Monday, October 20, 2008

$600 million

That's at least how much money Obama will have spent by the time this is all over (I think the actual figure will be over 700 million, but the point will remain). Compared to the bank bailout it's a near-pittance, compared to every other campaign in history it's a staggering sum. On the bright side, it's unlikely one person would spend that kind of money out of their own pocket trying to become president, so you could say the whole thing is democracy in action. On the dark side, holy shit, but that's a lot of money to be spent on shitty ads and the mediocre consultants who make them, an endless number of polls and focus groups, busing hack journalists around so they can write the exact same stories as all the other hack journalists write, donuts and junk food to feed hordes of volunteers (and what's the dollar value of those volunteers? How many millions more would all that free labor add to the $600,000,000 price tag?).

I've been watching this stuff since 2000, so I know how thrilled people are to be able to donate money to their candidate, but there has to be a better way. We are giving politicians huge sums of money so they can, in essence, assault the nation with around-the-clock, transmedia bullshit and lies. Obama will understandably be reluctant to reform a system that has been so kind to him, and promises to be at least as kind in the future. But I'd like to see a hard cap placed on spending, of both candidates and political parties, as well as politically-related activities by lobbying groups. Between the costs of campaigning and the effects of lobbyists, the system is drowning in money. It's working out well for the Democrats -- this year -- but it won't always. Put an end to it while you can, because there's no way the Republicans will when their turn comes.