Funny man Bill Maher is taking on seriously powerful members of Congress with a plan he calls “Flip a District.” The plan of action calls for Real Time with Bill Maher fans to point out the most ineffective and outright worst Congressmen or women in the country via the hashtag #flipadistrict. From there, Bill Maher’s staff will weed through the submissions, do their research, and choose the highest ranking (or lowest ranking, depending which way you want to look at it) and shine a spotlight on them. He will travel to their town, talk to their constituents, hold rallies and stand up shows directed at ousting that sitting member of Congress.
Bill Maher made no qualms about the movement, telling the New York Times that him and his team will be “entering into the exciting world of outright meddling with the political process.”
Bill Maher is no stranger to messing with the status quo – his mockumentary Religulous, which poked at institutionalized places of faith, most namely the Catholic Church, built his reputation as the take no prisoners comedian of the left. Shedding light on blatant hypocrisies in church theology, along with pervasive abuses by church officials, and the seemingly “brainwashed” masses, Religulous provided Bill Maher with many enemies, but to no expense of his wit and growing fanbase.
His latest plan to “Flip a District” comes at a time when an overwhelming majority of the American public are discontent with Congress. His announcement of the movement began when he shed light on how the political system itself has helped retain almost 90 percent of Congress members, despite Congress’ 13 percent approval rating. Bill Maher exacerbated on his show Saturday night how is it possible that 87 percent of the American public do not like their Congress members, yet 90 percent of them maintain their seats?
Bill Maher placed blame on the issue of redistricting, also known as “Gerrymandering” which got its name from the obtuse and often ridiculous district lines drawn out by partisan commissions. Bill Maher also targeted the issue of big money in politics, which in many elections around the country, helps to decisively shifts the tide in favor of the wealthy-backed incumbent against the reform minded candidate.
Jeff Kurzon, a candidate for New York’s 7th Congressional District said in an interview as a part of an upcoming documentary “The Design of A Broken System,” said that money in politics is the root of the system’s inability to effectively represent the population at large. In response to the growing issue that money in politics plays on our elected officials, Mr. Kurzon has officially refused to accept donations from PACs or special interest groups, making him the only federal candidate in the country to do so.
Mr. Kurzon hopes that his run for Congress will not only be successful, but will stand as an example for other members of Congress that they don’t need the corrupting influence of money to become a representative of the people.
Unfortunately for people like Mr. Kurzon, the system has been designed in such a way that encourages this quasi-legal form of legislative corruption. Most members of Congress as it stands can’t afford to do without the special interest money, something Mr. Kurzon knows is a challenge to his campaign.
Bill Maher has placed a microscope on this often overlooked aspect of our political system, something people Mr. Kurzon and countless others across the country experience on a daily basis and know all too well. The hurdles placed in front of reform-minded individuals to effectively run and represent their districts has only been escalated with decisions like Citizens United and the advent of Super PACs.
Multi-billionaire oil tycoon brothers David and Charles Koch have dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars on influencing small time elections around the country. The latest town was the city of Coralville, Iowa, where the brothers Super PAC unleashed “national election-style” attack ads on the small town. Parodying the situation, The Daily Show’s Jason Jones visited the town of 20,000 people, performing a showtune in the city hall about the corruption of elections across the country.
Bill Maher’s direct attack on those members of Congress who benefit from this system of perpetual incumbency and special interest influence is an issue that members of the election reform community hope will become a campaign issue in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections and beyond to the 2016 presidential race. Election reform-minded activists say that this topic must be tackled first before any other issue- climate change, health care reform, tax reform, etc.- can be handled responsibly by elected officials.
As it stands now, elected officials have done little in taking on issues privy to the American public, instead walking the political tightrope of serving the wealthy who get them re-elected while lip servicing the rest of America to keep their image afloat.
The design of this broken system will only continue until the American public take notice and hold their elected officials accountable for what they do while they are in office.
Opinion by John Amaruso