In post-Citizens United America, political wisdom says the country has become a mammonocracy, that a candidate with the most money wins, or only loses when the other candidate has almost as much money.
Is this true? Maybe now it is. Need it always be true? Maybe not.
Suppose a candidate instead of depending on raising money to win, uses the fact he/she is running AGAINST money to win. Here’s the pitch of such an electoral rebel:
“I’m not accepting contributions from anyone. Not big contributions or small ones, because candidates who do have to sell out to their contributors. I also don’t have a lot of money of my own to buy a government office. So you won’t see any flashy TV ads for my campaign. Any outside groups that run such ads will also not be guaranteed anything from me in return, anything I wouldn’t do anyway. These days money buys politicians. I’m not for sale. That’s why you should elect me.”
Two questions immediately come to mind about this approach: The first, of course, is what does a candidate who uses it stands for? The second is more complicated — if you have no money for a campaign, how do you run one?
In answer to the first question is that you may not even have to state another issue, because running against money at a time when everyone else seems to be running just to get more of the stuff is an issue of its own. If you are pressed for your views on other matters, that’s great, since that would mean that some prospective voters or some media outlet find you interesting enough to ask — an interest that your stand against money-in-politics spawned.
And how do you run a campaign without big bucks at a time when money-talks-and-no-pol-dare-walk is the accepted wisdom of the day? It might not be all that hard. Start with a personal base of friends, associates, organizational and Internet contacts. Put together an email contact list of media in your electoral area. Use the former to start gathering names needed to get on the ballot. With the latter key off the fact that virtually all media these days play follow-the-leader, and once one or two give this gimmick candidacy an airing, the rest follow. Once on the ballot crush your opponents in debate by pointing out (endlessly) that they are on-the-take, they are bought-and-paid-for by those who give them money for their campaigns. Force them to prove otherwise.
What’s the ultimate purpose of these campaigns? To win? Sure. That would be nice. But the ultimate purpose is really just to drive home the point that a political system run only to advance the interests of those who can raise a lot of money is inherently undemocratic and invariably corrupt.
This point, as our present governance clearly demonstrates, can’t be made too often.
(Murder At Bernstein’s, a novel by the author of this piece, is now available from Amazon.)