Before we start, here is a quote from former President Jimmy Carter talking about the current status of United States politics: “Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect
Carter was responding to a question about Citizens United, a political action committee, more commonly known as a Super PAC. Citizens United fought in federal court in 2010 for the right to donate as much money as they damn well please to political campaigns. Funded by the Koch Brothers, who fuel this problem in American politics, the super PAC won and here we are today, an oligarchy.
In the most literal sense, an oligarchy is a government run by a small group of people. Many people will try to tell you we are still a democracy, but don’t be fooled by those idealists. Last I checked, our government was run by a small group of people.
Oh, and I know what you are thinking: “Well Jager, in this argument of yours you don’t mention that the small group of people are elected!” Well sophisticated college student #1, who are they elected by?
Think about how elections are won. First, you need an idea. Let’s take Obama for an example, and his idea of change. Everyone can get behind change.
So now that we have an idea, what’s next? Money. Obama raised $750 million in 2008 but that number is a joke compared to today. And here is the fun part! According to The New York Times, in the 2016 election so far, 158 families have accounted for half of the money spent to jump start this election season. These families have accounted for $176 million spent initially, which may not seem like much, but remember that it isn’t even 2016 yet! The estimated amount of money going to be spent on the 2016 election may reach up to $10 billion once the race starts and that is The New York Times’ most conservative of estimates.
If you have been following along, you should have realized something scary in that last paragraph. Only 158 families, in total, have accounted for half of the spending in this election thus far. How is this not an oligarchy? If most of a campaign relies on money, then this small group of financial backers has a lot of leverage on our politicians. And if you feel like money isn’t the only thing that controls an election, ask Rand Paul. He might disagree with you.
Your next suspicion could be that 158 families is too many people to be considered a small group. But let me remind you that there are about 120,000,000 households in the United States, in a population of 318 million. In layman’s terms, those 158 families are 0.00013 percent of the households in the United States. In comparison, the last named oligarchy was in fifth century BC Athens and they had an estimated 15 people running the show. By the way, that was 0.015 percent of their estimated 100,000 citizens.
I want to be fair to those who still cling to the American ideal that we are a democracy, but I just can’t. We can barely get half of our country to vote in the presidential election, arguably the most important one. Only 52 percent of the voting eligible population voted in 2012. This depressing information only grows tenfold when you realize that in our relatively big state of New York, only 28 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot during the mid-term elections in 2014. Idealists and democratic minded people should be terrified that only 28 percent of our state’s people care about who runs the part of the government that actually makes laws.
We aren’t a democracy. Money runs the world and when you have that little amount of people potentially changing the entire outcome of the election and American politics, you are foolish to call this country a democracy anymore.
Thank you Citizens United. You have proven that with all the willpower in the world…oh who am I kidding? They didn’t use willpower. The Koch brothers account for nearly $90 billion of free-flowing capital; they buy anything they want. They can pick politicians like we pick pizza toppings.
PHOTO CREDIT: GAGE SKIDMORE