The next time someone tells you that elections don’t matter, you can tell them that you have $2 billion dollars that says they do. Fundraising for the 2012 presidential election has just surpassed the 2 billion dollar mark. For those unmoved due to the modern regularity of hearing such astounding numbers—2 billion equals 2000 million. In other words, a million dollars were raised and spent more than two thousand times in order to determine who will become the next President of the United States. Elections do matter.
You can rest assured that these numbers will only increase from here. In 2008, then candidate Barack Obama was the first to fund his campaign with private funds, rather than being limited by the taxpayer funds made available to each candidate. John McCain, champion as he was of the campaign spending reform and co-sponsorer of the McCain-Feingold Bill, was essentially outspent by Obama, at least 2 to 1. Thanks to Obama’s spending, we now call him Mr. President and John McCain is still Mr. Senator. Who says money can’t buy elections?
What this means, since Obama and Romney are essentially raising equal amounts of money, is that more than 1 billion dollars will have been spent for naught by one of the campaigns. But not to worry, this is only a tenth of what it costs to run the US government for one day, including the more than $400,000 each day (!) that it costs to maintain the White House and Capitol Building and grounds. Sure makes $2 billion seem like a bargain for a lousy election and it certainly softens the loss of $1 billion in a losing effort.
But what is really troubling is that most Americans won’t even see the effects of all this money spent by either campaign, especially in these last few days as both candidates try to shore up key states that can still go for either candidate. States like Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, and Florida will be pummeled with television and radio ads, mailers, emails, and even front-door visits during the next week and a half. The rest of America will be included, but it will largely be from the media’s constant reporting of polls and surveys in these swing states.
All of this spending and fundraising should end the old story many parents use to motivate their children by telling them that “anyone” can become president in America. Not anymore they can’t. In fact, there are very few people in America right now who could even qualify. Not only do candidates need to be knowledgeable, they must essentially be rich themselves to even consider getting involved in a campaign that will run into the thousands of millions. It costs money to begin making money and without large cash reserves of private money on hand, there is no chance that a “dark horse” candidate could survive the nearly two years spent campaigning, handshaking, and empty-promising that it takes to be a modern presidential candidate.
In fact, who would even aspire to this chaos in the first place? I have always maintained that it takes a certain amount of inflated ego and superiority complex to want to be the president, but now we see that it also takes a huge amount of cash. We have long left the days of the “ideals” behind us, if they ever actually existed anyway. The founding fathers may have been concerned primarily about principles, but today the only concern is power and, of course, the money. It’s hard not to be cynical in 2012 when even a $1 billion bankroll can’t buy you an election. Al Capone would be sick.