Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lesson #2 of Obama's Victory: Money Can't Buy Elections

If meta-lesson #1 of Obama's historic victory last night is that statisticians like Nate Silver know what they're doing - see Hats Off to Nate Silver  - then lesson #2 is surely that money doesn't buy elections.

I've been making this point as soon as my progressive colleagues got into an uproar about the Citizens United decision.  So what if corporations could vent their spleens and bank accounts and hundreds of millions of dollars in backing their favorite candidates?  That wouldn't move me, in the slightest, to vote for them if I didn't already support them or their political positions.  Would it move you?

I think not.  Neither did Thomas Jefferson, who thought that as long as there was some truth out there in the playing field, human beings would be able to recognize it.  This came from Milton's Aeropagetica, and was a very profound and accurate view of human nature and mentality.  Applied to politics, it means that people can separate truth from falsity, and vote their self-interests.

Romney had an op-ed in The New York Times that said "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt".  True, he didn't write that headline, but neither did he howl in protest when the Times published his article that way.  And so, when he later denied that that was his intention - when he claimed he actually loved cars and wanted to save the American auto industry - anyone who was not already strongly in support of Romney, and was wearing blinders, saw right through that lie.   Jefferson and Milton called it right.  People, presented with a lie and the truth, saw through the lie.

The fulfillment of Jefferson's vision does not mean that money has no impact on elections.  It obviously can buy ads, and hire campaign workers.  But, in the end, as long as the truth is available in any corner of the country, it will get out.  Whether via a waiter who captures on his smartphone Romney's professed disdain for the 47%, or an op-ed in the New York Times, or Romney's statements all over the map, this way and that, about women's rights, the truth will come out.

So let the corps spend their money.   We don't need or want the government to regulate them or counter  their propaganda.  We can do it ourselves, jus fine, as we did last night.

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