The morning after the Illinois Republican primary, I was running on a treadmill at my gym watching the morning news. I just can't stomach Morning Joe on MSNBC anymore, particularly after watching Scarborough pander to the sociopath Grover Norquist while Norquist shamelessly peddled his new book entitled "Poor Children Deserve to Die." Ok, the book is actually called "Debacle," which is a wonderfully fitting title for a book by the guy who somehow convinced countless politicians to sign a pledge that he conceived when he was twelve years old. Therefore, I grudgingly settled on CNN to accompany my morning run. The lead story at the top of the hour was Mitt Romney's win in the Illinois primary.
The host launched the story with a line that went something like this: Romney tops Santorum in Illinois, but it comes at a cost. The host went on to remark how the race in Illinois "cost" the Romney camp dearly, as they outspent Santorum's campaign by a margin of eight to one. As the pundits discussed how this event was so burdensome to poor Mitt Romney, one thought came into my head:
They missed the point entirely with this story. The real cost of Romney's campaign in Illinois was paid by the American people.
The sentiment that the Illinois race came at a high price to Romney was echoed in the ABC News article by Matt Negrin that day as well. Negrin remarked:
Even Romney's win in Illinois tonight cost him. He and the super PAC supporting him outspent Santorum's forces by an eight-to-one margin on campaign advertising.Rick Santorum was outspent by a margin of eight to one. Mitt Romney and the Super PAC supporting him spent $3.8 million dollars carpet bombing the people of Illinois with relentless, negative and viscious campaign ads. Over three and a half million dollars spent on behalf of one candidate in one state in a primary race. Right now our founding fathers are rolling in their freaking graves.
What happened in Illinois was yet one more piece of evidence pointing to an undeniable truth: American politics is thoroughly and completely infected with the cancer of money. The cost of this truth is not levied on the campaigns, it is levied on the broken democracy that once was our Republic. It is levied on the people of the United States who have a government that no longer represents them. Elections, quite simply, are bought and paid for by wealth and power.
Now, don't get me wrong, I have no love lost for the former Senator from Pennsylvania whose name produces a rather unfortunate Google search result. I am revolted by the fact that an actual presidential contender in 2012 is talking about the wisdom and ethics of widespread birth control availability. This is a man who believes "intelligent design" (i.e. creationism) should be taught in our public schools to provide an alternative to that kooky evolution theory, and who is in complete denial of climate change. I am not saying that Rick Santorum should have beaten Mitt Romney in Illinois. Who knows, maybe my friends to the south simply believe his is as big a crackpot as I do. What I am saying is that with the kind of money Mitt Romney can throw at this race, Santorum doesn't stand a chance of surging from behind (sorry, I can't help myself).
The fact that Mitt Romney and his surrogates can spend $3.8 million to buy a state primary should send people into the streets with torches and pitchforks, metaphorically speaking, of course. Our democracy has been completely hijacked by wealth, yet the media pundits merely remark on how costly the race has been to the individual campaigns. I believe the scope of the problem is so severe that many people have a hard time defining it or knowing where to even start the conversation. It is that denial, that paralysis, that has brought us to the point where we are today.
In my post The Plague, I talked about the role money plays in American politics. In that piece, I discussed how the wealthiest one percent in our nation, actually a fraction of the wealthiest one percent, make 80 percent of all campaign contributions. The top 1% of the top 1% individually make campaign contributions that exceed the median annual income in this country. And make no mistake about it, this small group wants the robber baron, corporate-raiding, tie-your-dog-to-the-roof-of-your-car, hologram of a man to be the Republican nominee. They know, after all, that he will serve their interests, because he is one of them. The Republican base hates Mitt Romney, but he will be the nominee. Mitt Romney presided over the precurser of the Affordable Care Act, but he will be the Republican nominee. He creeps out Republicans and Democrats alike when he speaks, but he will be the nominee. To ensure this, his campaign and gluttonous Super PAC will throw as much money into this campaign as they can, and nobody will bat an eyelash.
As I discussed in the Plague, this is not a problem limited to the Republican party in any way, shape or form. Both parties are infected with this cancer, as evidenced by President Obama's recent nod to the Super PACs supporting his reelection campaign. Yet while the President's decision disappointed me, unilateral disarmament under these circumstances would amount to political suicide. After all, Republican Super PACs have already out-raised their Democratic counterparts by a an astonishing margin of four to one.
I will say it again: Our democracy will remain sick and broken until we drive the influence of money from our political system. We need to undue Citizens United through a constitutional amendment that declares that corporations are not people and money is not political speech. Once that occurs, we can set out to pass sensible campaign finance laws that level the playing field for all citizens. We can stage a legislative intervention that forces both parties to deal with their addiction to special interest money. Until that happens, our politicians will continue to spin their wheels and fail to tackle the meaningful issues facing average Americans, because we are not the ones paying their bills.
Simply put, until we get the money out, nothing will change. And Mitt Romney is betting a lot more than $10,000 that I am right.