This week, regular commentor Joe Weinstein addresses Brent Budowksy’s “Calling Wealthy Democrats.”
Once again I must point out that Citizens United does little to change – or worsen – the inherently obsolete political structure and dynamic created by the US federal constitution (and copycat state constitutions and local charters) and which – fatally – seems OK or even delightful to most folk, including progressives and other would-be ‘reformers’.
This structure is Roman-republic-style populist-election-veneer oligarchy. An upper 99% have no actual decision power, but are thrown a populist-veneer bone: mass popularity-contest elections which select or ratify the oligarchs who make the actual decisions.
A high officer gets power for a long term over many key decisions. This power he can, with de-facto impunity, in effect sell out to the highest-bidding corrupters. Unlike today’s naive ‘reformers’, earlier folk – democrats in ancient Athens and Lord Acton in 1887 – perceived that oligarchic concentration of political power inevitably promotes government corruption: ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
By the way, this structural incentive to corruption – sell-outs by powerful officers and payoffs by their corrupters – is independent of election and campaign costs. Corruption is promoted and will exist whether campaign costs are high, low or nonexistent. Of course, insofar as they are legal, campaign donations serve as one useful pathway – among many – for paying off officials.
In any event it pays to win a mass-election contest to gain office. And prevailing ‘civic’ and ‘patriotic’ rhetoric insists that the most marginal voters – those who perceive (sometimes correctly and sometimes not) little to be at stake, and those who rarely or never heed public affairs – have an unconditional duty to vote and at all costs should be persuaded to vote.
Given these facts, a popular theory infers that – contra what actually happened in California in 2010 – it pays to spend enormous amounts of extra money in hope of swaying the whims of those marginal voters. According to the theory, the Citizens United decision will promote such spending. The theory then infers that therefore Citizens United is a nasty threat to ‘democracy’.
But ‘democracy’ does not correctly describe the USA’s usual political systems, past or present.