The Power of the Purse

February 27, 2008
By
Democracy is simultaneously threatened and ameliorated by the burgeoning campaign spending, a two-dimensional issue in the United States.

Campaign financing is beneficial for democracy since resources are used to increase public awareness. As funds spent on a candidate’s campaign rapidly increase, the apathy of Americans decreases. This is evident from the 1996 general election, which drew 49% of eligible voters, about 96.3 million, to the 2000 election, which brought 105.4 million. In 2004, the turnout of voters was 120 million, which was the greatest percentage of Americans that voted since 1968. The successful participation of voters can be attributed to the campaign spending that helps raise awareness because candidates are able to further educate the public on the issues and projected solutions. Being more informed, Americans are capable of making educated decisions in the voting booth. There is also an increase in public involvement and discourse in democracy itself, which is the government of, by, and for the people. Therefore, campaign money is used to encourage participation in democracy by way of media and various political outlets.

Adversely, campaign spending could be detrimental to democracy because those who lack resources will not be heard since they are required to spend time raising money and, as a result, may spend less time in the public spotlight. An example of this is Joe Biden in the 2008 presidential election; he dropped out of the race because he did not gain enough support in the Iowa caucus, and contributions to his campaign decreased. If a democratic government is concerned with all people of the nation, it should not be interested in who will be able to climb to the top of the ladder based on access to resources. The presidential election has turned into a form of capitalism. A candidate must have enough money to gain the nomination for the general election. If he or she cannot muster sufficient campaign funds, his or her political success is doomed. The race for office is Social Darwinism at its best

The negative effect of campaign financing on democracy is much more relevant than the positive. Campaign spending is destroying democracy one step at a time. Campaigning for political office is solely based on the possession of adequate funds to become renowned nationwide. Those with economic power flourish while others wither. The survival of the strong contradicts democracy; the people are not represented if a candidate only wins due to his or her financial status. The presidential election is a race of ideology, not of finance. The augmented campaign spending is unfavorable for the American democracy because it inhibits the freedom for one’s voice to be heard.





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