My Role In Money And Politics

The other day I send a modest contribution to the presidential candidate of my choice. It doesn’t matter which one. Well, it does matter but not for the purposes of this post. I’ll be sending some small money in support of candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives soon. There is, of course, a price to be paid for this. It’s not only the cash expense but it’s the nearly unimaginable number of emails from every corner of my candidate’s political party thanking me for my contribution and suggesting other opportunities to contribute. I’d have given a little more in exchange for a commitment that they wouldn’t spam me but I didn’t bother to ask. I’m still getting spam from my modest political contributions of two years ago and four years ago. Even without the spam I plan to contribute some more as the season rolls along.
Why am I, a person who is well down in the 99% cohort, giving to political causes? I have three basic reasons. First, I can’t face my own emotional reaction come November 7 should my candidate lose with me having not done all I could do to help. I faced that emotion in 2000 and again in 2004. It wasn’t much fun! Yes, I did give a little in those years too but I could have and should have done more. I mistakenly thought that my guy would win in both those elections. On its own would a larger involvement on my part have helped? Not very likely. But I would have felt better for having done more. Anger is a more wholesome emotion than guilt.
Second, I’m lazy, somewhat shy, and at times antisocial. Frankly, at this stage of my life I’d rather throw some money at a candidate than knock on doors or call people I don’t know. This wasn’t always the case but it is now.
Here’s where I stop reflecting on myself and start meddling.
Third, I think I have a patriotic duty to contribute and that means contribute money. In fact, in the current environment, I think every patriot has a patriotic duty to contribute money to the candidate or party of her or his choice. It doesn’t matter which candidate or which party. Well, it does matter quite a bit but not for the purposes of this post.
In the face of the ever increasing cost of candidacy driven in significant part by the ever increasing monetary involvement of exceeding rich individuals and even richer corporations and their segregates, small money may not have much of a chance. But contributing is one of several actions we can take together do to limit the influence of big money. At least to some extent, many small contributors combine to dilute the influence of big contributors by democratizing the process. One million people giving $10.00 each halves the monetary influence of a $10,000,000.00 contribution by a billionaire. Of course that wouldn’t directly dilute access influence but it just might reduce it. A candidate might think twice about whom he or she meets with if they worry it could cost them millions of dollars in campaign money. Perhaps even more than liberals, the political desires of both grassroots conservatives and professional conservatives are subjugated to the political desires of big money contributors. But corporatism is pervasive in the more liberal political spheres also. In this age of saturation advertising, money talks. And big money nearly always talks against liberal and progressive candidates and causes but it very often works against the interests and political aspirations of grassroots conservatives too.
There are certainly other things we as individuals can do in addition to throwing our small money at presidential candidates in an effort to partially dilute the influence of big money. We can, as a first step, throw our small money at other candidates who support legislation that would bring full and timely transparency to who is contributing to whom and to what. Then we can make purchasing decisions based on what we learn from that transparency. The fear engendered by that prospect will significantly reduce corporate political contributions. Something else is needed to mitigate the influence of committed individual billionaires. That is probably a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Remember most big money will be against both of these efforts so lots of small money (and whatever non-corporatist leaning big money there might be) will be needed to win.