Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Dollars to donuts... to democracy
I woke in the morning to the radio news, and the talk was of the primary election results in Alaska and Florida, in Vermont and Arizona. There was some talk of the influence (or lack thereof) of Sarah Palin in her home state, of Tea Party activism and the supposed anti-incumbent sentiments far and wide. But those were the quick and passing parenthetical observations. The loudest and most influential voice, the one that spoke most persuasively in all the previous day's election contests (at least from the point of view of the tiny little news analysts in my radio alarm clock) wasn't a Conservative or Liberal voice. It wasn't a voice talking about Big Government or the Libertarian Ideal of none at all. It certainly wasn't the voice that spoke about how one salient issue or another would impact upon a local community or the nation as a whole. No, the loudest voice, the single most noteworthy determinative factor in the contests being reported, was The Dollar Sign.
We heard that John McCain paid $20 Million to hold onto his Arizona senate seat, and that Florida gubernatorial hopeful, Rick Scott had spent $39 million for his spot on the ballot this Fall. (And these are the primary contests!) As the newspeople ran down the list of election returns, the only occasional qualifying comment was what price the candidate had paid for the result. There were only one or two instances where the campaigns didn't get what they paid for.
When this is how election results in a democracy are reported to the public... People, we got a problem here.
I've complained before, and I'm not the only one, that our politics have become too much about the blood sport contest; and not enough about the better tradition of debate where reasoned arguments inform and refine each other on the way towards a working consensus. Maybe that's a naive ideal. I've certainly heard that from folks who wanted to inform and refine my thinking. But if we are going to completely surrender such ideals and entirely surrender to the Market Force of The Almighty Dollar as the guiding principle of our Democracy —well, it seems to me we're losing even the sport in that blood sport.
Become complacent with this kind of electioneering and "We the people" will have become only spectators to an ugly auction.