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article imageOp-Ed: Buying US democracy, or Super PACs R Us

By Paul Wallis     Jun 13, 2012 in Politics
Sydney - Lincoln’s “Of the people, by the people, for the people” now reads like “Of the money, by the money, for the money”. Super PACs are supposed to be outside the party machines, but nobody could pretend they are.
In a tight election, that money is likely to count.
A Super PAC is basically a fund created to support electoral candidates for non-party supporters. It’s also the biggest cash gravy train in the US other than organised crime. Super PACs are by definition a way around proportional representation.
Few Americans need to be told that their political system has become an anti-democracy. Corporate representation is in the news every day; representation of the public in any form is in the museums, usually in a drawer somewhere.
The New York Times has an article on a recent donation to a Romney Super PAC which illustrates the point.
In recent days, Mr. Adelson, a billionaire casino owner, and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, gave $10 million to Restore Our Future, a “super PAC” backing the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, people with knowledge of the contribution said on Wednesday, leaving the Adelsons by far the most prolific campaign donors in the country.
All told, the Adelsons have now given at least $35 million to super PACs during the 2012 campaign, not including several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of $2,500 contributions directly to federal candidates.
Looking at this as though there was still such a thing as US democracy-
1. Mr and Mrs Adelson have as much right to contribute to political campaigns of their choice as anyone else.
2. They also have as much right to be represented by their elected members of Congress as anyone else.
3. It’s not Mr and Dr. Adelson’s fault that the Congressional system is apparently totally corrupt, insane and refuses to represent the public.
4. Arguably, you could say that throwing so much money at any Presidential candidate in the presence of the only Congress in American history able to claim to have totally demolished and humiliated the greatest nation in global history is an act of bravery and faith. (You might also say that you can buy trash far more cheaply elsewhere, but that’s a matter of taste.)
The question is not whether Mr and Dr. Adelson have a right to donate. It’s whether such donations can be part of a truly democratic system. The Super PACs are a money machine, not a democratic institution. If democracy is one person/ one vote, how people vote is their own business. If democracy is a claim to equity and rights, disproportionate representation of one set of interests over another is not democracy.
I’m not an American. I remember the US in its glory days, when it truly was a nation to admire, despite its faults and aberrant behaviour. It actually was the birthplace of the modern idea of liberty. The US Constitution remains one of the greatest-ever enforced statements of human rights and was the basis for many subsequent revolutions in development of those rights. It was the arsenal of democracy, it did sacrifice lives for the freedom of others, and the people who died believed in those values.
It’s impossible to admire the current version of the United States. The US of today is a betrayal of everything which was great about America. It’s a sleazy, stingy, mean-and-narrow-minded collection of slimy, sycophantic office boys and girls trying to rip money out of the bone marrow of US citizens and deny those rights to them. They’ve done an incredible amount of damage to the nation.
The mortgage securities catastrophe was far more of an attack on America than Pearl Harbor and 911 combined, in terms of the number of people affected. US personal wealth has been devastated to the point where it’s a mockery compared to other Western nations. US citizens could be forgiven for not being able to remember the last time Congress actually did anything for them. The US public has been more than marginalized- It’s been pushed even off the margins.
So what’s that got to do with us foreigners, you ask? Just about everything. This election will have untold effects on the rest of the world. In this economic environment, anything which shakes the foundations could bring the whole thing down. The President is the guy whose job is riding the dead horse. He may try and steer it, but a polarized, totally destructive Congress affects the world on a daily basis like a major earthquake. The US isn’t a superpower because of its nukes. It’s a superpower because of its economic power. If Congress spends the next 4 years making nothing but hideous, expensive mistakes again, we foreigners have our own interests to consider.
The fact that Congress is now evidently a mere mouthpiece for corporate tantrums isn’t very encouraging. The fact that Wall Street can continue on its mindless rampage while capital is destroyed every second isn’t particularly impressive. The fact that corporate America’s geriatrics and their pet gerbils seem to think they are subject to no laws while millions suffer as a result of their stupidity and greed is merely disgusting.
The super PACs are the means to keep this anti-democratic freak show on the road. Democracy always wins against the things which attack it, (usually later rather than sooner), but the most likely method of reinstating democracy in the US is to start by derailing the gravy trains at the depot. Remove the money from reach, and you instantly get rid of the parasites.
Just one more thing-
This article should be written by an American, not a foreigner. However- If I was an American writer, there’s nowhere in the US media I could even question Super PACs. They’re now sacred cash cows, immune to any form of criticism. They're the four yearly Christmas for mainstream media advertising. Democracy without criticism isn’t democracy, either. Nor is mindless agreement with one side or the other, criticizing one while not criticizing the other. Nor is paying people to spout partisan BS and pretending it’s news.
How’re you getting on with that, guys? Still pretending to be the voice of the American people, even if you’ve never actually met any of those people and aren’t sure what the word “poor” really means? That’s cute. You should try puree of crow, it works wonders. Failing that, try being real people yourselves.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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