Campaigning by dollars does not necessarily make sense

Just around the corner is the annual day of voting; this year is more significant than other years because we will choose the man who will be president for the next four years.  The campaigning is hitting high gear as the last debate is set to take place; after the debate the two candidates will scurry around the country in the political version of the two minute offense.  If you listen to the polarized rhetoric you know that if you make the wrong choice the country is doomed, but if you make the right choice we will all enter heaven and receive our promised 24 virgins.  The promises are frightening because we might make the wrong choice and be plunged deep into the downward spiral of Dante’s Inferno – and, at least for me, the wrong choice (as well as the right choice) is very, very difficult to determine.

One of the reasons that this year is more frightening and confusing – as each presidential election does seem more frightening to me – is because of the predominance of advertising and the lack of real, substantial and clarifying speeches from the candidates.  This year a billion dollars will be spent by the two parties, special interests groups and organizations to elect their candidate – the vast majority of the money is being spent on advertising.  The advertising is being used to demonize the opposition and canonize the party champions.  I think, and here I am probably very naive, that the founding fathers did not envision politics by advertising.  The presidential campaign is not the only place big money is being spent, in some states it is being spent on issues too.

This November four states will have some form of casino gaming on the ballot; voters in Oregon, Rhode Island, Maryland and Florida are being asked whether or not they favor expanding gaming in their states.  Like the presidential campaign the opposing sides in the gaming debate have taken to the media to make their case; and also like the presidential campaign demonizing the opposition is a favorite tactic.  In three of those states gaming is not a major one (although in Oregon, three former governors made gave their support to the anti-gaming side of the issue), but in Maryland it is a major issue – that is if judge the importance of the issue by the campaign spending.  In Maryland the two sides – those in favor of expanding gaming in Maryland and those opposed to expanding it – have spent more making their case than candidates for governor of Maryland have spent on the last two gubernatorial campaigns combined – $56 million.

Of course, political advertising is free speech.  It is therefore protected and rightfully so.  But might we not consider some limitation to the amount of money that might be spent on electioneering?  That would serve two purposes, it would mean that the candidate, or cause, with the most money to spend would not have a decided advantage and it would offer some degree of relief from the incessant advertising, phone calls and knocks on my door – enough already!  A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about Adelson and his contributions to the Republican party (he has given $34 million to date), it seemed to me that he might be close to buying a president; well nothing came of his contributions to Gingrich, but the threat remains in my mind.  I support Adelson or any other person’s right to choose and the right to support the candidate of his choice, but it makes me nervous to think that one very rich man might buy a candidate and an office or single-highhandedly control the outcome of an issue.

I don’t live in Maryland and don’t know which way I would vote if I did, but I don’t think the public good has been served by the spending of $56 millions dollars on the issue.  I don’t think the voting public in Maryland is better informed because of that 56 million dollars, in fact I think they are probably more confused by it.  We live in a society that believes in the value of advertising.  Advertising is the accepted way to learn about new products; advertising helps us choose which products, services and of course candidates are best for us.  The advertisers are held to some standard of honesty and not allowed to make blatantly false claims – or are they?  Well, some products (and candidates) walk a very thin line on that honesty concept.  Still, in our society it would be impossible nor desirable to eliminate advertising – even at the peak of Stalin’s rule in Russia there was advertising .  Advertising is a an essentialist and necessary part of a consumer economy.  However, I do believe it is time to rethink the way advertising is used in politics and of course that means rethinking campaign financing.  The spending of neither a billion dollars nor even fifty-six million dollars will guarantee voters can make sense of an issue or a candidate.  For democracy to work, voters need to be informed by the campaigns, not manipulated by clever advertising.

 Dueling out-of-state gambling companies and their allies have poured $56 million into the fight over whether to allow a Las Vegas-style casino in Prince George’s County, fueling an unprecedented advertising blitz in what has become one of the most visible races in the region.  The money, which is being shelled out at a rate of $6 million a week, exceeds what the candidates spent in Maryland’s past two gubernatorial races combined. With two weeks to go, the spending has already eclipsed that of all but a handful of other recent ballot measures across the country. John Wagner, Washington Post, 10-21-12

 Despite all their differences on policy, Republicans and Democrats want to leave Nevada voters with a common message with the start of early voting: This election is about the economy, and they are the party with the solutions to get it going again…where are the brains behind Nevada’s biggest economic industry placing their bets? …The big Las Vegas Strip casinos are putting their political cash behind candidates at every level on the federal ballot…In this election cycle, the national casino industry is primed to drop more than $50 million on candidates, lobbying and campaign donations, with the bulk of that coming from Sheldon Adelson’s record-breaking soft money donations to PACs backing Republicans…Subtract the $34 million Adelson donated through September and it’s still a pretty healthy sum of money, at least keeping pace with where spending was in 2008, when the industry chalked up $17 million. Karoun Demirjian, Las Vegas sun, 10-21-22




1 Response to “Campaigning by dollars does not necessarily make sense”

  1. 1 rexdstock1 October 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Did you mean to equate Obama with a belief system that rewards pious reverence with virgins?

    And you also say that both presidential candidates are not offering specific details, when, in fact, that is the predominant feature of the GOP, isn’t it?

    For the first time in my life we have a president whom I can trust; and to put him in the basket of the likes of the Congress (again, those who sign pledges to Grover Norquist, ie, Republicans) falls into the narrative the Chamber of Commerce and the Koch Brothers are hoping for.

    I’m not sure advertising should be considered unfettered free speech; and, we have laws that forbid advertisers from making false claims, using bait-and-switch tactics, etc.  Why the Supreme Court ruled differently in the Citizens United case is simply another example of how fucked up this country has become.

    Looking at the constitution like the zealots look at their bibles creates the same results:  man-killing intolerance.


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