No matter whether you identify as progressive, conservative, or somewhere in between, it’s likely you agree with a majority of Americans on at least one thing: there is too much money in politics. Americans of all backgrounds believe that the influence of big money in elections is proving to be harmful to our democracy.
In other words, people understand that we have a problem. What can be less clear is how exactly we got here, and how we can fix it.
A new explainer video created by 21-year-old Binghamton University student Kyu Nakama lays out what has led to our current money in politics crisis, and why we need a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. Using paper models and other creative visuals, it shows how unchecked, undisclosed and unlimited money spent in elections stems from a series of Supreme Court decisions, beginning with a case in 1976 called Buckley v. Valeo, which defined money as ‘free speech’ protected under the First Amendment. Then, in 2010, the floodgates were lifted on election spending, with Citizens United v. FEC granting corporations the same First Amendment rights as people. As Nakama’s video points out, this “opens the door for a for-profit company...whose sole function is profit to have an exponentially larger say in what happens in the people’s nation than you or I do.”
The effect of these decisions on the health of our democracy is hard to overstate. Every election since 2010 has been the most expensive in history, with spending in the 2016 election predicted to approach $10 billion.
Fortunately, as Nakama’s video notes, there is a push to overturn these Supreme Court cases through an amendment to the Constitution. While amending the Constitution is a clearly heavy lift, history has shown that it can indeed be done, with many of the great advances in social and political equality having been won through constitutional amendments, including the right of women and people of color to vote. Since Citizens United in 2010, grassroots efforts have already mobilized significant support for an amendment, with 650 towns and cities, sixteen states, and more than five million people on record in favor.
Nakama created his explainer video for a campaign currently underway to build support for the leading amendment proposal in Congress, the Democracy For All amendment, by encouraging people to make short videos about the need for an amendment. The $64,000 Democracy For All Video Challenge launched in August and comes to a close on December 2. The contest features weekly prizes of $1,000 as well as five $5,000 category prizes and one $25,000 grand prize.
Nakama’s video has helped viewers understand what led to the influx of big money in our elections today, and what we can do to fix it. What will your video do?