Davis: Is the presidency all about the Benjamins?

Happy election season. In this time of mudslinging, empty promises and an increasingly disinterested public, I have a modest proposal to put forth that, I think, would entirely change the nature of American elections and open the electoral field to a whole swath of people who'd never be able to effectively run for President.

I'm talking about a spending cap on campaigns. Currently, one can hardly go anywhere without seeing advertisements extolling McCain and bashing Obama. Fox has become entirely un-watchable, CNN is awash in election time money (remember: money equals happiness), and newspapers and the Internet are flooded with drivel about Obama's stance on change and McCain's firm views on the Iraqi war (which, oddly enough, was never declared a war). In the end, it comes to a constant advertising war in which the candidate with the most run-time stands a far better chance of success.

What does this mean for the fringe candidates and the unaffiliated who want to run for President in this happy nation where, supposedly, anyone can hold high office? It means that they, effectively, cannot. Without the backing of one of the two parties, it's effectively impossible to run a national campaign, due to the huge amount of money that lies behind Republicans and Democrats. The dominant parties can afford the advertisements, the glitz and glamour, and in the end, they have a complete bipartisan hegemony over the country. How then can our system be remedied?

One simple way to help the smaller candidates without really hindering the larger ones, to effectively level the playing field, is to put a cap on campaign spending. A cap of a hundred million dollars would allow for advertisements, parties, galas, and whatever else is expected of a campaign. However, with effective fundraising, it would allow the less powerful candidates to compete against the national parties.

Further, with less money comes fewer promises, meaning we may see the day when an elected President isn't bought off from the moment he steps into office. Consider the fate of a presidency where big oil, multinational corporations and rich benefactors aren't pulling the strings from behind the curtain. Perhaps, eventually, the presidency will again be an office that isn't the butt of bad jokes throughout the country. Perhaps it's too much to hope for.

Unfortunately, there are a few failings of the usually proposed funding cap. One is that the actual candidate doesn't run most advertisements, instead they're run by "Friends of" the candidate, and people use this as an argument against the spending cap. This is a simple problem, easily fixed: cap spending in the name of the candidate. Therefore, every one of McCain's advertisements would count toward his cap, not just the ones funded by him personally.

In the end, this proposal would change the nature of American politics as we know them. Unfortunately, the only people who can draft it into law are the only people who stand to be negatively affected by it, so it seems unlikely that it'll ever pass. Happy election season. I'm voting for Mickey Mouse.

Aaron Davis is a sophomore English major, and thus he'll never be president.