If big money is problematic, small money in politics can be the solution to fix democracy. An article by Jorge Ruiz in Harvard Politics explores this perspective. Here is an excerpt:
Elected officials being responsive to the needs and interests of the people is at the core of what it means to have a representative democracy. Through the ballot box, voters are given the power to effectively steer policy-making by electing candidates who represent their vision for the country. In turn, electoral competition is supposed to incentivize politicians to follow through with their campaign promises and fully align themselves with the wishes of their constituents. However, this idealized version of democracy where government policy reflects public demand does not always play out in the United States.
For instance, back in 2020, an overwhelming majority of Americans endorsed a second round of stimulus checks, and polls estimated that some 76% of adults supported payments of $1,000 or more. But after months of stalemate — a delay that exacerbated the economic downturn at the end of the year, Congress passed a much smaller relief bill which most Americans believed to be insufficient. Similarly, despite 6 in 10 Americans supporting an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, the policy has been soundly rejected in the Senate by significant margins.
At first, this gap between what the people want and the policies that actually make it through the government seems paradoxical. If politicians are not properly representing their constituents, they should be getting replaced in the following elections by candidates more responsive to voters. Yet, in spite of almost 7 in 10 Americans disapproving of the way Congress handles its job, more than 90% of representatives in the House and around 85% of senators are re-elected each election cycle on average. So why is it that so many politicians are able to remain unresponsive to the demands of such a large portion of American public? The answer is quite straightforward: money.