken to the cleaners time and again by a Congress that is adrift in special interest money.

The incentives to come together should be obvious. Try as the Democrats might to blame Citizens United, “Citizen Koch” and big corporations, they won’t be able to win this war until 60 U.S. senators and a majority of the House – both in Republican hands – get on side. And try as the modern Republican Party might to pooh-pooh campaign finance reform or point the finger back at the likes of Tom Steyer and George Soros, the conservative commitment to smaller government and lower taxes doesn’t stand a chance in the face of crony capitalism.

Simply put, neither side alone can win this fight – and both sides together cannot lose.

That’s why, starting tomorrow, we’ll be joining hundreds of fellow citizens from across the political spectrum in a frigid march across our state that we’re calling the New Hampshire Rebellion. It’s a rebellion against big money, plain and simple. Its roots that are as old – and as bold – as our own state constitution, which states in Article 10 that “whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered 
. . . the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government.” Our march across New Hampshire from Nashua, Portsmouth, Keene, and Dixville Notch will end in Concord on Jan. 21 with a unison declaration to the presidential candidates, and the nation, that our votes are not for sale. Our goal is simply this: to make the corruption of money in politics the leading bipartisan issue in 2016 so that the next president has no choice but to address it with meaningful campaign finance reform on day one.

It’s easy to disagree in politics. But disagreements alone won’t move our country forward. And forward we must go if we wish to leave a better nation and world to our kids.

On this matter, if nothing else, we see no reason to disagree and every reason to move forward as a nation. Our democracy must not be held hostage by Democratic fat cats; our republic must not be the preserve of the Republican elite. It’s time we fix our broken political system and restore our democratic republic once and for all.

That is reason enough to put on our boots and march through the snow together this January.

(Andrew Hemingway, a former Republican candidate for governor, and Daniel Weeks, executive director of Open Democracy, are leaders of the New Hampshire Rebellion.)

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