Citizens Uniting

By Krist Novoselić May 26, 2015

The United States Open Source (OSP) party is in the process of developing our bylaws and other infrastructure. We are considering existing social networking tools for a collaborative interface with our public democratic process. I want to alert you to such a platform that has a lot of potential. NewGov is interesting as it asks users to pay a onetime nominal fee. This credit card transaction serves to place the user with respect to their political location. For example, by entering my zip code, the NewGov software places me in my State, US House district, state legislative districts, county etc.. What this does is to connect me with other residents of my various political jurisdictions.

This is important as we start to form the Open Source Party. As I wrote in my last post, the political system in the United States is decentralized. The federal OSP is basically an umbrella for local groups to become active in. NewGov could be a good organizing tool if we can figure out how to maximize it. What do you think?

Below is an editorial I wrote for NewGov about a year ago. I am posting it again as I believe the information is salient with what we are trying to do with the OSP.

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GERKENBy Krist Novoselić
June 30, 2014

It seems like most people on the Left are obsessed with 2010’s Citizen United v. F.E.C. court ruling. The term “Citizens United” has become synonymous with all that is perceived as wrong with our political system. Ubiquitous in Lefty media rhetoric, the lore of “Citizens United” is that corporations were turned into people and that these new creatures, like a zombie apocalypse, will ravage the political landscape until “Citizens United” is overturned. I argue there is no need to overturn the ruling to restore balance to our politics. We must instead look past the rumor and gossip to see the solution is in citizens united.

Heather Gerken writes a compelling perspective in the Marquette Lawyer (Summer 2014) regarding the infamous 2010 court ruling. I recommend reading her rational take on the reality of the ruling. She is keen on the popular story line regarding Citizens United and refers to some of the narrative as “utter nonsense” (p. 11). Gerken, as a lawyer and scholar, then describes how the political “dark money” system worked before and after the ruling; how simple semantics in political advertising changed and how the Court narrowed the definition of corruption and as a result of this redefinition, Congress will now have a harder time justifying campaign finance laws.

I agree with most people that our political system is out of balance. There is too much influence by the usual insiders, namely — corporations, unions and the wealthy individuals who can afford to spend millions on political advertising. Gerken looks for solutions to this imbalance that are not the usual call for repealing Citizens United or some kind of constitutional amendment. She zeros in on what I believe is the key — CITIZENS UNITING!

Gerken offers a conclusion to her piece that hits the nail right on the head. She sees political association as the way to bring balance back to the system. She is pinning her hopes on the party faithful. We can only hope that one day the party faithful will break away from their leaders who oversea what are in reality soft-money conduits around individual campaign contribution limits. Gerken hopes that the party faithful will keep their party accountable. She says,

They [party faithful] serve as a bridge between the elites and the voter, between the party and the people. They provide an institutional check on the bargains that elites can strike, some brake on how many principles will get compromised along the way. Party faithful are often political realists. They understand that compromise needs to be made. But they also believe in something—that’s why they are the party faithful (p. 25).”

Even if the party faithful ever manage to hold the major parties accountable, there are a lot of institutional hurdles. Most states regulate parties by monopolizing nominations. My state of Washington has statutes that organize major parties in a way that make the Democratic Party and GOP “state parties”.

The worst is that many people hold parties in low esteem in the United States. Considering the current political and economic stratification, why do people frown on groups of common people coming together to amplify their voice? How unfortunate, and actually terrible, that the term “citizens united” is such a negative. Think about it!

This anti-party attitude is a big issue that really flies under the radar. Of course, considering the commotion over the Citizens United ruling, Obama’s birth certificate and other modern day political lore, these distractions make it is easy for many to overlook issues that are right under our noses. Many disparage parties, but folk’s associating is not the same as the “shadow parties” that are currently dominating. Gerken sees this and is worried that power has been driven away from parties as groups of common people. Instead, power is in the hands of the shadow parties (p. 25). In other words, the balance is tilted towards the political insiders with their dark money campaigns.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for a constitutional amendment with campaign financing or corporate personhood. And forget about laws regarding reform anytime soon. Instead, let’s get to associating. This is why I am at NewGov — I want to be part of something that supports candidates who don’t buy the hype either. I want to be part of a group that seeks to restore balance to our system by way of technology. Are you in?

(Here is more of my writing regarding the Citizens United Ruling and how it was good for freedom of expression on the internet.)