Saturday, June 09, 2012
Use it or lose it
On the heels of the 2008 general election, the Center for Responsive Politics published statistics strongly supporting the conclusion that elections really are about the money. In 93% of the House races and 94% of the Senate races, the candidate with more money won; and Senator Obama won the presidency with a 2:1 financial advantage over Senator McCain.
As Dylan Ratigan commented in January, these aren't elections, these are auctions.
A lot of this money is spent on media advertising, and so far it has been mostly negative -- much more so than this point in previous campaign seasons.
Polls suggest that the public doesn't like negative political ads, or at least that the public says they don't like them. But they are effective.
An Obama ad lies about a prominent GOP donor. A recent Romney ad fabricated serious ethics charges based on purposeful lies. And so it will go in this race and in smaller races, and even these smaller races are breaking records in campaign spending.
And here is where I turn to the voter. Yes, the candidates are inferior, and they are bought by moneyed interests. Yes, it's corrupt and we need to overturn Citizens United and enact meaningful campaign finance reform (I'd go so far as to suggest publicly financed and regulated campaigns, limited to a few weeks). But you're part of this, too, honored citizen. Why are you so easily led? You stand there like an ox with a ring through its nose, pulled along by one lie after another. The science of political advertising includes "going negative" as a legitimate tactic, and professionals in this business make cold calculations based on the utility of arousing "fear, uncertainy, and disgust" (or FUD) in the public.
In other words, they take your ability to be misled and manipulated as a material fact, to be incorporated in their strategic decisions.
A little national pride, anyone? Some revolutionary spirit? A sense of revolt at the oligarchs who legitimize these fake elections with our help by manipulating us?
Or to put it another way: Why overturn Citizens United? Why bother instituting meaningful elections rather than these auctions? Why not do away with the expensive exercise altogether and simply allow the corporate oligarchs to select our legislators and our executive? If social legitimacy is regarded as important, they could simply have the acceptable candidates pose in business suits and military uniform, and we could text our votes like on American Idol.
If we can't be bothered to think and then act accordingly, as responsible citizens of a republic, then perhaps this is the best we can ask for.