Big money interests pull the strings

Bryan Nichols

I like puppet shows. I really do. “Being John Malkovich,” one of my favorite movies, is about a puppeteer. I think the puppets on “TV Funhouse” are cool. However, I may eat my words because all Americans have just been strapped in for a four-year puppet show that the majority of us did not want. You all know the puppet I’m talking about: our new president, George W. Bush. Many of you may know who controls him — big business and rich donors. This is nothing new to anyone familiar with politics. And if you’re a Democrat, wipe the smile off your face, because Al Gore would have been just the same.In fact, the problem of campaign finance has been eroding any sort of faith most people have in government, especially in the recent elections. It should. The American government has basically issued a mandate: If you don’t have money, we won’t represent you. The American people know this. According to the New York Times, in 1960, 30 percent of people polled agreed that “The government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves.” In 1994, that number jumped to 79 percent. There’s no reason to wonder why only half of eligible Americans show up to vote. If you don’t think you have any effect on what goes on, why bother?The way that the average American can have a voice in politics is simple. We need campaign finance reform. There is no other option. In the 2000 election, $457 million was raised in unregulated “soft money,” double the 1996 amount. We need to stem the flow of this money that turns our government representatives into high-priced whores.This is why my new hero is none other than Senator John McCain. Monday, McCain and his co-sponsor Russ Feingold reintroduced their finance reform bill to the Senate. This bill would block soft money contributions and attack ads by partisan groups that masquerade as “issue ads.” McCain, if you have a short memory, lost to Bush in last year’s Republican presidential primaries. Campaign finance reform has always been his issue; now he is more single-minded than ever. He has reason to be hopeful. With an even party split in the Senate and similar bills already having passed the House twice in the Clinton administration, McCain believes he has the support to pass his bill.Now, back to our new puppet, er, president, George W. Bush. Bush, during his campaign, proclaimed himself a “uniter, not a divider.” Now John McCain is going to force campaign finance down his throat. So will Bush sign this bill if it lands on his desk? If Bush truly is interested in uniting, I certainly hope so.This will be a test for Bush. Republicans receive the majority of soft money contributions and while some prominent Senate Republicans have come out in support of McCain, others have promised a fight. If Bush wants to keep his bipartisan label, he should get to work and start pulling some strings himself to help out a bill that Americans support.Bush should soon get his chance. McCain has said that he wants his bill on the Senate floor in the next couple of months, and he won’t stop fighting until it is. While I don’t agree with McCain on everything, it’s easy to like and respect him. Unlike Bush, Gore or most other politicians, he is not going to be beholden to donors. In this way, he’s the anti-puppet and is truly representative of what politicians should be.McCain has made statements saying that he will let Bush try to pass his education plan first. This will not and should not pass because of Bush’s voucher program. After that, I have a feeling that McCain will not rest until he passes his bill. While this kind of idealism doesn’t always work in politics, it’s refreshing to see it coming from a major party politician. It is good for politicians and for Americans in general.McCain, with his single-minded, anti-puppet idealism, couldn’t support a better issue. If the average American, who can’t pay millions for political favors, wants to take back their voice in politics, we need campaign finance reform. We need to cut the strings by which those with money are manipulating our politicians. If McCain has his way, it’s a large step to doing just that. And it’s necessary. Puppets only represent their puppeteers, you know. Bryan Nichols is a senior in genetics from Burnsville, Minn.