Your Cynicism About Lobbyists Only Helps The Lobbyists Win
from the too-much-cynicism dept
Last month, I posted the letter I helped put together from a bunch of entrepreneurs to the US’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel, as a part of the open comment period on the most effective forms of copyright enforcement. One of the most frustrating responses I heard was “it doesn’t matter, the law is bought and paid for already.” I can understand why many people feel that way, and it’s absolutely undeniable that the entrenched entertainment industry interests have a very successful lobbying program that has a long history of success in getting the laws they want. But such things are not set in stone, and can absolutely be overcome.
Earlier this year, when This American Life did an hourlong episode on lobbying, there was one message that has really stuck with me: yes, lobbying has tremendous power in terms of its impact on Congress and the White House, but votes will trump lobbying every single time. I can’t remember which politician said it during the episode, but it was made clear: in the absence of the public speaking out on an issue, yes, the lobbyists will likely win. But if the public is interested, no matter how much money is spent, the public will win, because the votes matter more than the lobbyists. Always.
I’d been meaning to write about this in response to the defeatism I saw after that letter, but Public Knowledge’s Sherwin Siy beat me to it (and did it much better, since he’s got a hell of a lot more experience on this front), pointing out that the best way to fight big money politics is to speak out and take part. Yes, it may seem like the deck is stacked, and yes, the lobbyists have plenty of power — but that power only works if the voting public stays quiet.
In other words: your cynicism only helps the lobbyists.
Trust me, I understand where that cynicism comes from, and there are significant problems with the way money works in politics today and just how corrupt the system often appears. But, as Siy notes, all that money is a means to an end, and the end is to get re-elected (or elected in the first place). And that means that votes — and the people behind the votes — can trump money in politics. The larger problem is that we can’t do that for any and every issue. But saying that you shouldn’t even bother to speak out at all is self-defeating. It’s automatically handing victory to the lobbyists.