Democracy is Taking a Licking in the U.S.

I am afraid that democracy might be dead in America.

The United States is emerging as an undisguised oligarchy. In American politics today, money talks more than ever.

It’s not just the recent Supreme Court ruling that disturbs me.

Of course, I was appalled at the court’s decision overturning legislation limiting the amount of money corporations can contribute to election campaigns.

And I was stunned by the failure of new legislation that would have required those corporations (or anyone else) to disclose their identities in their election ads.

But to me the real shocker is the naked display of personal wealth by so many candidates in this year’s primary elections – and the success their massive spending is bringing.

There are too many such candidates to list in a blog, but a few stand out.

Hewlett-Packard’s former chief executive, Carly Fiorina (photo top left), who won the Republican Senate nomination in California, for example… eBay’s Meg Whitman (top middle), who won the state’s Republican gubernatorial nomination… Rick Scott (top right), the former health care mogul,whose company paid $1.7 billion to settle a government lawsuit for Medicare abuses, and who is contesting the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Florida…

Former Republican Congressional candidate Jeff Greene (bottom left), who is competing against Kendrick Meek for the Democratic Senate nomination in Florida …

And Linda McMahon (bottom right), the newly nominated Republican Senate candidate in Connecticut. The former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (yes, professional wrestling!) spent more than $20 million of her own money on the primary race, and vows to spend $50 million more in her campaign against Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in the midterm campaign.

It used to be that self-funded candidates were considered eccentric and seldom won elections in the U.S.

A study by the National Institute on Money in State Politics found they were much less likely to be elected than candidates who raised campaign funds from other sources. (Self-funded candidates were elected 55 percent of the time while the top outside fund-raisers won 87 percent of their races.)

For more on the way campaign financing works, click:

FollowTheMoney.org

But things have changed.

A July 22 article in The New York Times observes that today’s big spenders are successfully positioning themselves as political “outsiders” who will stand up for disgruntled voters.

Here’s an excerpt:

Call it the Great Recession paradox. Even as voters express outrage at the insider culture of big bailouts and bonuses, their search for political saviors has led them to this: a growing crowd of über-rich candidates, comfortable in boardrooms and country clubs, spending a fortune to remake themselves into populist insurgents.

The number of self-financed candidates has crept up the last few election cycles, and this year seems to be on pace for another uptick.

Through just the second quarter of the year, at least 42 House and Senate candidates — 7 Democrats and 35 Republicans — in 23 states had already donated $500,000 or more of their own money to their campaigns, according to the most recent data available from the Center for Responsive Politics. That list does not even include governors’ races, and the roster promises to grow as the campaign season progresses and spending escalates.

It’s an alarming trend. It seems virtually impossible for anyone but multimillionaires to get elected in America today. And Big Business is ready to step in and fund candidates who are not multimillionaires but who can be counted on to vote like multimillionaires when they are elected.

In addition to the deep pockets of the oil companies, health insurance interests and other plutocratic special interests, the US Chamber of Commerce has a $100 million war chest to ensure business-friendly candidates win control of Congress in November.

You might recall that contributions from millions of Americans made it possible for Barack Obama to become president. His campaign raised (and spent) more than a billion dollars.

But there is nothing like that happening this year. The “movement” that put Obama in the White House has become dispirited by his overtures to the right, and the right has nothing but fear and loathing to offer him.