1. Every registered voter gets an annual voucher, sent to the address from which he is registered (or sent electronically to his email address), worth $25. The voter can sign the voucher over to any candidate, party organization, or political committee.
2. No candidate or organization which accepts contributions in excess of $100 from any individual or non-party-affiliated political action committee shall be eligible to receive vouchers.
3. Independent expenditures are unregulated, but in order to receive vouchers a campaign or party organization must certify that it has not coordinated efforts in any way with organizations making independent expenditures.
Campaign and campaign-related expenditures this cycle have been estimated at about $2.5 billion. $25 per voter per year times about 125 million registered voters means a potential voucher pot of $3 billion a year, or $6 billion per cycle. That’s a pretty cheap price at which to buy our country back from the fat cats, special interests, and fanatics.
Not all of that will get spent, of course; some of those vouchers will never be cashed. On the other hand, you’d expect the number of registered voters to go up as the voucher system made voter-registration efforts potentially self-financing.
This would somewhat level the playing field between Democrats and Republicans in terms of who has more money to spend. But it would favor Democrats in a much more fundamental way: freed from slavery to its funding sources, the party could take much more aggressively populist stances on topics from taxation to telcom regulation to bankruptcy. Not all of those revised stances would coincide with my view of the public interest (a popularly-funded Democratic Party would probably be more protectionist, for example), but they would all help fix the problem of working-class people not bothering to vote for the Democrats because they can’t see much in the Democratic program that really serves their bread-and-butter interests.
As a card-carrying member of the liberal cultural elite, I’d expect the Democrats to be somewhat less friendly to my views on cultural issues, and somewhat more responsive to the cultural conservatism characteristic of the lower half of the income distribution. I would hate some of the results. But they would, after all, be democratic results, even if illiberal. All of us liberal elitists would then be force to try to persuade our fellow-citizens of such virtues as tolerance, rather than being able to cram those virtues down their unwilling throats.
Would it sell? Maybe. Conservatives love vouchers, don’t they?