About half of you are depressed, maybe in despair, and another half are relieved, maybe even happy, about the election outcome. Before I return to my general health care ramblings, let me suggest a couple of ideas to improve our political processes. And I think these have a public health implication. The stress, even anger, caused by the current political environment, 24 x 7, 365 days a year, year after year, is not good for people’s physical or emotional health. People actually have, or should have, more important things to do than hearing a political spin on every event and activity. So two ideas to consider, both of which unfortunately may take a constitutional amendment. One is that we limit the period of time in which there can be political campaigning. At the federal and state level races should start no more than 8 or 9 months before election day. There should be five primary days, each two weeks apart, with the states evenly divided by number and population among those dates, and the five groups rotated each election. Electioneering in any form, ads, rallies, debates, whatever, should be banned until two or three months before the first of those election dates. No politicking at any other time. This would limit the amount of political nonsense we all have to endure, the constant barrage that drives most of us crazy at some point.
The second and most important proposal relates to the funding of campaigns. Whatever ideology or party you hew to, I would hope most of us recognize that the role of money in our elections is demeaning our democracy. Bob Dylan once said “money doesn’t talk, it swears.” Federal elections should be publicly funded and no outside contributions should be permitted except for small, $25 or so, contributions only from individuals. It is absurd to allow billionaires, corporations, labor unions and others to pour millions and millions of dollars into races. A person’s weight and influence in our government should be solely a reflection of their vote, not their pocketbook. In an era when a large segment of the population, in both political parties and among independents, believes that our economic and political system disproportionately favors wealthy and powerful elites, this is an absolutely critical reform. State and local elections should similarly be protected from this abuse. There are obvious details about who gets funded and how to be worked out, but nothing is more important to restoring trust in our political system than this funding reform.
If you agree with these ideas, share this post and the ideas with everyone you can, and maybe if we all push hard we can make a difference and make our politics better.