I am thinking that there is little use to set limits on the amount of money that can be donated to a candidate or his (or her) campaign in U.S. politics. I do believe there should be full disclosure, however. And that would include money spent by Political Action Committees, called PACs, who may ostensibly be putting out material not necessarily directed in favor of one candidate, or party (but of course they are).
But to worry that those with money can control the message is understandable but somehow a waste of time. Of course people with money can buy a lot of time on the internet and television and print media.
But nothing prevents citizens from being objective and sorting through news reports and analyses and campaign material, that is keeping informed and making up their own minds — well nothing but the citizenry’s own tendency toward apathy and personal bias and the quality of the mainstream media.
The only practical control on the news media is the consumer of news. Hopefully people will gravitate toward sources that seem to present all sides of an issue rather than playing to a particular bias in a certain demographic niche.
There is little way to control the so-called news media via government, nor should there be, in a system that guarantees a free press and freedom of speech in general.
I was thinking about this after listening to my favorite right-wing talk show (well the only one I can stomach) in which the host was lamenting the problem that politics is run by the fat cats with all the money. I don’t know if he was just playing some form of Devil’s advocate or what. I mean I think formerly he would have brushed aside such concern. For does not the right wing usually support the free flow of money in politics without restraint? But the tone of this right-wing talk show has been becoming somewhat more moderate for a while.
Probably I need a new analogy — the one I am going to present having been used here more than once — but a few years back a man named Michael Huffington, a very rich, but little known to the wider public man, tried to essentially buy a U.S. Senate seat in California with millions of his own dollars. He lost, but I just had to make a correction. He lost only by a narrow margin. So yeah, money is a problem. Kind of a work in progress here. In my original draft I wrote that he lost “big time”, but in reality the much more political-experienced and well-known incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein won, but it was a narrow victory, with the vote count drawn out. And that was in 1994 — a little more than a few years ago (my how time flies). So probably in a way I have disproved my own point to a degree. Money almost did buy him a seat. There were some hot button issues at the time that were giving Republicans an advantage — Huffington was the Republican and Feinstein the Democrat.
But of course when we get to something like the presidential election big money definitely has the upper hand, to say the least, the current figure to elect a president being something approaching a billion dollars. So in that sense big money does seem to control who we have to choose from.
However, the idea that anyone can grow up to be president is a false one anyway. For one thing we would not want just anyone to be president. For another how would we choose from a field of every Tom, Dick, and Harriet who put themselves up as a candidate?
We have to have a sorting process.
Once upon a time political parties were the main sorter of all of this. They would winnow out the field in a grand convention, complete with backroom deals in smoke-filled rooms. And in the end, the voters were presented with the candidates, and in our federal, non-parliamentary system, our leader is virtually always a member of one of our only two major political parties, the Republicans or Democrats.
But in opening up what had been essentially a closed system, we now force candidates to campaign more directly to the voters in a plethora of primary elections, straw polls, and baby kissing and hot dog eating events.
Rather than trying to garner favor with party bosses, candidates run independent campaigns they must finance themselves.
The only possible way the individual voter who is not a fat cat could hope to have more say than just his or her single vote once a slate is presented would be for the voter to get involved with party politics or some other grass roots efforts.
This kind of local politics still exists in some areas of the nation, not so much where I live.
But that is really the only way I would think.
But an informed electorate has a better chance of keeping things on the up and up and getting leaders it needs. But a large part of keeping informed is effort by individuals themselves.
If you can’t be bothered in your busy life then perhaps you deserve what you get.
Yes, money to a large extent does control politics and I did not offer any real solution here, just ways to at least deal with the problem.