One would have to be living far off the grid not to know the 2016 election for President is less than a year and a half away. Along with it numerous house and senate seats and thousands of local offices will be on the ballot. Term limited President Barack Obama will not be running; by time it’s is over he may end up feeling like a winner again for not having to put himself through the campaign meat grinder. I feel blessed to be living under the world’s oldest working Constitution, but the 2016 election makes me wish all this freedom & democracy would be more meaningful and less in-your-face.
To say election season has begun is either naive or disingenuous. It may have peaks and valleys of activity, but there is no beginning because there never was an end. The cycle of gamesmanship and spin-doctoring resets to zero the day after the last election. It starts faintly in the form of small on line banner ads asking me to participate in a political “survey,” as if anyone believes these surveys are real. Other ads are conveniently promoting political causes I am in favor of myself. They aren’t reading my mind, I just need to clear my computer’s cache and cookies more often.
The closer it gets to 2016 Election Day, the harder it will be to avoid the gathering campaign storm. Quiet banner ads will turn into television commercials six or eight times per hour. “Vote for me!” and “Don’t vote for them!” junk mail will arrive daily. Yard signs and bumper stickers will pop up. Social media will be clogged with memes and links posted by people who honestly believe their cause or candidate will prevail if only it gets enough “likes” and “shares.”
The 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens’ United v. Federal Election Commission ruled that “corporations are people” for the purpose of free speech. Corporations and special interest groups that were previously limited on how much they can spend promoting their views may now blow as much money as they want praising their candidate, or trashing on their candidate’s opponent. This court case was and still is very controversial. Democrats dislike it the most, a position I do not understand because the the ruling applies equally to both sides. Liberal and conservative groups have each complained about Citizens’ United while at the same time taking full advantage of the unlimited big spending it allows. The real victims are the ordinary voters who must endure the flood of propaganda.
My problem with the election process is not the process itself, but that the amount of money needed to get elected dilutes the meaning of individual votes. The other day I heard a political analyst on a radio show state that, while everyone has the unfettered right to cast a vote and have it included in the total, the meaning of the vote is not validated because once a candidate wins they are most favorable to whoever wrote the biggest checks. It’s a profound statement that I had not thought of before and the most powerful argument against the Citizens’ United case ruling. There is a big difference between votes being numerically counted and votes having real influence over the person it was cast for.
It’s not very encouraging to hear that the vote I am being nagged to death for won’t have any pull once the 2016 election is over. I understand how the concept of free speech can and probably should include groups having the right to spend their collective money as they please. I’ve donated to assorted causes myself; my dollar is not more important than anyone else’s. Still, it’s not less important either, and I have a problem with other people’s (or corporations’) free speech stepping on mine solely because their check had more zeroes on it. The resolution to the big money in politics problem, if it even is a problem, would not need to involve regulating donations if elected leaders lived up to the oath of their office and served those who do the actual voting.