Americans Are Fed Up
There’s one thing all Americans are fed up with: A corrupt, entrenched establishment in Washington, D.C. that works for its own benefit while the rest of the country suffers.
We’re also disgusted with a Congress that is, directly or indirectly, responsible for the problem. How disgusted? In November 2010, the approval rating of Congress was just 17%, which was the lowest in our history.
But in that same month–when the approval rate of Congress was at an all-time low–86% of incumbent members of the U.S. House of Representatives were re-elected! Imagine working for a company that is losing money, lays off half its workers, pollutes the river but then gives its top executives huge bonuses. Something clearly is wrong with such a system, and it’s high time we did something about it.
Understanding the Problem
More than 80% of congressional districts are controlled by one of the two political parties. Most general elections aren’t even close. The incumbent wins in a landslide, with an average margin of victory of 26%. Most long-term incumbents–the ones who control Congress–come from one-party districts. The general elections in which they cruise to victory election after election are really fake fights, like the ones in pro wrestling.
The Real Contest Is In the Primary
But here’s the killer. Primaries are far less competitive than the general elections. During the past decade, House incumbents were as likely to die in office as to lose a primary election. Incumbents enjoy other huge advantages. They write the rules by which elections are conducted, get favorable coverage from the media simply because they are in office and have lavish travel expenses and other perks of office. Lobbyists shower them with campaign funds.
It’s just not right.
Driven by frustration with Washington, citizens are hungry for a way to regain control of a government that’s supposed to represent us. We’re desperate to end the mismanagement, corruption and cronyism. For far too long, Americans have mistakenly pinned their hopes on a political savior, a white knight, or some other figment of our imaginations, who will win the presidency, roll up his (or her) sleeves and “clean house.” Others place their trust in a political party or ideological “movement.” If bitter experience is any guide, we’ve been wasting our energy, money and time. The way to regain control of Washington is to regain control of Congress. Congress, after all, is the most powerful branch of government, and the most powerful members of Congress are entrenched House incumbents.
Primaries are the Opportunity
Primaries, remember, are where very few people bother to vote and where a small fraction of the electorate decides who will run in November and return to Washington. Remember that 10% of voters participate in the dominant primaries. This equates to an average of only 40,000-50,000 voters in each district. As pathetic as this seems, the low turnout in primaries represents a real opportunity. That’s because just a small percentage of voters in any district can change the outcome of the primary and, therefore, change who will end up representing that district in Congress.
Breaking the Message Monopoly
Citizens from across the political spectrum have come together to level the playing field in primary elections through the Campaign for Primary Accountability’s Equalizer Campaign. The Equalizer Campaign gives voters the facts they need to make informed decisions. Incumbents usually have a “message monopoly” during primaries; they raise more money (mostly from lobbyists and special interests) and use those funds to tell voters all of the “wonderful” things they have done. But they never speak of the earmarks, pay raises, junkets and generalized corruption that have infected politics in Washington, D.C.
Real Information. True Competition.
Our goal is to bring true competition to our electoral process, to give voters real information about their choices, and to restore fair, not fixed, elections.
Hold Congress Accountable
To put the voters back in control of the process, we must challenge long-term incumbents and hold them accountable for their deeds. Enough is enough. As our economic crisis deepens, and as lobbyists gain still more power, we must apply leverage where we can: in primary election challenges to incumbent members of Congress.
During the 2014 primaries, American citizens will stand up in ever greater numbers, expressing their opposition to an out-of-touch Congress, and making their voices heard and their votes count. The people will become more powerful than the politicians. When the people once more have power, there is no problem—even those caused by Congress itself—that we cannot fix.