According to a U.S. News report the 2016 presidential candidates and their “super” political action committees had raised more than $350 million as of a June report that was filed. There’s no doubt the number is much higher now.
In the 2008 election Barak Obama spent about $730 million, and John McCain spent nearly $450 million. Those figures are striking when compared to the $9.8 million John F. Kennedy spent when he defeated Nichard Nixon in 1960. After adjusting for inflation, the equivalent dollar figure Kennedy spent was still less than $100 million.
I think Donald Trump said it well in an interview with Sean Hannity Thursday evening when he explained why he had contributed to campaigns as a businessman. Trump basically said a contribution could be the difference between a senator or president picking up the phone or not when you call.
On the local level it was just the same. As a businessman wrote me a $200 check in Lorain, Ohio, I thanked him. He said, “don’t worry about it, I do this for everybody. It’s so I know I can give you a call if you win.”
As Trump explained, it’s the same on the national level. However, the checks are much larger and the stakes are probably a little higher.
I also can’t blame the politicians for our current state of campaign finance. They are playing by the rules we, the electorate, set. They want to get elected, and they need huge amounts of money to get it done. After all, it’s tough to be considered an effective politician if you can’t win an election.
The concern — and it’s a very real one — is to whom politicians are beholden once elected. That answer is — no matter what any candidate might say — to the money. After all, the folks that funded the campaigns are the ones who truly put these guys or gals in office.
Campaigns at all levels have become about who can slap their mug on more billboards, send out more flyers in the mail or run television adds on the most prime-time spots in the evening. It has become about the money.
There are folks out there that blame millionaires, corporations and lawmakers for the political situation in which we find the country. I hear things like “the Supreme Court ruled that a corporation is a person” and “lawmakers need to pass campaign finance reform.”
I think all those arguments are rubbish. There is only one body of people that can change the way this process works, and that’s the electorate.
I think it used to be that folks tuned in to real debates to watch Richard Nixon sweat or turned on the radio to hear a message from FDR. People also read the newspaper, and actually tried to learn about the campaign issues. Candidates rode across the country on trains, meeting the electorate face-to-face. The electorate cared about who was representing them.
The only way we, the electorate, can keep the money from controlling the system is to educate ourselves on the issues. At the local level that’s really easy.
I challenge the electorate to learn as much about every issue as they can. In the upcoming municipal election there will be some very real issues about which candidates are divided in their opinions.
Don’t let the person who mails the most catchy political propaganda or whose name sounds the most familiar win the election. If the people want to control what’s going on, it’s about the people educating themselves and seeking information.
Obviously, reading is a good way to start. People rely a little much on catchy posts on Facebook or the verbiage of pundits on talk radio. We need to read good, hard news sources.
On the local level, the best option for somebody who actually cares could be to attend a few meetings. I try very hard to be an unbiased source of information in my news articles about county government. However, don’t rely solely on my coverage or anybody else’s.
Look at it as free entertainment. It can cost a couple upwards of $30 to go see a movie. However, these meetings are free. Admittedly, they can also be more entertaining than a movie.
I simply don’t want the electorate to continue down the road of listening to little catch phrases. That’s what we got out of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. The only way to avoid another $730 million worth of “hope” and “change” is to keep politicians from “dumbing” things down.
The only way we do that is through educating ourselves on the issues.
Andy Winemiller is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. Andy can be reached at (336) 415-4698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.