President Obama's Reelection Campaign Isn't The Only One Affected By Money
So what exactly is the role of money in politics?
The question, nay debate, always presents itself around a big election cycle. And this could be one of the biggest.
Last Tuesday, May 16 Indiana’s longest serving Senator Dick Lugar was dethroned when Tea Party-backed candidate, Richard Mourdock was announced the winner of the state’s Republican primary.
And to what did the Senator owe his defeat? Money.
It couldn’t be the fact that after 37 years of holding office he had lost touch with his constituents, Hoosiers, who’d voted him in office so many times and for so many years before who may have felt betrayed by his lack of official residence in the state he was elected to represent. Or the fact that although admirable, his interest in foreign policy had lead him away from serving the real interests of those here at home.
Last election cycle, a similar de-throning occurred in Delaware, when longest serving representative, Michael Castle was ousted in his primary against Tea Party darling, Christine O’Donnell. And to what did he owe his demise? Out-of-state operations pouring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to see him defeated. It couldn’t have had anything to do with the fact that his voting record started to resemble quite the opposite of what Delawareans had voted him into office for from the beginning of his service.
These examples, and more have left many torn over the role of money in politics, specifically elections. So much so, that Americans are limited to how much money they can contribute to candidates per election cycle. Up until recently, political action committees were limited to how much money they were able to accept from concerned Americans as well. And there are still many others who fiercely believe that the ability for these PACs to form Super PACs with unlimited fundraising ability should not have the right to do so.
But the fact remains that money in politics is a source of free speech in the political game. And should Americans be limited in their right to express their political interests by the amount their willing to contribute to political candidates whom they feel most represent their views?
Doesn’t sound democratic to me.
So then the question is asked, well what about those who don’t have as much money as the ill-perceived one percenters? The first mistake is assuming that political donors are restricted to being “wealthy.”
When President Obama won in 2008, his campaign was a phenomenon in the political fundraising world. Sure, he had his one percenters like Warren Buffett, who contributed mightily to his campaign, but the real phenomenon was that much of Obama's fundraising did not come from the one percent, but by many middle-income Americans who chose to contribute as little as $5 to $10 to his presidential campaign. It was the first time that a candidate running for national office gained significant financial support from a class of donors that represented middle America, and to some extent that legitimized his message as the right one to lead the country at the time.
Which goes to show, it’s not the money, but the candidate and the message that warrants mass support. And the money raised by candidates is as much a representation of the support for the candidate as a vote on Election Day.
Candidates with a real message, and action to back it up will, at the end of the day gain financial support from Americans as well as election to office.
Photo of Dick Lugar from bloomberg.com
Money-politics thumbnail and homepage graphic from csbppl.com
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