“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”
— James W. Frick
Along with every election season comes this idea of hope and change, a time when the downtrodden can see the light at the end of the tunnel with initiatives that could make for a better society and newly elected officials who may actually know what to do in times of crisis. Unfortunately, for the last several election cycles, the general public has been deprived, for the most part, of such opportunities that should be afforded to us by our democracy. Instead, money, greed and power have had a stranglehold on our electoral process — just open your mail box or turn on your TV at any given time during the weeks leading up to Election Day. Voters have been assaulted with propaganda, rhetoric and outright lies, and this election season was no different.
From press releases to news stories, from campaign mailers to TV and radio ads, John Q. Public has been under attack. Unbeknownst to those who failed to do their homework, voters have proven that they can be swayed by whoever spends the most money. For example, in 2008, those who spent the most money in nine of out 10 congressional races and in the race for the presidency won. While the best man or woman for the job may actually have won on merit, it seems obvious that there is a connection between big spenders and big winners.
The travesty of this plight — money wins elections — is that those hard earned dollars could have been better spent on more important things. If candidates were truly interested in the welfare of our communities, then those millions of dollars spent on smear campaigns and hit pieces could have been redirected toward flailing public and private entities, businesses and organizations, perhaps helping the currently unemployed find jobs. Wouldn’t the positive headlines and community support for doing such good deeds have been a better return on their investment? Instead, sadly, it appears candidates have concluded that the best way to win votes is by messages defaming their opponents — fact-based or not — and giving themselves and their respective political parties kudos for their value systems.
Top spender this election cycle is gubernatorial Republican candidate Meg Whitman. Of the $46 million she has spent thus far just on the primary election, $39 million came out of her own pocket. Imagine the support she would have received from her constituents had she invested in job creation programs and filled X number of long term jobs. If she wanted to appear more moderate, she could have funded nearly 800 teachers’ salaries with the money she has spent on this election. Whitman would have been a shoo-in; she might even have been able to persuade the left to rethink its choices.
In Ventura County, partisan infighting led candidates to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to beguile voters into believing all sorts of sordid lies about their opponents — in a local Democratic primary, one candidate went so far as to spend thousands of dollars on a mailer with a doctored image of his opponent with a glass of champagne in her hand to make her look bad. (And this is after he asked her to join him in running a clean campaign!) Had these candidates put their campaign monies into the actual causes they believed in rather than in TV and radio ads and mailers, it could almost have been guaranteed that the news stories to follow would have won the races for them.
Post-Election Day, there is only one thing to say: we feel that the campaign process has gone to the dogs. Tainted and polluted by underhanded ploys to win votes, we are ashamed that politics have made a turn for the worse. The two greatest strengths in this country are the democratic process and capitalism. However, election season, essentially, makes a mockery of both. As the candidates ramp up for the general election, we hope to see some major changes in how they conduct their campaigns. We know this request may be futile, so we implore you to contact them and tell them to leave dirty politics out of it and to spend their money on what their priorities truly are.