Instead of “Our Country ’Tis of Thee,” the national hymn is now “Our Country – Oligarchy.”
A lot of water has passed over the dam since buying a congressman to do a constituent’s bidding became an option for the super rich. While campaign contributions don’t necessarily make the donor a dictator, the greater the amount the greater the access and consequently the bigger the donor’s voice in national affairs. At some point senators, too, came up for sale.
In the House the effect was diluted by the sheer number of representatives – 435. But having a senator beholden to a single donor’s generosity means that the benefactor’s voice becomes one in a 100 – a far more powerful podium. After the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision effectively removed the lid on campaign contributions, the specter of a for-sale presidency loomed large. That specter materialized more quickly than anyone imagined.
Sheldon Adelson, a casino owner like Donald Trump, is prepared to provide $100 million to Karl Rove’s PAC if that’s what it takes to get Mitt Romney elected. Mitt’s chances appear promising unless the economy does a quick turnaround. If you or I call President Romney to ask for a favor, what are the chances he will answer our call? Nil? Less than? If Sheldon Adelson calls, might he get connected? Not to worry. In fact, he will spend as much time as he chooses at the White House and will demand whatever legislation he needs to turn his $25 billion into $35 billion. Since the president is assured of a big payback, I wonder if he’ll acquiesce?
This is, of course, music to your ears if you share Mr. Adelson’s political point of view and believe that America belongs to the wealthiest among us. You may have no problem with his power over the president and the Republican party. But what if Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or some future liberal billionaire reacts by deciding to use similar tactics to swing America to the left? Will you be equally happy with his demands? Ponder too that if they feel the need, the Koch brothers can join with Adelson and purchase the presidency as well as both houses of Congress for their exclusive use. Would you savor living in a country not by the people or for the people, but by a person and for that person? Can’t happen, right?
My point is that we have arrived at a place in our history where democracy – rule by the people - has capitulated to oligarchy – rule by the few. Since the return on investment is so huge, this is a no-risk venture for any capitalist. Even if his candidate loses, the donor’s influence within the party will assure a big payday or two.
Money has always been the bane of politics – just ask John McCain who agrees with most of these points. But now, for the first time, a checkbook is the fist of death. Ask Newt Gingrich how that felt in Iowa after Mitt Romney showed that he is not opposed to using money as a lethal weapon. Now his current allies are even better prepared for combat than he. Unlike Supreme Court justices and many letter writers, I don’t claim any special knowledge of what was going on in the minds of the Founding Fathers. But I’m still pretty sure this wasn’t it.
The writer lives in Pawleys Island.