Now that unfettered big money, in the form of the so-called Super PACs, are spending twice as much in the upcoming GOP primary in South Carolina as the candidates themselves, more attention is being drawn to their undue influence.
Among other things, because these Super PACs are not affiliated with any candidate, they can haul off and be as tasteless, deceitful and borderline slanderous as they wish, and if you think it’s bad at this stage, wait until the fall.
But pundits are getting it wrong when they identify the problem associated with these behemoths as a lack of swift disclosure of where the money is coming from.
No, there is a much more fundamental problem here that will weigh more and more heavily on the presidential election process as the year wears on. It has to do with the impact of all this on average citizens, those being asked to dig deep into shallow pockets to help their candidates of choice win.
What is the incentive for the little person, so to speak, to give or volunteer until it hurts when such efforts are rendered microscopic by giant mother ship Super PACs?
Practically speaking, this could emerge as the biggest legacy of the entire 2012 election cycle (and, if a stop isn’t put to it, beyond).
No one wants to call out this aspect of the problem, because no one wants to suggest to the little people that their efforts have been rendered orders of magnitude more meaningless, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that, in effect, “corporations are people, too.”
The court’s criminal “Citizens United” decision, criminal from any legitimate pro-democracy standpoint, has simply disenfranchised the average citizen from significantly influencing the political process, at least in terms of national and any large-scale elections.
It is predictable that the total number of campaign contributions will begin to tail off in direct correlation to the public realization of the obscene level of influence the many Super PACs are determined to have in 2012.
What difference is my $50 contribution going to make to fend off an attack ad against my candidate of choice paid for by a Super PAC? It will be countered not by my pennies, but by an attack ad from a different Super PAC supporting my candidate.
It’s as if we, the people, have been pushed to the sidelines to watch a Clash of the Titans, big gods with horrible weapons, clones and monsters assailed against each other.
Nonetheless, rest assured, millions will also be poured into campaign efforts to reach down and tap the “grass roots” for every last dime and ounce of volunteer energy that can be extracted, as well.
But as I am tempted to save my hard-earned money for local elections, where by relative standards its impact can be gargantuan, I am also mindful of how the “Godzilla Versus Megalon” Super PAC presidential campaign shoot-out in the stratosphere above me bears certain Armageddon-like features that could foredoom an endgame almost as likely to be constructive as otherwise.
On the one hand, it could cement the end to the grand experiment in democracy that humanity, prompted by the remarkable events that led to the founding of the U.S., toyed with over the last 250 years.
On the other hand, it could force humanity to break decisively with what has come down to hopelessly corrupted conventional politics. Campaigns as bean-counting, poll-taking, issue-warped, integrity-mashing mirrors of perceived public sentiment sliced and diced to be molded and conformed, like shape-shifting, with every micro-constituency may be doomed, like dinosaur fleas, to extinction.
The process is compelling the Internet, and millions of clever minds maximizing its potential for disseminating data for free, and low cost, organically community or issue-related newspapers, to harken a new day.
No wonder the push now to cripple access to information on the Internet. Nothing is more important than defeating “SOPA” legislation. Democracy, itself, it at stake.
In Iowa earlier this month, the cost per vote for Santorum was about one percent of the cost per vote for Romney, and they ended in a dead heat. It shows that mighty Super PACs can be slain.