The Washington Post recently ran an obituary for the campaign finance regime. Born out of the Watergate scandals, the regime died of natural causes. Money always finds a way through. The more sectors of the U.S. economy that come under Uncle Sam's grasp, the more reason Americans will find to reach into their wallets for candidates and causes.
As the political class in Washington mourns for the old campaign finance regime, supporters of the system have cast their eyes toward the future. Last week, columnist George Will wrote about how an elementary school in the Washington suburbs has become a "laboratory" for a new kind of regulated democracy. Here is a preview of what could await America from Will's piece:
Which brings us to the reign of virtue at Bethesda Elementary School. There, campaign-finance reform reached an apogee in recent student elections to pick officers for the next school year. The Post reported this with overflowing approval under the headline “These elections stayed classy”:
“Candidates at the affluent, 500-student school, where many parents have political connections of one sort or another, can’t give out buttons. They can’t wear T-shirts bearing their names. They can’t talk about their competition. And they can’t make promises. Not even about school lunches.”
A 9-year-old candidate for vice president told The Post, “We can’t say certain things because the kids would get too excited.”Of course politics should be purged of excitement. But lest you get the wrong idea — the idea that liberalism would, if it could, so firmly restrict political speech that elective offices might as well be allocated by lotteries — the school authorities do permit candidates to post signs. Just six per candidate, however, and only as long as the signs say nothing about promises or rivals — or perhaps anything else.
The Post says the “constraints” were first imposed “in the 2008 election cycle to keep campaign expenditures from spiraling out of control.” Something uncontrolled? Can’t have that. Otherwise corruption or the appearance thereof — the rationale for adult speech “constraints” emanating from Washington — might become the serpent in the garden that is Bethesda Elementary.