The Venality of the 2016 Presidential Election

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Already, results of the first election of the 2016 presidential race are in!

It’s the Money Primary, controlled not by voters, but by super-wealthy donors. In this exclusive election, Jeb is way out front of the GOP pack with a record haul of $100 million, while Hillary has bagged $45 million to lead among the Dems. But wait… here come the Koch brothers from out of nowhere, overwhelming all the other campaigns with nearly a billion dollars for their secretive effort to put the presidency under their private control.

Thanks to the absurd Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court’s corporate minions, running for America’s highest office in our democratic republic has been perverted into the venality of a gold rush. Candidates shamelessly grub for cash in the suites of corporate plutocrats, molding their issues, policy proposal and the election debate to fit around the narrow interests of those moneyed elites.

The handful of donors and political sycophants involved in this obscene, open corruption of the system are blithely playing with dynamite. By using money to shove the vast majority of people out of the democratic process, they’re mocking America’s essential egalitarian ideal that we’re all in this together; destroying their own moral legitimacy; and fueling an explosive fury, aimed right at them, among alienated voters.

In a recent nationwide poll, 84 percent of Americans say that money has too much influence in elections, resulting in those who are elected to push policies that favor the donors. The majority also reject the Supreme Court’s coddling of fat cat donors, with three-fourths of the people wanting limits on how much any donor can give and wanting to make “dark money” front groups publicly reveal the sources of their money.

Of course, the aloof political-money class won’t stop their own corruption, but We the People can — and must.

Our voices are drowned out by the political-money elites and Republican politicos who say that taking unlimited sums of campaign cash from corporations and billionaires is the American way, absurdly claiming that money is “free” speech. Democrats disagree, but say they can’t unilaterally disarm, so they join the ever-escalating arms race for fat-cat money. Is politics of-by-and-for moneyed interests the only way — i.e., is democracy doomed?

Not if you run a campaign for a candidate of real substance, offering ideas that actually appeal to workaday people, getting them excited enough to become involved in the grassroots work of democracy — including putting in small bits of their own money. “That’s populist poppycock,” squawk the political pros and fundraising consultants, “impossible in the real world.”

Well, welcome to Bernie’s world. Bernie Sanders, the unabashedly progressive senator from Vermont, is running an all-out people’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He’s proposing a genuinely bold agenda for change, summing it up as “the revolution we need to rebuild our middle class, reclaim our democracy, and save our planet.”

To the shock of the political know-it-alls who had dismissed him as a non-contender, Sanders is catching on big time. With straight talk and rejection of politics as usual, he’s drawing huge crowds, generating a groundswell of enthusiasm that other candidates can only dream about, and moving up in the polls as more people learn about him. Even more shocking to the cognoscenti, Bernie’s supporters are chipping in serious money into his campaign pot — more than $15 million in only three months. More impressive than the amount, Sanders notes, “We did it the right way.” No billionaires, Super PACs or dark money. Instead, more than 99 percent of his funding is coming from people giving under $250. Indeed, the average donation is just $33.


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