The Expensive Lessons Of 2010

There’s been plenty of column space dedicated to the damage wrought by the Citizens United decision, including the unprecedented spending efforts by corporations like Target, Best Buy and McDonalds, not to mention the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Now as citizens cast their votes and as pundits prepare their various election post-mortems, it’s a good time to look at how this influx of cash has effected the overall health of our democracy. 

And let me say, the prognosis is not good.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, approximately $4 billion was spent in this election cycle alone–an off-year midterm election with, compared to 2008, far fewer “marquee” match-ups.  The 2006 midterms, by way of example, saw about $2.85 billion and the 2004 presidential campaigns spent approximately $4.14 billion.

It’s clear that by allowing corporations and unions the right to spend freely and anonymously, Chief Justice John Roberts and his cohorts have cast as law the idea that cash, not informed discourse, is king come election time.  As a result voters have been subjected to a barrage of negative, shady election ads that skirt the truth (to put it politely), offered by such vanilla-sounding groups as the American Future Fund and The American Action Network.  The result is a mean-spirited dumbing down of national political discourse that no doubt has our founding fathers and freedom fighters spinning in their graves.

Worse still, it does nothing to offer solutions or visions of leadership in a time when both are of critical imporance and apparently short demand.

We’ll have a clearer understanding just how extensive the effect and how poisonous a turn our elections have taken once we have the final tally from Tuesday.  Did the majority of Americans really vote for candidates who have no interest creating jobs, protecting affordable health care choices or making sure the average American does not foot the bill for the greed and excess of Wall Street and its enablers?  Did young voters who have the distinct misfortune of being born in a time when it will be nearly impossible for them to achieve a higher standard of living than their parents stay home?  Did armed groups of mis-informed vigilantes successfully disenfranchise American citizens in a specific intent to block the exercise of constitutional rights?  If the answer to those questions are yes, then I’m afraid our future does indeed look bleak.

There are ways outside of this maze of unlimited money and the corporatization of our democracy by the Roberts Court.  There’s the DISCLOSE Act, which would require corporations to identify the candidates and causes they spend their money supporting.  And there’s moving towards the public financing of elections–perhaps the last best chance for the average American to make sure that the monied elite in this country do not permanently dominate the crafting of public policy to suit their own needs.

This country has survived one Gilded Age and is struggling to come out of another, but it won’t be possible unless we get a handle on and form a solution to the unfettered cash flooding our campaigns, particularly when that cash is combined with anonymity.  Democracy is all about accountability, yet our current campaign financing system encourages and promotes just the opposite.  Forcing corporate campaign disclosures and moving toward a publicly financed elections system is really the only way to maintain a government of the people and by the people.

So we’ve got two years to make that happen.  Let’s get to work.

photo courtesy of TheCreativePenn via Flickr


Paul B.
7 years ago

If I were a corporation, I would never reveal who I gave money to. Just look at Target and the attack for simply giveing money to a company that distributes funds to various campaigns. The radical left is so bent on destruction that they will do whatever, and I mean that in the most radical way, to accomplish their goals. They ignore rules, they have no scruples, no morals, no anything that resembles what we consider fair play. They are the first to scream foul, but the worst offenders fo the same rules... does that sound rather hypocritical... it should because that is what I see all the time from the left. You will win very few fans when you play games that way. This country was not built that way, and th majority of americans like a fair fight... and will typically support an underdog, but rarely a cheater and that is the feeling most people have of the far left progressives. Can you blame them???

Paul B.
7 years ago

WOW Die HArd, that was one load of crap you just laid on this blog. Most if not all of it misrepresentations, fabrications and borderline lies. Where do you get yur information from? Let me guess, Huffington Post, Media Matters, the American Progressive, among other similar sites. You are the victim of what you claim the Tea Party is. Yes, I will at least will show you the respect and call you by a valid name rather than the childish(yes that is all it is) immature name calling that you seem so inept at doing very well. Come on, with half a mind I could do better than that. But see, unlike you, I will respect your opinion even though I don't agree with it. It is people like you that give the progressive movement a bad name. You are unwilling to debate topics, just rattle off junk that you think sounds so cool, but without a shred of evidence, support, facts or anything that even comes close to resembling reasonable support for your arguments. That is why you are dismissed by anyone that you should want to convince that your progressive movement and ideals are actually good for this country. Grow up and act like you might have a clue on reality. Do you even know what caused the financial collapse, or how in bed your beloved administration is with corporations, how about unions, George Soros, do you? Do you have any idea what their agenda really is? Do you even have a clue as to what that might REALLY mean for life as we know it today? I seriously doubt it. Look into it. Learn.

