By Sharon Jones
It is coming from below. The outcry can be seen from both the Trump and Sanders camps. Not only do they have dissatisfaction in common, but also the fact that they no longer want their candidates to be bought and paid for. Sanders’ support has only come from small donors while Trump has claimed to be mostly self-funded.
Despite calls for campaign finance reform in the past, it has never before been a topic of much debate in national campaigns. It is pretty simple to understand that politicians don’t wish to bite the hands that feed them. Effective logic also says that those same hands pull the puppet’s strings and our representatives belong to them.
The last decade has seen an explosion of money going into political campaigns. Hundreds of millions have become billions. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, opened the door to limitless spending. As TV advertising deals cannot be made during election seasons due to campaign finance laws designed to prevent favoritism, businesses see their ad budgets triple as money rushes in for 30 seconds of ad time that ends in “and I approve this message.” This is due to the exorbitant amounts of expenditure and volume of ads that campaigns can easily absorb.
The 2012 Presidential election cost $2 billion and the total cost of all elections was $7 billion. The last Massachusetts Senate race cost $85 million. The 2016 elections could be 30% - 50% more expensive. Despite all of the money rushing in, governance isn’t any better for it. That so much money would be spent to elect a Congress that barely cracks double digit approval numbers, shows a major disconnect. Do the wealthy want nothing to be accomplished? Maybe they do, as a responsible Congress would surely have to tackle systemic inequality issues caused by policies that have favored the wealthy for over 35 years.
All of the campaign spending might yield the best return on investment that banks and major corporations will ever get, but it yields nothing for the American people. Our representatives are not cost effective for us. If anything, they are an investment gone horribly sour.
The revolution will be cost effective as the American people are waking up to demand real return. That so many have moved to support candidates that are perceived as in no one’s pocket, it seems the impetus to finally relegate political candidates to individual donations has finally begun. That the issue is still mostly unspoken by incumbents, shows how much the money matters to them, but opens the door to challengers that pick up on the current discontent.
American’s are showing that they want Citizen’s United overturned, billionaires out of the game of politics and corporations to actually have to earn money instead of lobbying for changing the rules of the game in their favor. Years of political gridlock and seeing the chance of elective representatives becoming millionaires at 1 in 2, have started wearing very thin. The next surprise might be when incumbent representatives wake up and starting talking about reform as a way to save their jobs.
That it is long overdue is an understatement. Government hasn’t worked for the people in decades, as is underscored by the decline of the American middle class. Soaring costs and stagnant wages have served to diminish what was once the backbone of American success. The sentiment might be that it is time to see those in Congress feel what the American people feel and actually have to get out there, shake hands, know their constituents and stop simply spending millions on attack ads. The stage has been set to actually make them rely on individual donations and not the largess of the rich with an objective.
This election season will still be the most expensive ever. Maybe the next one will be too. What matters is that finally the most important issue in American politics is coming to the forefront. In order for democracy to work for all of us, the money funding elections has to be severely regulated. A plutocracy was never on the menu to begin with, and now it is time to remove it.
Americans are primed for a political revolution of sorts and they want their government to become cost effective. It is long overdue.
Sharon Jones is a contributor to zenruption’s politics and life sections. She is excited to really see American’s embracing the need for politicians not to be owned by anyone, regardless of which side they vote for. We think Sharon would be a good candidate for office, but would miss having her around for drinks on a Friday night.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license