In the final analysis, it shouldn’t matter that only a small number of political candidates can afford to buy their way into the public consciousness via major media campaigns.
Television advertising may be prohibitively expensive, but space on the Internet is virtually free. The Web also offers a much better way to present views on today’s complex issues than 10-second sound bites on TV news.
The only real problem is, how will voters ever be able to check out the fresh and carefully-reasoned views on a new candidate’s web page, if they’re never heard of the candidate, and thus would never think to look for him online?
There's a simple solution: just create a consolidated candidates’ site, where all candidates in a given race can summarize their views and positions. Candidates should also be able to insert links to their own websites, and to other external material.
To make a consolidated political web site really come alive, add a candidates-only discussion forum, which anybody can read, but only the candidates and their staffs can update. Let the candidates whale away at one another however they like. Given enough time and space, any lie, distortion, fib, fudge, half-truth, or shameless hypocrisy can eventually be exposed. The result will be a better, more thorough, and potentially much more lively political discourse than we’ve seen in a long time.
We also have no lack of organizations that could cheaply and easily create an effective site of this type. It doesn’t much matter which of them sets up such a forum, as long as somebody does--and does it early enough in the election cycle. This will have to be well before primary elections begin, or the non-famous and the underfunded will already have been shut out of the process.
If political candidates can be heard by the voters without needing enormous media budgets, it will finally be possible to wean them from their demeaning dependence on large campaign contributions, or at least replace them with people who have not yet become afflicted with this addiction.
On the other hand, if we fail to provide them with a lower-cost way to get through, we might as well stop kidding ourselves with talk of reform.