Sue T.
Susan T7 years ago

when are we all gonna start working together?

I am asking as a citizen, who is big enough to make the first move?

20 years ago I would have said the Dems...since I was one....OMG totally liberal. Now not so much.

It really makes me sad and disappointed that there is so much BS and name calling.

I know what I believe and I will continue on.

People who call people like me names have no idea who I why not just stop and breathe a bit...take a step back and for Pete's sake let us all figure out how we can make this country into a United States of AMERICA.

WE can do it. I know we can! Seriously...if I can go to work every day (Thank God (or whomever you what to thank) I have a job...after 2 yrs of not having one) sorry i digress....

If I can go to work everyday and SMILE and ACT AS IF! and get along....if I can do it .... I know this country can do it!

I know everyone in this country can ..... if they want to.

DO YOU WANT TO? really?

stop the name calling, the hate, the senseless vitriol....

I cannot believe the hatred and anger on a site called CARE2.

where is your soul? I may not agree with you but I am seriously stunned by the hatred here.

How will we ever get along?

Anger is not productive. Hate and name calling is just a waste of time.

How do we make things WORK?

How do we get people ... AMERICANS to stop complaining and start appreciating where we live?

or would you rather be somewhere else?

Marianna B M.

horrible numbers

Gene W.
Gene W7 years ago

@Dan C., although it was not 100 years of decisions and laws it would not matter; remember an Amendment had to be passed in order for women to vote another to free the slaves both in the face of years of decisions and laws.
@Die Hard, many of the things which you mention such as roads are typically the responsibility of government not socialism as is currently espoused. The roads and other infrastructure is for the good of all.

Hope S.
Hope Sellers7 years ago

Well this election has proven that money can buy
almost anything and that the dumbing down of the United States citizens is more than I expected.

Now that the Republicans have gained control of the House hold on to whatever you have because
it's only going to get worse. We have let the foxes into the hen house.

Dan C.
Dan C.7 years ago

Okay. Sure. No problem. Massive corporations with deeeep pockets are people deserving of unlimited free speech rights. Nevermind that this contradicts over 100 years of decisions and legislation. But the CEO and other officers, are they not people already? Dont they already have rights? And their corporations, are these "entities" not now "Super People", with Super Rights? I don't have five million bucks to push my agenda, replete with lies. Corporations are now people, only.. much better, immune from prosections, but more American that you or I. (NOT!) At least do this. Pass the Disclose Act. At least tell us who these Super Donors are, so we can learn who it is we sold our democracy to.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

Thank you for the article.

Die Hard
Die Hard7 years ago

Jeffey Dumbya is a good little slave to his corporate masters. Of COURSE the executives despise unions, which have the ability to bargain their skills and labor for a living wage, instead of being HAPPY to get a dollar an hour plus tips, and HAPPY that the billionaires pay less in taxes overall than a schoolteacher.

Jeffey, we know you can't being stupid, being a teabaglican and all, so go try to read your comic book and quit parroting the lies the power-mad neocon-nazis have been drilling into what passes for your ability to repeat simplistic and inaccurate slogans.

You don't like "socialism," eh? You "revere individual liberty"? Fine. Stay off the roads. Plant your own food. Make your own clothes. And hunt around on foot for plants to make medicine with. Have fun with the trial and error. You're not allowed to use that socialist library, much less the communist commune of the web and the internet.

America is "center/right"? Well, the repukelibaggers are, with their bigotry, ignorance, vicious cowardice, and mob behavior.

"Center/right" means "Somebody tell me what to do. Wrap it in cotton candy so I don't have to think."

The Progressive Left is desperately trying to mitigate the disasters created by the Reagan-Bush-Gingrich-Bush regimes in their agenda of establishing a plutocracy. Stealing elections, packing the courts with corrupt ideologues, deregulating industries that collapsed under their own greed ... while poking their laws into our private lives.

Mary L.
Mary L7 years ago

Thank you great article but why stop there. Campaign for real change. NO funds except from the government and that very limited. Campaigns also limited in time. Six weeks sounds good to me.