If you think that the ugliness of money in politics is an everyday occurrence, you might want to be downstream from the candidates in the week before the end of the calendar quarter. We’re talking about March 31, June 30, September 30 and December 31. Political pundits become donation hedgers, handicapping races in large part based on the donations that the candidates get for each quarter. These are the numbers that the candidates submit to the Federal Elections Commission by the 15th of the following month.
The only way to have clean campaigns is for them to be publicly funded. We need to put an end to the dialing for dollars and the shame that it brings to both the candidates and the voters.
The e-mails from the candidates are bad enough – especially with their sounds of desperation, like a child buried in a cave, screaming at me, as if I am the only person in the world who can save him or her. I wonder how some of these politicians could ramp up their rhetoric if they ever had a real emergency. Would they say, “I’ve been crying ‘wolf’ to you since you’ve known me, but now I have a real emergency?” Would I believe them?
But then there are the phone calls. Those who know you want to ensure you that you are still their B.F.F.s. Those who don’t know you pretend that you are the person who they have been longing to meet.
There is a lot that’s artificial about politics. A recent survey by Civitas showed that less than 4% of the American people believe that politicians are performing their job at a level of ‘5’ on a ‘1’ to ‘5’ scale [‘5’ being the highest]. My hunch is that most of these people have never been directly solicited for campaign contribution. If they had, the politicians likely would have ranked even lower.
In a capitalist economy, we are always asked to open our wallets and spend. Occasionally, advertising helps us find a product that we really want, and the message clarifies what we actually want to purchase. But most of the time we are being implored to buy something that we neither need nor want. Advertising works; if it didn’t, we wouldn’t have to see it wall-to-wall each day.
But no other form of solicitation for our money is as blatantly shameful as the candidates begging for dollars, particularly at the end of the quarter. Are people who are trying to make ends meet, or simply wisely budget their money, supposed to say, “Oh, this is just what I was waiting for; for a politician to ask med to help them meet their quarterly goal.”
Much is written about the damage that big money does to politics, particularly when it is “dark.” This is all true. But in a different way, the begging of money from small donors is equally insidious.
he only way to have clean campaigns is for them to be publicly funded. We need to put an end to the dialing for dollars and the shame that it brings to both the candidates and the voters.
There are those who run for office in order to gain power or a financial advantage. The system may be comfortable for them. There are other politicians who truly think about the common good and they are forced to hold their noses and dial. But the biggest travesty is how the system eliminates many introverts from running; people who are very cautious in social interactions and rarely ask for something outside of normal social norms. They may be the most sensitive among us to what is the real common good.
So, between now and this Saturday, I urge voters to say ‘no’ to politicians soliciting the end of quarter donations. If you have to give, hold off. If the quarterly reporting is so important to your candidate that he or she must ramp up the begging, then he or she may not be the best person for the office.