Money in politics is not the problem, so says columnist David Brooks of the New York Times, and I think he makes sense. In a recent column he said that the weakening of political parties that has come partly as the result of campaign finance laws created a situation in which individual candidates raise the money themselves and essentially kowtow to special interests with that money (my wording here).
On the one had it has made life more difficult for incumbents because they have to spend so much time fundraising and kissing up to special interests and they have to hire fund-raiders and consultants and such, but on the other hand it has made their jobs much more secure. The amount of money a challenger has to raise to beat an incumbent is astronomical, and the challenger does not have as much help available from weakened political parties.
It has been noted for, well decades now I think, that the political parties are not what they used to be. At one time parties served as a vehicle where somewhat differing ideas coalesced into policy or platforms. Now it’s individual candidates chasing money and doing the bidding of special interests (I’m combining here things Brooks said and things I have read and noticed. I’ll provide a link to his column).
I had wanted to include the Brooks column (or mention of it) when I did my original post in reaction to the latest Supreme Court ruling which was seen as adding even more money influence into politics, but time did not permit me to. I actually have to work at my real job.
Brooks says the latest ruling actually will work to give back some strength to the parties.
Here’s a link to his column: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/04/opinion/brooks-party-all-the-time.html?ref=davidbrooks
My original post follows:
Maybe it’s too bad that the conservative Supreme Court majority keeps making rulings that make it even easier for big money to decide who gets elected and then use the power of their money to buy votes for their pet projects and to make sure elected officials support their interests.
But maybe it’s too bad that the general public falls for the phony and shallow campaign ads, that is the small portion who actually vote, and maybe it’s too bad few people follow the issues.
Big money has an interest in the political process. The general public seems not to have.
Of course to some extent the established news media often play along and simply keep up the accepted narrative, pretending to show both sides.
But I don’t think campaign spending limits do the job anyway and probably are too hard and too expensive to enforce.
As far as spending money on a campaign being free speech, though, I don’t quite buy that. Just like I don’t buy burning the American flag being free speech. No I don’t see the constitutional issue in spending limits. I just think they don’t work.
(I just threw the flag thing in there. I don’t think people should burn the symbol of our nation. And I don’t think they are engaging in speech when they do so. There are plenty of ways to protest things without doing that.)
For those of us who try to follow the issues and try to find out who the different candidates really are, well we do have something to complain about. But for the mass of the electorate who choose to just read the headlines and listen to the sound bites, or just tune out altogether, they deserve what they get for their ignorance.
One big problem in all of this is that money seems to be the paramount measure of support for a candidate. You can’t even get into a primary race or a debate without being up there in the fund raising. You can’t very well have hundreds of candidates for one office, so they are weeded out based on money raised.
And then there is the age-old question of does money buy votes? Or does it just buy access (same difference to me)? Well of course it does, that is it buys access for sure, and usually or often with that it buys votes. Money talks, bull crap walks.
It would be difficult to impossible to take money out of the equation.
The only answer is an educated and engaged electorate.
I am getting the idea that both civics and the political process are not taught well in school.
That makes me think of voting registration drives. If you have to be talked into registering to vote, I’d rather you did not vote. We have too many uninformed people voting already, most likely.