To monetize democracy is to undermine democracy. With that said, American political campaigns are not only dependent on a race for votes, but also on a race for funds and monetary contributions. Candidates spend large amounts of time chasing and securing donations. Corporations and political parties spend massive amounts of dollars on campaigns. Ever shadier processes and loopholes emerge in the world of campaign finance, including SUPER PACs and other ways of giving money to a political candidate without having said information disclosed to the voting public. Campaigns employ product placement and advertising techniques rather than explaining their position to the voters. Candidates rely on sound bites and slogans carefully aimed at specific demographics and delivered in clever, often expensive methods. All of this happens after what amounts to intensive market research that also costs the figurative “pretty penny.”
Elections in the United States are all about exposure, and exposure costs money. It has been like this for quite a while. Franklin Pierce (a popular candidate for the title of “Worst All-Time President of the United States”) won his campaign with the help of a large purse and one of the most widely read authors of the day—his good friend Washington Irving. The result was one of the most embarrassing presidencies in U.S history. So clearly the winner of an election should not be decided on who gets their name out the most. Furthermore, elections should not be decided on the strength of corporations, private investors, and lobbying groups attempting to further their influence and pervert the equality of voting power through money rather than the righteousness of their agenda.
The solution is one suggested in the article “A Vaster Wasteland” by Newton N. Minow. The airwaves are the property of the American people. Political candidates are elected to serve the American people, not the interest of campaign contributors. Therefore, the solution is to use the public’s property to serve the public. Give each candidate equal time to state his or her case on television, radio, and the Internet. Let the potential leaders of this country campaign on the same channels and near the same times equally. Let the power of a candidate’s campaign be decided solely on the merit of their ideas, not their financial backing.