Money in politics isn’t an issue that divides people, it isn’t divisive in the way abortion or gun rights are. Citizens United vs FEC made it legal for there to be no spending cap implemented on corporations or political donations as long as it didn’t go directly to the political parties or candidates; elections could now be bought on a scale that never really existed before. From 2010 to 2015, the 200 most politically active companies spent $5.8 billion on political contributions and they gained $4.4 trillion in taxpayer support and tax breaks.
Bernie Sanders ran his 2016 electoral campaign (Bernie Sanders on Citizens United), based almost entirely on the issue of money in politics; that corporations own the economy, they own Wall Street, they own health care and now they have bought the government. There is a fantastic Google Chrome extension called called Greenhouse, that allows you to see the top industry donations to a particular candidate any time their name is mentioned in an article. The name is highlighted and the extension will give you the percentage of small donors, the top industries that have donated to them, and you can even go in and see a detailed breakdown of top contributors by company name and super PAC (check out Hillary Clinton).
What stands out to me as the biggest problem, is that the politicians have stopped serving the electorate and started to serve the money. Money in politics tends to filter out candidates on the economic left, like Bernie Sanders for example, although he proved that you can run a campaign based on small donations. Perhaps the most chilling study that was done on the influence of money in politics was the Princeton study from 2015, which examined, over 20 years, the influence of public opinion on policy implementation. What they found that was that public opinion (of the bottom 90% of earners) has no discernible impact on what policies become law and what policies didn’t, whereas the top 10% of earners in America were found to have quite a considerable influence.
So I don’t understand why people find it so tough to grasp that the general public would flock to someone like Donald Trump. Someone who isn’t part of the the system, who wants to tear down the government as we know it. There is a great book called The Gilded Rage, that has been written about Donald Trump and why he has garnered so much support (the author did an AMA on reddit). A lot of people, according to the book, feel trapped, they feel powerless, like Washington has abandoned them; and I think it is a legitimate concern. Given the results of the Princeton study, could you really argue with them?
In this election, Donald Trump has set a brand new record, for having no newspaper endorsements at all. Zero. Even traditionally staunch Republican papers won’t get behind him. The Dallas Morning News has endorsed every Republican since 1940 and the San Diego Union Tribune hasn’t backed a Democrat in its 240 year history, and yet Trump still manages to have 40%, 42%, even 45% of polls consistently over the last number of weeks (although his numbers are dropping).
I don’t really think it is about Donald Trump, or about his policies. Yes, people might love his charisma. Yes, he might be running on what is a platform of white nationalism in America. But I think what is really pushing his campaign forwards is peoples disenfranchisement with the established order, with their lack of influence on government, or on public policy in general. They’ve seen the economy fall apart, they’ve seen other nations provide better healthcare, provide better education, and better social safety nets, and I think it’s fair that they have started rejecting the people that have controlled Washington for so many years. Democracy is built on the rights of the people to reject their government.
I think we need to stop listening to big money, to the rhetoric of nationalism, or racism, or social divisions, and start listening to people. People built the countries we all live in and people are what make it fall apart again. Donald Trump is a symptom of an utterly disenfranchised electorate and of a failing system. Money in politics has eroded the influence of the electorate and Citizens United has only solidified this corruption. If you want to truly revolutionise politics in the US, then you have to overturn Citizens United. Give America back to the people who built it.