Opaque Politics in the Free World

Wil McLaughlin, Columnist

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The elections were last week, so I decided I’d write something about them.
Long story short: The Democrats got slaughtered, Republicans won Senate and House seats, along with state positions all across the country. Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota all increased their minimum wage requirements. Legalized marijuana bills passed in Oregon, Washington D.C., Guam and Alaska.
While the juxtaposition seems like a bit of a paradox, I’d like to draw attention to something different. We can argue politics all day, but we can’t (really) argue statistics.
In 1942, in some of the darkest times of the Second World War, the off-season Senate elections were far from a priority for the American people, much less the Roosevelt Administration. Even if vast numbers of Roosevelt’s opposing party been elected, changes in federal policy would not have occurred. My point, you ask? A mere one-third of eligible people voted.
In 2014, another off-season election, both political parties excitedly heralded this election as a final tiebreaker round in a gridlocked Congress before the 2016 Presidential Race. As in 1942, just a third of America went to the polls. Considering that politics is more charged than ever before, one might find this surprising. Additionally, Congress as a whole has an approval rating only slightly higher than a dog pooping on your lawn. One would think the voice of the people would bring its might to bear.
Despite promises on both sides for a more transparent, for-the-people governance, this election shown a bright light on that mess. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, both parties raised more than $1,312,939,606. In other words, the parties spent over 1.3 billion bucks on television ads, media messages, and yard signs.
Considering the projected cost of a four-year in-state university degree is around $38,000, the money used by both parties in this past election could put 34,280 students through college. That’s a far better use of money.
Moreover, only about 658,000 people gave donations of over $200. That may seem like a lot, but considering the United States has a whopping 236 billion adults, that’s a drop in the bucket. A miniscule elite appear to be funding American politics, and that affects everyone in the nation.
The monstrous political action committees raised absurd amounts of moola (again), and, thanks to the Supreme Court, they don’t have to disclose their donors. Also thanks to the Supreme Court, those donors have no limit to what they can give the organizations. Extrapolating from the few thousand who officially donated $200+ to the campaigns, one can assume similar (and some of the same) folks gave to the Super PACs.
Giving donations for a cause is part of our American way – freedom. However, that should not give the few the power to influence the many by pouring cash into public elections. Reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United case. Furthermore, GO VOTE.

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Opaque Politics in the Free World