How to Keep Big Money out of the Presidential Race
Several weeks ago I was set to appear on The Middle Ground; a radio show co-hosted by Author Michael Charney and Coffee Party Co-Founder Eric Byler. One of the topics defined pre-show was a debate over the effectiveness — or lack thereof of the Electoral College. Unfortunately, time was not on our side that night and the discussion never took place. Given this, let’s see if I can’t kick-start the discussion via blog.
I have long since studied the various arguments both for and against the Electoral College (since the 6th grade), including its effect on voter behavior and turnout, representation of smaller states, and the way presidential candidates design campaigns. But recently, I had an epiphany. I uncovered a nexus of seemingly unrelated factors that could not have even been imagined by the Founders that has created a huge blind-spot in the fairness of the electoral process. I’m speaking of the confluence of the Electoral College, big money, and polling; and if you wish to challenge my findings, you need look no further than to the current presidential election.
To begin with, polling tells us that California’s 55 electoral votes, over 20% of those needed to win the Presidency already sit safely on President Obama’s side of the ledger. As such, the more than 23 million eligible voters in California have not and will not be addressed by either candidate. Of course, given that most ads are negative and filled with nothing more than propaganda, people on the left coast might actually consider themselves to have been spared great pains. Regardless, if you add to it New York, also comfortably in the President’s “win column” and Texas, who will assuredly fall on Governor Romney’s side you have just nullified the importance of 45% of all voters in the country! Isn’t that, in and of itself is just plain wrong? Worse yet, polling has identified the nine (9) states left “in play”, and that these states will determine who our next President is. Enter Big Money.
Big Money is a term that I first heard used by Eric Byler in describing a third major political party – one with the power to drown out all other political messaging including those of mainstream Republicans and Democrats. The Big Money Party was birthed from the very unpopular (80% against) Supreme Court ruling in the matter of Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission; a ruling which allows big businesses and wealthy individuals to spend limitless amounts of money on political campaigns1. The solitary aim of The Big Money Party is to buy Washington influence. And while the influence of Big Money extends well beyond elections, quite naturally, they find it much easier to get what they want if the “right people” are put into office in the first place. As such, Big Money dumps billions of dollars into various elections including that of the presidency; the great majority of which remains undisclosed, having been funneled through various Dark Money Super PACS. But because there is a limit to even their resources, Big Money needs to find ways to be strategic in the apportionment of said resources. Reenter our our earlier guest, polling.
With polling data pointing out the import of only a few battleground states, Big Money can tightly focus their spending, and in doing so create powerful media streams which are unleashed on key voting blocs the way fire hoses were turned on Civil Rights marchers. Political experts across all viewpoints believe that this onslaught of Big Money has a real impact on the outcome of elections. If we agree, and we conclude that it is in fact BAD for The Big Money Party to have such undue influence on the electoral process, we must next ask, what can be done to stop it? Hmm. Good question.
Since you can’t stop polling, and since the Supreme Court shows no signs of reversing their Citizens United ruling, the future of The Big Money Party seems assured. However, this does leave one possible target which, if destroyed, would put an end to the influence of Big Money on the presidential election – the Electoral College. Just think. What would happen if we did away with the Electoral College tomorrow?
If we got rid of the Electoral College, narrowing the number of media outlets needed to reach the crucial undecided voters would become nearly impossible. As such, what once was a laser-focused media assault on just a few states would become nothing more than a harmless, distant scattering of PR buckshot. Furthermore, I am willing to bet that it would actually discourage big donors as they would no longer be able to guarantee returns on their contributions. In the end, Big Money would be blind, forcing candidates to pay attention to every state as every state would contain undecided voters. Boarders would mean nothing, ultimately bringing justice to the process of electing a President. As he is everyone’s president Michael, shouldn’t everyone’s vote count equally? With the Electoral College in place, it does not. I’ll hang up now and wait for my answer.