Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And He Was Running . . . for Office

I know he isn't running, but I
couldn't resist.
One of my readers asked whether or not he would have a chance if he chose to run for office.  In the spirit of the pre-primary season we have swirling around us, I think this is an excellent question.  When I was younger, I used to fancy that I would be the youngest President of the United States ever.  The earliest age at which a person could be voted into the office of President is 35; I have three years left before I have to kick off my campaign.
Today’s national election process is less about values and more about money.  The upcoming Presidential campaign is estimated to be the first billion dollar campaign.  With the creation of Super PACs and the legalization of unlimited campaign contributions, corporations and foreign entities now have the ability to donate as much money as they like, provided the Super PAC does not officially have an affiliation with a designated candidate.

Because of the new provisions on campaign finance, running for office has become more expensive than ever.  The questions my friend has to answer are pretty simple - 
  1. Does what I have to say appeal to people?
  2. Will my political positions benefit anyone, and how funded are they?
The first question is important because a candidate needs to be able to cater to the masses.  My friend would have to make sure he has a clearly defined message, carefully articulated to encompass the beliefs of a large bloc of people interested in being politically active.  With the 24 news cycle, his message will instantly go viral, even were he to only run for local office.  The message he will preach from his political pulpit doesn’t necessarily have to be one he believes in, but if he convinces the masses that he believes in, and they believe it as well, then he is as good as elected.
You can see this in today’s candidates.  The political climate has changed from four years ago, we are more polarized, with each side of the aisle stepping farther and farther away from each other.  The candidates on either side will echo the party sentiment, whether or not they were that extreme in their last election.  Their values might not have changed, but the polls suggest their position needs to.
Ultimately, the answer to the first question will also answer the second.  If your message appeals to the right people, the money will come pouring in.  Your message doesn’t necessarily have to be the most popular, the most well put-together, or even the most realistic.  If your message appears to benefit those who have the most financial stake in the game, they will jump to your side, form a Super PAC with unlimited funding and unofficially support you.
This is why values no longer seem to play a part in our elections.  America is a nation founded on capitalist values which dictate that the dollar is our almighty, our reverend, and our highest idol.  Those who have the most dollars have the largest sway because they have the most to gain and the most to lose.  They see political campaigns as investments in the future and they want those investments to pay off.
So, to my reader friend who aspires to political office, you only have to answer two questions to know if you would ever succeed in claiming political office.  If the answer is yes, by all means, go for it.  I will even form a Super PAC in your name.  But, of course, I won’t officially support you.

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