Article by Richard Cowan, former NORML National Director and author of CBD: Making Merry For Seniors
In 1966, the late Jesse Unruh, a California Democratic politician famously said that “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” That may still be true, but the world has changed greatly in the last fifty years.
The Left has long urged that elections should be financed by the government because the rich could “buy elections”, and for a long time that seemed self-evident, but that was before the Internet democratized fundraising, and so much diversity of opinion among the affluent.
It was always obvious that victory didn’t always follow the money, but this year’s Presidential campaign made that very obvious, and painfully so for the well-financed Liberal candidates.
First, Michael Bloomberg embarrassed himself and billionaires everywhere by blowing a billion dollars on his bid for the Democratic nomination, and losing badly to Biden. Then he stepped up to help Biden in Florida, spending a reported $100 million more, and Trump won the Sunshine state.
Then the Democrats outraised the Republicans in the South, and even with very attractive candidates, they lost races everyone seemed to think they would win. (In Georgia both Republican candidates for the Senate, who are absolutely appalling, got more votes than their better-financed Democratic opponents, but they fell short of the fifty percent required to avoid a runoff.)
Although we don’t know the final numbers for the Presidential campaigns, it would appear that both candidates raised approximately $1.5 billion. (One and half times Bloomberg’s) And Trump may have raised a bit more than Biden, but did not spend it as well. However, incumbents generally get more “free” publicity simply because they have the Presidency, so that is difficult to measure.
Behind all of this wasted money was the embarrassing failure of polling. Why did Michael Bloomberg, a very smart, politically experienced former Mayor of New York City, think he could “buy” the nomination?
How did the Democrats so misjudge the South and other places? How did Trump and his advisers so misjudge the country?
All of these questions are a part of the same problem: We don’t understand how the Internet impacts our politics, other than that it makes it easier to raise money. The country is terribly divided because we see different things in different ways and that process is accelerating. Trumpism has spawned at least two new “news” networks, and there may be even more. The advent of streaming as the dominant technology makes further fracturing of communication and community inevitable.
Over the next four years we have to find ways to reconnect with one another, but it should be clear that while money is absolutely necessary, it is absolutely not enough.