Every since my campaign of 2004, I do two things every election cycle as a matter of principle. First, I urge my fellow Kentuckians to show up at the polls and vote. Voting is the most powerful weapon we have to protect the great nation from the bumbling and inept to the corrupt and cynical politician. Big Money and its lobbyist paymasters need us to stay home. They have enough cronies to show and get their hiring elected. Our votes carry more power than all their money combined. Don't believe me?
Did you know that in 2008, candidates nationwide spent a total of $5.3 billion dollars to get elected? Most of that came from corporate donors and PACs. In 2004, the year I ran, candidates spent $4.2 billion dollars. Obama raised an incredible $610 million dollars (by the way, how does a junior Senator with little political experience raise that much money?). Combined, John McCain and Obama raised over $1 billion dollars on their races for President (in 1952, the combined total was a miserly $16 million). That's just Presidential campaigns, so what's it cost to run for the US Senate or House?
Well, according to an article by Seth Fiegerman in MainSt News entitled "The Cost of Running for Political Office" (http://www.mainstreet.com/print/19196), the average cost to run for the Senate starts at $7.6 million dollars while the average cost to run for Congress is $840,000.00 with some seats going for much more.
Sorry, but I can't help asking myself how many school lunches or miles of road that would pave. It's an obscene amount of money to spend on an election. Personally, I would love to see serious campaign finance reform and apparently so would most Americans. Approximately 70% in fact, and in another interesting tidbit, apparently so would most Republicans by a margin of two to one over Democrats (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1108/15283.html and http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-10-29-poll_N.htm).
This brings up another issue. Are we attracting the best and brightest to public office? The answer to my mind is an obvious "no". We have serious problems. We need serious thinkers, and the average person, no matter how well educated or how intelligent has that kind of money. This means that our nation's elected offices doesn't go to those best equipped to solve our country's problems, but to the richest...Republican or Democrat. Once you meet the financial requirements, it then becomes a fight between the most telegenic and best able to regurgitate empty but catchy sound bites in the most sincere sounding way in a heavily scripted media environment (at these prices, the paymasters of both parties, who happen to be one and same, can't afford any surprises).
So, with the best that modern technology and marketing talent money can buy, elections are bought while we, the general public, are given the illusion of choice. The only possible thing that can go wrong is that people like you dear reader show up an vote, which brings me to my second point.
I absolutely abhor media endorsements. Every election cycle, the media attempts to manipulate the public's perception of candidates and the issues. I suppose that's a given, but it's the newspaper which takes it a step future with their endorsement page.
I used to think that most people didn't pay much attention to the newspaper's endorsements, but over the years (I've been a political and community activist for over 35 years and my two runs for office) my opinion changed. In both cases, the editorial board of our one and only newspaper endorsed my opponent. Now, before you start thinking "oh, this is about sour grapes", hear me out.
My first run for was Metro Council. Jeffersonians had just approved to merge county and city government, and in doing so, eliminate the local 12 member Board of Aldermen, the County Judge and three County Commissioners. This was the first election for the newly formed 26 member Metro Council and "Super" Mayor. I had been a community and political activist at the time for around 27 years; holding a number of senior non-profit board and mid-level party offices. I had been asked by my local county executive to run for office while my opponent had been recruited for the opposing party at the urging of the state party executive (I had and have a reputation for thinking for myself, which some disapprove of). At the endorsement interview, my opponent, who had no political knowledge and no recent community experience, not unexpectedly couldn't answer most of the questions; had no clue (there was a third "candidate", a "ringer" who played in a band with my opponent's brother).
Well, needless to say, I was stunned when my opponent got the nod; with the editorial board citing my opponent's 15 year old previous experience as an assistant coach. Seriously? I've managed millions of dollars professionally and on behalf of non-profits for decades. I'm a disabled veteran; served as a countywide administrator for the DAV plus a host of other positions and that was the best they had? Of course, I filed a complaint but with this being the only paper in town, their arrogance carried the day. Later, when I ran for state office, the same editorial board didn't even bother with an interview, or read my material. They made a completely uninformed decision; a deliberate attempt in both cases to mislead the public in my opinion (and in case you're wondering, I neither had or have any particular ill feelings for either opponent).
I started checking out other endorsements and came across similar results. I discovered too that statements made by candidates were either taken out of context or completely wrong. I then started questioning whether newspapers should be make endorsements at all. Yes, if you agree the corporations were covered under the First Amendment, I suppose they could, but should they? If so, why not CBS, Fox, or even ESPN? I began a campaign to get the entire interview process made public, which they did a few years ago.
However, my opinion that the media should not endorse remains steadfast. I believe voters should check out the candidates and issues themselves. The aforementioned newspaper publishes a great tool called the Voter Guide which details each candidate and their position on variety of issues. It also provides contact information and web addresses. For several years now, I've urges voters to read the Voter Guide. Check out the issues and candidates for themselves and ignore the media's attempt to manipulate voter decisions. Americans have more venues of information than ever before in history. We no longer require a Big Brother approach to elections. We're big boys and girls. We can make up our own minds thank you.
Also check out the following articles:
Care - The Role of Money in Politics
Follow the Money