Is money in politics a problem?
Ever since the monumental Citizens United court case, people have argued that our electoral system has been overtaken by billionaires and “big money.” The Super PACs which contribute billions of dollars to American politics are certainly a new and huge force in American politics – thanks in large part to Citizens United. But do these forces control politics as much as people say?
Politicians from both sides of the aisle have advocated in favor of campaign finance reform. Most notably, Bernie Sanders has made it a forefront of his campaign to fight the corruption and influence that corporations’ and billionaires’ donations have on political campaigns.
But to date, the current state of the presidential race shows that campaign finance may not play as much of a part in political corruption as we thought. For starters, the fall of Jeb Bush seems to go against the notion that one can buy elections and that PACs are an unstoppable force.
Jeb had every advantage of huge campaign finances and the old money network from both his father’s and brother’s presidency. But no amount of Super PAC lobbying could save his troubled presidential campaign, providing a counterpoint that it takes much more than money to buy an election.
Additionally, the Donald Trump phenomenon again seems to hint that there are far more strong influences at play besides campaign finance, and that somewhat beneficial political change can come about by way of the current campaign financing acts.
Donald Trump has circumvented the “party elites” of the Republican Party and has succeeded in connecting directly with a constituency, being able to raise his own funding and largely running what could be called an independent, straight to the people type campaign. If campaign finance rules had been different it may have been impossible for Donald Trump to offer an alternative option to whatever the Republican establishment had to offer.
If other people can follow the Trump model, if it could be transferred to different campaign platforms, then the money and campaign finance laws might not be as bad as people complain about. Because as seen with Trump, the current laws leave a loophole for candidates to offer messages and platforms that people want to vote on and can directly run their campaigns off of that.
However, perhaps the greatest amount of corruption that has been seen this election cycle has not been with finance at all, but with the Democratic superdelegate system. Bernie Sanders has performed comparably to Clinton in the first three primaries of this year, and yet he is trailing by a landslide due to the “party insiders” who can vote however they want regardless of public opinion in the Democratic primary.
While it may be the Democrats right to run their primary system however they would like, the corruption here seems altogether more damaging to Bernie Sanders than any campaign finance that he might complain about. While there are many aspects about America’s political system that may be confusing and possibly corrupt, this election cycle has shown that campaign finance is perhaps not the big threat that it is portrayed as, even if it may be a contributing factor.