JACK SPENCER: Bent to the will of an imperfect process
Attracting huge amounts of money is necessary for candidates who hope for any realistic chance of being elected to a major political office. A disturbing side effect of this need for financial backing in politics is the degree to which it becomes a barrier to candidates who are willing to stand up strongly for the U.S. Constitution.
There are probably a lot of voters who would agree with the following —
“Actions by government that go beyond its most basic functions almost always encroach on freedom. What government offers the individual comes at a hidden price that is usually fully revealed only when it is too late. An understanding of facts like these was among the key elements upon which our nation was founded.”
However, to verbally embrace this concept during a modern political campaign, for anything beyond the most local of offices, can be political poison. In order to make it palatable, the concept is usually compressed, watered down and stated in vague and benign terms.
For example, the following is the sort of “acceptable” and not particularly inspiring campaign rhetoric with which we’ve all become familiar —
“We need to relax government regulations to allow businesses to create jobs.” “We shouldn’t raise taxes; that would slow the economy and hamper businesses; they’ll stop hiring.” “Government is getting too big and is threatening our liberties and freedom.”
Deep-pocketed contributors who finance politicians and campaigns are comfortable with these kinds of statements. A candidate who makes “safe” statements of this type might attract ample supplies of campaign dollars.
Now, here’s an example of what some mythical candidate might want to say, but to do so would be taking a big risk —
“Under the guise of helping ‘we the people,’ our government is gnawing away our freedoms daily. In the final analysis, when it promises to deliver us from want and turmoil it is offering us the security of a captive. The convenience and comfort it promotes is the convenience and comfort of a cage. Its so-called solutions cater to the herd at the expense of the individual.” “We are not at the brink, we are beyond the brink; and our best hope is to begin the long and painful climb back up the path to liberty.”
Rhetoric of this sort could potentially attract a lot of voters. Given the proper setting and delivery it might appeal to voters in some surprisingly diverse demographics. At the very least, it would draw attention to any candidate who had the guts to speak out in such stark terms.
Doubtless the mainstream news media would quickly label such a candidate “an extremist.” It would immediately start researching the background of the candidate hoping to find some irrelevant “dirt” in an attempt to ruin him or her. But that might not matter if our mythical candidate had the support of enough deep pocketed contributors.
The point is that this wouldn’t likely be the situation. Instead, most of the deep pocketed contributors that financially support campaigns would probably avoid our mythical candidate like the plague.
First, with the news media portraying the candidate in the most negative of lights, many potential contributors would automatically decide against having any association with him or her. Second, although they might want and be willing to support change, they wouldn’t likely be attracted to the brand of real transformational change our candidate’s remarks bring to mind.
Here’s another example of “acceptable” campaign rhetoric —
“We need to curb crony capitalism.” “We need to get the federal budget in hand.” “The time to rein in the welfare state is long overdue; we have to make sure we’re only using taxpayer dollars to help the truly needy.”
Most deep pocketed contributors would feel comfortable with this. It is vague enough to be interpreted a thousand ways.
Now, here’s an example of what our mythical candidate might wish to say —
“Corporate welfare is inconsistent with the concept of equal protection. It breeds corruption and injustice. It is on the same moral plain with stacking the deck, cutting secret deals, the inside fix and robbing the public till. We’ll never truly have a handle on the federal budget until we do away with it.” “Maintenance of the welfare state, beyond the bounds of sensible compassion, is a theft. It seizes and redistributes the fruits of those who are productive and — worse still — destroys the dignity and ambitions of the very people it is supposed to be helping.”
Some deep pocketed contributors might feel comfortable with the statements about the welfare state, but it is probable that the strongly-worded phrases against corporate welfare would be seen as a threat to the interests of most of them. Again, it seems likely that they would shun any candidate who used such rhetoric and send their money elsewhere.
Our mythical candidate’s campaign would probably go nowhere. That’s the price he or she would pay for not playing the political game by the accepted rules. Those rules include not really saying “everything” you think and claiming you’re above playing politics, when in reality that’s exactly what you are doing.
Money is the mother’s milk of politics; politics is the art of compromise; and the difference between compromise and hypocrisy is often determined by what’s at stake.