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While it is the political theocracy that fashions campaigns that openly play on our fears, wants, suspicions, bias or bigotry, it is the rich and powerful amongst us who motivate us to vote for their candidates through campaign funding and unrestricted political advertising.
In a January 2010 decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission case the U.S. Supreme Court removed all limits on the power of corporations and unions to finance, support or attack candidates in elections of every sort and kind.
While we Americans treasure our right to vote and speak out in support of our ideas, aspirations and political philosophy, it has been a very long time since we the people freely chose who shall run for office, or serve in our state or national governments. We still have the same right to vote that we had always enjoyed. What’s changed are the sources and quality of information available about candidates.
On the surface our national politics are about ideologies, preferences and positions on issues. Nearly all candidates align with one of the two major parties and address the base membership on issues of the day framed in ways intended to attract votes. While this activity remains important in securing party supporters, an increasing number of elections are decided by independents or unaligned voters.
Political campaigns have never been about what’s truthful, honest or fair – for when it comes to politics what is said and what will follow are rarely the same. So, if politics is mostly evasive and untruthful anyway, some to openly wonder “What’s the big deal about corporate funding of political candidates?”
The answer lays not in issues of truth or fiction, or even obfuscation or misdirection for politics is about gaining power to influence events and expenditures. Politics has always used obfuscation ( avoiding an issue, or mumbling meaningless talking points ) to avoid criticism or suspicion. Another tool favored by politicians is misdirection ( speaking to issues that inflame passions, reward beliefs, or play to human weakness ).
While it is our political theocracy that has traditionally fashioned campaigns that play on our fears, wants, suspicions, bias or bigotry, it is equally the rich and powerful amongst us today who motivate us to vote for their candidates through campaign funding and political advertising.
As a people we do not know what’s really going on in Washington because reality is concealed behind skilled misdirection. The art of misdirection is as old as politics. What’s changed in recent years is not how it is used, but how well it is researched and how widely and repetitively it is disseminated. While a preponderance of voters claim to be antagonized by attack advertising in campaigns, nearly all voters are influenced by them.
Candidates who want to win office must play by the rules of modern electioneering by pandering to the issues that motivate voters not what’s most important to them. In the modern age, where candidate advertising plays a decisive role in election success, few candidates choose to speak to issues of critical importance in favor of attacking the other candidate on his stand on trigger issues.
Thus we elect what appear to be responsible and conservative Republicans to office for their anti-abortion stand, or their support of semi-automatic weapons sale, claims of fiscal responsibility, deficit reduction, or solemn pledge to cut taxes only to see them support massive deficit spending, or vote to change banking laws to permit credit card lenders to levy unwarranted fees and usurious interest rates on customers.
It’s the same for Democrat voters who are similarly misdirected by well crated campaigns that promise support on hot button issues only to deliver what’s in the best interest of being re-elected in preference to attending to important matters of public policy and legislation.
Washington lobbyists have a field day with today’s wild-west political realities. Because the costs of campaigning have been radically increased by advertising expenditures ( largely television ), every member of congress is beholden to one or more lobbyist groups for campaign donations — and now, the open involvement of their member corporations and labor unions.
We have effectively transferred control of our political establishment from responsible adults to irresponsible ideologues — both parties, both houses of Congress, and most assuredly the Presidency. Congress is increasingly run by the wealthy and well connected where it once was only comprised of such men and women. And beginning this year, corporations and financial institutions seeking only to increase their share of our nation’s immense wealth and work product, will be permitted to spend as much as they like on political campaigns.
Not only to favor candidates they like, or trust, or own — but to discredit or destroy candidates who refuse to do their bidding, or stand in the way. If you’re a Senator or Congressman, and in a tight race for reelection, would you choose to take their money or risk the consequences of having them use that money against you?
In 21st century American politics it’s the rich and powerful, especially those who sponsor or control influential Washington lobbyists, who preponderantly decide who shall be successful in elections.
If you’re a powerful Washington lobby, say banking, or transportation, or manufacturing, the opportunity to finance political campaigns is the power to select who runs as well as who is likely to win. Every lobby seeks out candidates who favor, or who would be willing to favor, their needs regardless of political affiliation. By investing in those candidates who would be most beneficial to their agenda they can influence who survives primary elections as well as who they favor in the general election.
This is how the most powerful lobbies attain powerful and influential connections in congress no matter who wins or who loses. As we have learned from our recent financial disruptions, legislators from both parties supported the deregulation of banking and finance.
What ordinary Americans did not know was that over many election cycles the funding of political candidates increasingly determined who ran for office in both parties. We voted for the ones who favor abortion, or cutting taxes without any understanding that our choices had been limited to only those candidates who would favor banking and finance interests over the interests of nation, or constituency.
This is how one Democrat, ( Senator Richard Durbin, Illinois ) came to say, “Quite frankly, they own the place,” in regards to the influence the banking lobby has in the Congress.
Ordinary citizens remain largely unaware of how politics have changed in the last two decades. While they rightly believe that the ultimate choice is up to them, they wrongly assume that they know what any candidate offers, if elected.
And now some people advocate voting-out incumbent office holders to rid the congress of office holders owned or influenced by lobbyists. propose to solve our problems — not by becoming engaged, and becoming enlightened, but by voting out incumbents so that our political paralysis might continue. And look at what this has produced for us in the last quarter century. Our Congress, yours and mine, is paralyzed by indifference to the needs of the nation. This is not new, for the era of deregulation that began during the Reagan administration has continued unabated due to sub-optimal governance and destructive political pandering.
Today, responsible men and women are leaving the congress, not because they cannot be re-elected, but because they feel trapped in an institution and political reality that is grid-locked, irresponsible, inattentive to solving problems and far more interested in destroying the opposing party that doing the people’s business.
The failure of our political systems and institutions are now visible. In the U. S. Senate, which finds it nearly impossible to do the people’s business today, members on both sides of the aisle are leaving. Not those who are rabid political ideologues, but those men in both parties who were most experienced at finding compromise and practicing comity.
Democrats Evan Bayh, Indiana, Christopher Dodd, Connecticut, Ted Kaufman, Delaware, Roland Burris, Illinois, and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota will all be gone in the next Congress. Six Republicans have also announced their retirement, George LeMieux, Florida, Sam Brownback, Kansas, Jim Bunning, Kentucky, Kit Bond, Missouri, Judd Gregg, New Hampshire and George Voinovich of Ohio.
Kentucky’s Senator, Jim Bunning is so angry at his own party ( Republican ) for voting to spend monies without trimming funding for other programs, or raising taxes necessary to finance new expenditures, that he is singlehandedly standing against funding an extension of worker’s compensation benefits in the midst of the worst recession anyone can remember.
While it’s understandable that so many Republicans might want to find another line of work, one might ask why Democrats, during times of an immense majority, seek to leave. Evan Bayh says the Senate is no fun anymore while making himself out to be one of the good guys. While few might challenge his good guy reputation many might ask how his departure serves the best interests of either the Senate or Indiana.
When the good men and women leave town, the K Street Gangs win.