Left and Right Must Work Together to Battle Government Corruption

Just as both parties are complicit in corruption, ordinary people from all across the political spectrum are fed up with it. We just express it differently.
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Voting is over, and in true American fashion, it's time to immediately shift focus to the next national spectacle: Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, as many of us know all too well, politics and big family dinners are not as distinct as we might hope, especially during an election year. This November, everyone around the table will have an opinion on the Republican Party gaining control of the Senate. If your family is anything like mine, not everyone will agree on whether Congress has changed for the worse or the better. And since the voting deadline will be three weeks past, there will be no real value in trying to change Uncle Pete's mind -- a fact that can only lend an air of futility to the conversation.

I'm here to tell you, however, that all hope is not lost. A Thanksgiving consensus, the veritable unicorn of holiday gatherings, is possible, for conservatives and liberals have at least one topic on which they agree. And it just so happens to be the most important problem in America: government corruption.

To be clear, this corruption isn't dirty money changing hands under a dinner table. Rather, it is a more insidious, pervasive corruption of government's mission to represent us, the people. When our elected officials listen disproportionately to wealthy special interests, that's corruption. When they spend somewhere between 30 and 70 percent of their time fundraising instead of doing the real, difficult work of legislating, that's corruption.

Corruption happens whenever the concerns of everyday Americans are swept aside by the fears and desires of the wealthiest, most powerful among us. Being rich shouldn't give you the ability to impose your policy priorities on the national political agenda. Yet this is exactly what we see happening time and again. Why, for example, when Americans are more concerned about jobs than any other policy issue, is our do-nothing Congress prioritizing holding hearings on online gambling? Could it have something to do with uber-wealthy casino mogul and political donor Sheldon Adelson's laser-beam focus on that issue?

For a less partisan example of Congress' distorted focus, think back to early 2011. The recession, while officially over, was still wreaking havoc on the economy. Gabby Giffords had just been shot. And the Arab Spring was in full swing. Yet what was the top policy issue on Capitol Hill, according to Ryan Grim and Zach Carter at the Huffington Post? It was how much banks could charge businesses for handling debit card transactions - the so-called "bank swipe fees" controversy.

Whether you're a diehard Republican, a radical lefty, or, more likely, somewhere in the vast middle, I can bet that your top political concern is not now, has never been, and never will be bank swipe fees. So why were these fees so important to Congress? As the old saying goes, follow the money. Or, more specifically, follow the $2 million that the bank lobby gave to both Democrats and Republicans in the first quarter of 2011 in order to fight swipe fee reform, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

It's worth emphasizing that both political parties are implicated in this corruption. Democrat and Republican candidates alike cater to their biggest donors; it's only rational, given the vast sums of money required to win a political election; Kentucky's Senate race alone cost a jaw-dropping $80 million.

Just as both parties are complicit in corruption, ordinary people from all across the political spectrum are fed up with it. We just express it differently. Democrats are critical of corporate influence on Washington; Republicans are incensed by government bureaucrats that don't truly represent the people. It's as if we're all grasping the proverbial elephant in a dark room. One group feels the trunk and assumes it's a tree; another group grabs the tail and envisions a snake. In reality, we're all describing the same thing, just from different directions.

Once we get on the same page, then the fun can begin. Contrary to popular belief, we ordinary Americans have the power to take on corruption and win.

For proof, look to Tallahassee, Florida, which just passed the first-ever citywide anti-corruption act in American history. In a rare example of bipartisanship, the hodgepodge forces behind the legislation included a former Democratic commissioner, a chair of Florida's Tea Party Network, and the head an independent ethics watchdog.

Had the effort been partisan instead, I guarantee that it would have failed. Instead, the so-called "ethics amendment" won two-thirds of the vote -- a landslide victory against corruption.

And Tallahassee is just the beginning. Represent.Us, the nonpartisan organization that supported the city's reform effort, will be bringing this fight to more cities and states in 2015. As the anti-corruption movement gains momentum, Washington will be put on notice. Come out against corruption, we'll tell Congress, and you'll keep your job. Continue catering to special interests, and we'll vote you out -- plain and simple.

Come November 2016, we will be well on our way to wresting political power from the wealthiest fraction of Americans and returning it to the hands of the people. We'll be restoring democracy, one local election at a time. And when we go home for Thanksgiving that year, we won't just break bread over hating corruption. We'll unite over having stopped it in its tracks.

To join the anti-corruption movement today, visit Represent.Us.

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