Friday, October 22, 2010

The commercialization of politics

CSPAN Washington Journal: Former Members of Congress for Common Ground

I heard one of the gentlemen in this interview remark that the cost of getting elected has increased a hundred fold since running in the 70's.

It got me to thinking--$150,000 in 1970, $15,000,000 in 2008, hmm.  There is a market here, and not metaphorically speaking.  There is a vibrant market place around the buying and selling of opinion and policy.   I'm not just talking about the old school corporate pay-off and congressional extortion types of trade.  No, this is new, it is in fact a swap-meet for commercialized politics.  The commercialization of politics should be a scary thing.  It brackets an insidious movement.

I hear over and over the cry for "campaign finance reform,"  but I now see that it won't help, and here is why.  Ask yourself what creates a market?  It's a demand for something on one hand and a supplier of that something on the other.  It takes a supply and a demand to create a market.  Now when a political campaign accepts that it must compete in our commercial reality its strategy has already been fixed in a fundamental way.  That is, create effective memorable sound bytes and play them to the most people for the least dollars.  We are responsible, you and I, for creating that demand, and we shouldn't blame our media industry for stepping up to supply it.  They are just doing what all good capitalists do.  But we all see what kind of government is being grown in the soil of this culture.

We may think we're demanding transparency, but we're really demanding something completely different and much darker.  It is the true elephant in the room.  You and I must end the demand, turn off the commercials and find better, more productive ways of informing ourselves about the issues and people addressing them.  When we are willing to accept this responsibility, it won't take long for the media to respond, or our government for that matter, their livelihoods depend on it.  We should stop blaming Congress and look to our own capabilities in this matter.  We are not required to watch commercials just because there is an endless supply of them!