“We have the best government that money can buy.” Mark Twain
As primary results roll in across the nation, the one think eminently clear to the casual observer is that over and over again, there is more often than not a very simple method any layman can use to predict electoral outcomes beyond mere party affiliation, political ideology, endorsements or the smorgasborg of other reasons that pundits will point to as reasons for why voters pick one name or issue on a ballot over another. That leading indicator is, and I would argue has always been for longer than anyone can remember is simple: money.
Candidates or issue advocates who spend the most money promoting their viewpoint, tend to garner the most votes. It’s no secret that campaigns are once again on course to break new fund-raising and spending records for this mid-term election year (just as the 2008 presidential cycle obliterated 2004 records, and the 2006 midterms smashed 2002 records). I reckon if political spending could ever be traced back to the age that Mark Twain made his famous quote, we’d find a similar pattern.
How the money ends up in the campaigns is of course a subject for endless rumination and legislative bickering in closing loopholes and establishing new fund-raising paradigms, but the reality is that those with financial power have and will ultimately find a way to use their wealth to secure political power. Whether they use that power to remain secure in benign capitalistic endeavours, or to weild political power to discourage competition is rather negligable in this debate.
I’m sure libertarians/Libertarians and other third party advocates will no doubt rebuke me by saying that in their campaigns the cost per vote for them is much lower, and thus a better return on one’s contribution. And that’s false, since libertarians rarely factor in the dollar value of the volunteer man-hours that goes into those campaigns. It’s a burden that we poorer libertarian folks have to come to grips with: there’s a cap on how many hours are in the day that an active volunteer can contribute, whereas corporate-sponsored campaigns can simply hire their support en masse. There’s a quality of work trade-off for sure, but a small regiment of libertarian volunteers vs a massive brigade of paid staffers will ultimately be crushed by sheer numbers.
This isn’t meant to say that I’m fatalistic about the influence of money in politics. If anything I welcome less barriers in the political arena, but seeing as how that is determined by those in power who will shape the campaign landscape to their own ends, we have to adapt to the rules of political warfare: The enemy has vast resources to spend on raising an army, we must be smart in organizing our own active insurgency based on human capital.