Since there will be a Presidential Election later this year, it’s not too early to begin evaluating our options. Obama or Romney? No, that’s not exactly what I have in mind.
If you’re like me, you were brought up to believe that we in the US have the best voting system in the world. In school we learned all about Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall. We knew that he ran a corrupt political machine, buying votes and dispensing political favors. But we also learned that such corrupt practices were abolished by the middle of the 20th century.
We were taught that our two-party system was the greatest in the world. Other countries, like the Soviets, had only one party. Great choice, huh? Then there were the Europeans with many parties, government by coalition and their votes of no-confidence. What a way to run a country.
And while the Electoral College, which actually elects our presidents, was seldom mentioned, we were assured that our elections were fair and every vote counted. It was a fact of life, just like taxes and death. Indeed, we were the envy of freedom-loving people everywhere.
Then came the presidential election of 2000 with George W. Bush and Al Gore facing off.
As you will remember, the election was decided by the voting in the state of Florida. There were, shall we say, irregularities in the voting. A limited recount and a decision by the Supreme Court sealed the deal. Bush was awarded the 25 electoral votes from the state although Gore received the majority of the popular vote. Nationwide, Gore received a half-million more votes than Bush.
Next was the presidential election of 2004 in which Ohio was the deciding state. Again there were irregularities and claims that the voting was not fair but Kerry decided not to dispute Bush’s claim to have won. Wimp.
By 2008 with the real-estate bubble bursting, the economy tanking and the bank bailouts imminent, the American people had had enough Republican policies and Obama was elected by more than 10 million popular votes. A land-slide, much too large for any political wrangling.
Now, fast forward to 2010. The Supreme Court hands down their decision in the Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission case. It said that the government could not restrict independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.
Here’s a quote from the Sunlight Foundation blog discussing the possibility of foreign money affecting our electoral process. “By lifting the prohibitions on corporations’ ability to make direct expenditures influencing federal elections, Citizens United allows 501(c)(4) nonprofits to fund independent expenditures and electioneering communications without disclosing where the money came from.”
In other words, not only are corporations allowed to secretly spend millions to determine who gets elected, some of the political ads you see may have been paid for by foreign companies or even foreign governments.
No, I’m not making this up.
This year, there was a recall election in Wisconsin aimed at the governor, Scott Walker, the Lieutenant Governor and four state senators. More than 900,000 voters had signed the recall petition, most outraged by Walker’s attempt to abolish collective bargaining rights for state employees.
It was a big money versus grass roots contest and one of the most expensive elections in Wisconsin history with an estimated $63 million spent. Walker, a Republican, raised $30.5 million compared with only $3.9 million raised by Democrats.
Much of what Walker raised came from wealthy out-of-state donors some of whom gave more than $500,000 each. A special state rule allowed Walker, as the incumbent, to ignore contribution limits while his Democrat challenger was limited to $10,000.
The recall election was viewed as a rehearsal for the 2012 presidential contest, testing whether a groundswell of popular, grass roots organizing could defeat unlimited advertising funded by contributions from corporations and the wealthy.
Big money won hands-down.
So apparently our elections can be purchased. Elections will become simply contests between big-money interests, old-world money versus Wall Street interests, General Motors versus Sony, Oil and Gas versus agribusiness, etc.
As voters what are our options now?
If our votes are essentially meaningless in determining elections perhaps it’s time to return to the days of Tammany Hall. At least the voters then got small concessions for their votes.
Let’s look at the numbers. In Wisconsin $63 million was spent and almost 2.5 million people voted, something over $25 per voter. Expenditure estimates for the 2012 election are running as high as $9.8 billion. In 2008 more than 129 million voters turned out. If there are that many voters in 2012, you’re talking $76 per voter.
Now things are starting to get interesting. And these figures don’t include the many state, county and municipal elections. Now admittedly selling one’s vote or even offering to sell one’s vote is illegal unless you’re a politician but surely there’s no harm in discussing the possibilities of revaluing our vote.
Perhaps what’s needed is a lobby group seeking to legalize the selling of votes. That way corporations could pay voters directly, eliminating the middle-men, and could negotiate the price. Maybe the American people would finally benefit.
That’s why I’be taken the liberty of establishing a blog titled buymyvote.us so people like you and me can get together and discuss the situation. Simply login to buymyvote.us and see what others have to say about the matter.