Louisiana is draining the swamp, can Washington?
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OPINION | Campaign finance and the two-party system are choking democracy. 

It’s been more than 80 years since Huey Long famously quipped that the only difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is that “one is skinning you from the ankle up and the other, from the ear down.”

Long, great populist icon of Louisiana’s bygone past was gunned down in 1935, but not much has changed since his day. I’ve worked in politics here in the Pelican State for 40 years. I’ve seen both the Democrats and the Republicans run this state, and I can attest to the fact that the Kingfish had it right. 

The sentiment felt around large swaths of the country, the same sentiment that I believe lifted Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE to the White House is that your voice doesn’t really matter and the 

policies crafted by your elected representatives in Baton Rouge and Washington, D.C. are not for you, but for the wealthy and the corporations. 

Sad, but true.

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In the past five years alone, the 200 most politically active companies in the United States poured $5.8 billion into political campaigns and lobbying efforts. Even worse, those same companies raked in $4.3 trillion (yes, trillion) in taxpayer support — a return on investment of $750 for every dollar spent.

It’s impossible to argue that a system like that isn’t rigged against everyday Americans. When politicians on both sides of the aisle are bankrolled and completely owned by the moneyed elite and major corporate interests, the Founding Fathers’ ideal of government “of the People, by the People, and for the People” is nothing but a mirage in a depraved desert of greed.

However, waterfalls of money aren’t the entirety of the problem — our binary, hyper-partisan political system is also a major factor. Because more and more voters make their decisions in the polling booth based solely on party identification, those politicians we all hate are able to draw themselves into safely gerrymandered districts, making it exceedingly rare for an incumbent to lose re-election.

Now, this all sounds terrible — as if the system is broken beyond repair and there is no hope. However, that could not be further from the truth. We can still take our government back and return the power to the People.

Last week, the Alliance for Louisiana Independent Voters (ALIV) met for the first time in Baton Rouge. ALIV is a grassroots movement on a mission to shake things up in the Pelican State. It represents a diverse coalition of voters who are fed up with “politics as usual” — and I’m proud to be one of them.

At the meeting, we discussed the current state of affairs and started to think about how to “un-rig” the system here in Louisiana, brainstorming common sense solutions to solve the problems that plague our state. 

Among those discussed, the ideas of strict campaign finance reform and the replacement of current partisan redistricting controlled by the Legislature with a non-partisan commission were particularly popular because elections shouldn’t be auctions and politicians should be more accountable to the people they are supposed to represent. 

The idea that judicial races should be nonpartisan also gained some traction, because justice should be blind, not biased by party. We also discussed the possibility of a constitutional convention of citizen delegates to ensure the people are a part of the process.

These ideas and more are just a starting point for this movement. 

What we are doing won’t be popular with the elitist, insider class, but you can’t stop a movement when its time has come  — and it’s time for citizens like you and me to take our government back.

Bergeron has spent four decades as a political consultant on Louisiana campaigns working on gubernatorial races and city elections in Baton Rouge. He currently works as a political strategist and communications consultant.


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