Comedians Steven Colbert and Bill Maher have made much recently about the Super PACs which are dominating this years presidential elections, Maher going so far as to donate $1-million dollars to President Obama’s PAC for reelection.
And ever since I’ve lived in the US, I’ve been astounded at the amount of time and effort that seems to go into raising money for elections. Especially since a large amount of it seems to be used to support activities which really don’t represent anything that most people would attribute as American values and strengths, optimism, the ability to achieve anything you put your mind to etc. Money in politics seems to generate activities more associated with Mob style tactics, money laundering and extortion.
I listened to this weeks “This American Life” (TAL) while doing laundry and tidying up last night, and it’s shocking. Seriously, Act One covers the amount of time that the elected politicians actually spend fundraising, which seems to be most of it. There is admission that lobbyists are a vital source of information, “they know the most about a subject”. Well perhaps if you didn’t waste so much time fundraising, you’d have time to get educated just enough to be able to grasp the issues and make an intelligent decision about how to support it. Then they wouldn’t feel the need to have all those lobbyists around as a crutch.
John McCain is interviewed in Act Three. He makes some very interesting points, not least about the Supremem Court hearings that gave us “Citizens United” aka the Super PACs.
At first, I was outraged. The day that Russ and I went over and observed the arguments, the questions that were asked, the naivety of the questions that were asked and the arrogance of some of the questioners, it was just stunning. Particularly Scalia with his sarcasm. Why shouldn’t these people be able to engage in this process? Why do you want to restrict them from their rights of free speech? And the questions they asked showed they had not the slightest clue as to what a political campaign is all about and the role of money that it plays in political campaigns. And I remember when Russ and I walked out of there, I said, Russ, we’re going to lose and it’s because they are clueless
Which is just depressing. I wouldn’t have voted for McCain in the McCain/Obama Presidential campaign, even if I could. I can’t vote even in local elections. I’m wondering though what it is that stops good, principled men and women from speaking out about the men in politics? McCain/Feinberg was a start, America should be going forwards, not backwards.
You can listen to the whole episode of TAL here in their archives.
[Update: 4/6/12 2:50pm] TAL has just released the McCain/Feinberg interview, uncut here. Brilliant, McCain makes another telling point when he says:
It’s, it’s beyond belief. And, you know, and, and to ss,
sum up in one respect, what does it do to the view of young
Americans that Russ is talking to every day out there at Stanford? It makes ’em cynical.
It makes’ em cynical, and therefore demotivating; therefore it’s harder to get highly qualified men and women to seek public office, if they think we’re all a bunch of crooks.