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It's not (entirely) about the money

The Koch brothers and their network will spend at roughly the same level as the party campaign committees on the 2016 campaigns.That's news worth thinking hard about, as was the Citizens United decision, as is the entire question of what we define as constitutionally protected "free speech" for a collective -- any collective, not just a corporation -- vs. free speech for individuals. But the more tightly we focus on the influence of money in elections, the more deeply we embed the tacit assumption that the quantity of campaign messages -- the number of broadcast ads, mailings, rallies, robocalls, astroturf committees, etc. -- is what matters. The candidate with the bigger budget always wins, we assume, or at least wins more often than s/he would given equal resources.

I'm not saying that assumption is wrong. But I'm not comfortable with it, either, because of the other assumptions that go with it. It implies that the qualitative content of political messages doesn't matter -- that voters' choices are driven by how many messages from Candidate X they see and hear,, not by fewer but more cogent, persuasive messages from Candidate Y. It implies that campaign advertising outweighs following and reflecting on the the news... talking politics with friends... comparing what the candidates say in this ad with what they say in other ads or to other audiences, and what they've said and done in the past.

lt implies passive, stupid voters. And to the extent that your crtitique of money in politics takes that for granted, your democracy has worse problems than Charles and David Koch.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2015 10:51 pm (UTC)
I loved seeing Eric Cantor defeated in his primary because it was an existence proof of the underfunded candidate winning.
Jan. 28th, 2015 11:45 pm (UTC)
Yes -- if the "ad buy" perspective were correct, even on its own terms, Volkswagen and Avis and Apple should never have been able to challenge General Motors and Hertz and IBM.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )