Monday, February 6, 2012
U.S. elections: Dollars play a decisive role
An article by Gary Younge in the Guaradian (UK) claims that the dollar plays a decisive role in U.S. politics. Younge starts out by noting that to outsiders many of the Republican candidates have made astonishing statements often supposedly resulting in their losing popularity in the race. The German magazine Der Spiegel Mirror perhaps summed up the view of some foreign observers noting the the campaign seemed to be a parody of the stereotypes that many foreigners have about U.S. politics: . "Those who follow this race daily may have long since lost perspective on how absurd it is,". "Each candidate loves Israel. They all love Ronald Reagan. Each loves his wife, a born first lady, for a number of reasons." Younge should at the least note that it is Republican politics in the primaries for choosing a presidential candidate he is talking about and this does not involve the Democrats. However no doubt part of the description would apply to them as well! But the real decisive element in the campaign is not the debates but cold hard cash.'
While the role of cash is not new it is made even more decisive by the Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited spending by PACs. Younge notes that in 2008 168.8 million was spent on the election. Just since voting started less than a month ago Super Pacs alone have spent about 40 million. The trend has been up and up. Election spending doubled between 2004 and 2008.
Money of course is not the only determinant of success. Santorum won Iowa with expenditure of 74 cents a voter whereas Perry spent a humongous 358 dollars a vote and came in fourth. But as Younge points out in many other situations huge spending on ads seems to be key to campaign results.
Younge claims the influence of money in elections is corrupting the political culture. The problem is not personal Younge claims but systemic. As Younge puts it:"" it means a group of wealthy people in business will decide which wealthy people in Congress they would like to tell poor people what they can't have because times are hard" Actually what Younge is pointing out is hardly new. What may be happening is that money is coming to play a larger and larger role. This is hardly a phenomenon confined to the U.S. either. It is no doubt common in all democracies. It is just expensive to run a campaign so that only those who have the support of those with funds can be expected to get very far. There are exceptions but that is the rule. For more see the Guardian article.