Guest Post by: Emma Petit
US elections are becoming controlled and predictable enterprises that are managed by a new class of consultants who wield millions of dollars and define our politics like never before. This new power does not just endanger electoral politics, it is a challenge to the DNA of American democracy itself. The reality that the future path of our free and democratic nation is being formed by a few people (in the category of the wealthiest of the wealthy) is a scary thought.
Looking to the past for a point of comparison, in 1907 the Tillman Act made it “unlawful for any national bank or corporation to make a money contribution in connection with any election to any political office.” Elections were then protected until the post-war boom came about. The culture of politicized business in the 1950’s created a channel that funneled increasingly vast sums of money-for-influence directly into the electoral cycle. So the problem of unfair and corrupt media politics exists, and we are dealing with it today.
The authors of Dollarocracy, Nichols and McChesney, tell us that on a per capita basis, “less than half as much time and money is devoted to journalism today as was the case twenty-five years ago.”
Loose media laws are allowing partisan political commentary and negative ads to be presented as news. Balanced and informed political news and discourse is then put to a halt. Instead of a healthy discourse on what candidates stand for, and how they might lead the country, we learn only of their character flaws as presented by the less than honest moneyed backers of their opponents. Media outlets with opposing views fire accusations and lies back and forth until America gets frustrated to the point of no return. This is the so called “liars paradise”. Our confusion and anger then makes us vote for a candidate who is the lesser of two evils, rather than the better of two intelligent people.
Nichols and McChesney quote a remark made by Justice Rehnquist in 1978 citing Chief Justice John Marshall: “A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of creation confers upon it, either expressly, or as incidental to its very existence.”
Corporate America is hijacking the election process. Nichols and McChesney support a prescription that is encouraging the growing movement to amend the constitution to overturn Citizens United; a call for more political robust broadcasting; and an appeal to make voting a constitutional guarantee. We have to “refuse to be ridden by a booted, and spurred favored few.” The relevant funders are becoming the shape shifters of our country. It should be the other way around. The remaining citizens should have all the power.
In my opinion, there is a glaring problem. In 2012 the presidential candidates and relevant funders spent 2.3 Billion in the presidential race. Meanwhile, 30 countries have an annual GDP smaller than that amount. Isn’t it common sense that this 2.3 Billion should be put towards solving the global poverty problem? Or at least, isn’t it common sense that there are better ways to spend 2.3 million dollars than lying to America and hijacking our freedom in democracy.
The United States has experienced fundamental changes that are dramatically detrimental to democracy. It appears as though the clock has been turned so far backwards that advances made in the progressive era, a century ago, now stand in danger of being wiped out. Voters’ ability to define political discourse has been so diminished.
Are we heading in the direction of a dictatorship of wealth? We have lost the republic dependent on the people alone. We have to protect constitutional rights and ensure voting rights for all people. We have to immediately combat this problem of America moving towards becoming a nation of the super rich, by the super rich, and for the super rich.
We have to change the direction of the fate of our country!