Editor's note: Evan Rowe is an adjunct professor of history at Broward College.
Despite the campaign hype and advertising, despite the fact that this election will decide Florida's governor and the legality of medical marijuana, the largest voting bloc this election cycle will be, as it was in 2010, the nonvoter. The nonvoter, often derided and chided, will once again be king this election cycle, without much fanfare or perspective. So let's give it some perspective. Let's show some respect to the nonvoter and reveal the partisan hackery that passes itself off as serious politics.
For starters, both parties are controlled by big money. This is not a revelation, nor an original point, but let's examine what it means in greater detail.
In essence, the dominant political space in society is controlled privately. The private sector finances the state. This includes the national state, as well as state and local governments, in lesser degrees. At the state level, the primary difference is that the price tag to purchase control over the state becomes much lower than it is at the federal level (i.e., smaller industries can compete to control state governments more easily than they are able to compete to control the federal government. So Google and Amazon can compete to control U.S. senators, while a midsized company like AutoNation can compete at the state level).
By and large, what this all boils down to is that the valuable space in American life is predominantly controlled privately, while the public space has become increasingly stressed, at least in the places where it benefits the population at large (i.e., social spending). As I have often pointed out in various lectures and writings: It is an intellectually useful metric to ask yourself who controls which space in society when it comes to understanding the role of the government. Who controls the food? The private sector. The clothes on your back? Private. The information that was pumped into the public's minds, from the music they consume to the political ideas that are legitimated by mass media? Private. The arms industry, computers, and so on?
The lion's share of the political power that most of us face in daily life is with the private sector, not the government.
And like any good and vibrant power system, a central way to keep the system humming is that the actual centers of power are simply held as axiomatic and must remain unquestioned, nearly invisible, and almost never debated. And the best way to deal with that is by having a raging debate about where only a small fraction of power exists, and that space is the state.
Thus, the shrill and often petty tone occurs in elections because the actual amount of power shift that the outcome offers is quantifiably minimal for the vast majority of the population, which hereafter shall be referred to as the working class. Yet the party hacks go ballistic when I point this out.
They do not go crazy because their team offers the people nothing and runs around subsidizing and tax-breaking the problem sector and generally facilitating upward redistribution of power and wealth, yet they act like I'm out of control simply for pointing this out. It's completely acceptable, in their mind, to repeat this same insane procedure but get mad at me simply because I say what they are and what they do. I am not the one who is choosing to run campaigns, I am not the one who is allowed to control the agenda, yet when I simply point out how little power the political class returns to the working class majority, I'm out of line for defending the working class majority against a clueless and posh high and upper-middle class.
Comparing what each level gets out of the system, it is clear why money at the top gets pumped into the political system by business factions. If you run a midlevel business and you invest money in the political system, there is presumably a return on investment that comes from putting that money into the political system. So if you invest $1 million in campaign funding and get back $5 million thanks to the political class subsidizing or tax breaking, then there is a significant return on investment. Ironically, the return-on-investment point was also made by none other than Jim Bopp, the lawyer who successfully argued the Citizens United case and noted:
So, then I think well, maybe not; we don't need them. But one thing's for sure is that contribution limits are way too low. They are $2,500, and you can't even buy a Democrat congressman for $2,500. The anecdotal evidence is that it takes $99,000 in cold hard cash to buy a Democrat congressman. That was the amount Congressman Jefferson of New Orleans had in his freezer.
Republican congressmen seem to go at a higher rate. Duke Cunningham had a schedule of bribes in his desk. The lowest amount was $140,000 for him to earmark your weapons system. So we know for sure that it takes a heck of a lot more money than $2,500 to unduly influence a congressman, so our limits are just too low.