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Elections for Sale

Buying an election megaphone.

Since the 1970s, America has been walking a path where money and Free Speech are the same thing, and anything and everything is for sale. We find ourselves in a land where elections are big business, with billions spent each year campaigning to sway voters while lining the pockets of advertisers and consultants. This bloated, blathering, propaganda machine exhausts us each election cycle with its inundation of campaign ads and flashy promises to voters from​ politicians they can't, or won't, deliver.

Beyond the exhausting and soul-sucking aesthetic, there are other consequences to making elections a product with Americans as election customers instead of active citizens. For one, it formalizes, and perhaps even exalts, the role of spending and campaign donations as an act of political ideology and virtue. What's worse, when elections become commodities it ensures that those who have the most money get the most access, the most privilege, and the most say in election results.

It's impossible to imagine that the over $600 million spent by billionaire families in this election cycle will not have immense sway on both the election results - the winners and losers - and who those winners pay fealty to afterwards. If historical trends hold, that gargantuan sum of money is certainly an incredible investment that will pay them back tens-to-hundreds of times for each dollar spent in the form of tax cuts and deregulation. Trump in his brutish and cartoonish version of this corrupt campaigning promised massive deregulation to the fossil fuel industry executives in exchange for a billion dollars in campaign donations. Making explicit what so many politicians promise implicitly: donate the big bucks to my campaign and you will have influence over policy choices in the future.

 With such an avalanche of spending on both sides, and explicit corruption often on display, it’s very possible the concerns of the poor and working class could get swept aside entirely. We cannot allow politicians to continue to be bought and sold like trading cards by the wealthy. They are our public servants, and should be addressing the profound material deprivation experienced by so many in this country, instead of, for example, blocking PFAS clean-up until their donors are granted immunity. Poverty is the fourth leading cause of death in the US, and it is an entirely preventable policy choice that we make each year because our systems and our politics systemically under count, under-represent, and ignore poor people's needs. Hardly a surprise with the elections run as they are.

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