President Barack Obama on Wednesday suggested that if American voters want to “counteract” the role of money in politics, it may be worth making voting mandatory.What is interesting to me about this is not only the idea of mandatory voting as a way to counteract recent efforts by Republicans to restrict voting (which is the angle a lot of commentators took) but the President's stated reason for contemplating the idea - its affect on money in politics.
“It would be transformative if everybody voted,” Obama said during a town hall event in Cleveland, Ohio. “That would counteract (campaign) money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country.”
It strikes me that for too long progressives have focused only on legislative fixes to limit the role of money in politics. It's not that I would abandon those possibilities. But one thing I've always appreciated about President Obama is that he's clearly thinking creatively about other ways to tackle the problem.
What I see from this President is not so much an attempt to limit how much rich people spend on campaigns (although he has made clear statements against the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United) - but to engage the grass roots in a way that makes their money less relevant. He did that in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns by raising millions of dollars in small donations. That success will be one of his most significant legacies.
Now he's planting the seed of an idea that if everyone voted, it could counteract the role of money in politics. That - my friends - is a community organizer at work.