In the 2016, $6.8 billion was spent on election campaigns for president and federal congressional seats. $6.8 billion. Obscene. At the same time, 15.4 million children in the U.S. lived below the poverty line. Meaning that 15.4 million children did not have adequate food to eat and did not eat three meals a day. $6.8 billion could have given every one of those children an extra $8.00 per week for a year for their school lunches. $6.8 billion was turned into webpages, social media campaigns, TV ads, radio ads, mailers, flyers, transportation costs, hotels stays, meals, consultants, part time staff, office expenses, etc. For this obscene amount of money the American people got a buffoon for president and 469 representatives (many of whom are also arguable buffoons but not on the magnitude of reality TV president). The fortunes of 470 people changed for $6.8 billion, but otherwise nothing else changed for better or worse. $6.8 billion dollars spent in 6 months or less with absolutely nothing tangible to show for it and no intangible last legacy or memory.
No one liked the system of campaign finance except for the financiers. The financiers loved the system because they could buy influence or at least influence the electorate to vote for whom they thought could best serve their interests. Often the congressional races were so close that financiers would hedge their bets by contributing to both candidates so that no matter who got into office, the financiers would be sure to have an ear to bend to their interests. The people hated campaign finance because they rightfully surmised that no politician gave a crap about them or their issues because they did not contribute much, if any, money and they could not be counted on in the future to do so. With politicians’ limited time in office and limited resources to allocate to constituent projects, and with self-interest always a primary focus, the people knew that politicians would prefer to talk to the lobbyists representing the financiers in order that their next campaign would be well funded. Politicians hated campaign finance because while they might have gotten into politics because of their ideals and their vision of a greater America and because they were smart and capable people, once in office they all became simple shills for their parties and the financiers. Gone was their autonomy, freewill, heterogeneity and their ability to do the right thing in the face of opposition from their party or financiers. And our founding fathers were arguably rolling in their graves over what a shit show elections had become. Of course, in their day, there were two outlets for candidates to compete against one another—stumping and newsprint. Obviously, the newspaper wielded some influence and could have been used to promote some candidates to the detriment of others. However, for the most part democracy was such a new, novel, exciting experiment (and was not frought with all of the intervening and mounting disappointments that have since tarnished its reputation) that reporters largely reported what candidates said without a lot of commentary and let the people decide who should prevail. And then of course through stumping, candidates had to get out on the road and shake hands with real Americans whom they looked in the eye and whom they felt accountable to. Now the billions of campaign finance dollars fund smear campaigns, ad hominem attacks, fake news, misinformation, hyperbole, derision and even hatred. When candidates travel to see the 99% and let the 99% see them, they deliver canned speeches written by professional speechwriters. More often, politicians simply held press conferences or appear on news programs simply spouting whatever politically safe, empty platitudes and promises that are buzzing at the time and being repeated ad nauseam by their peers and party leadership.
Politicians who challenged this status quo, were quickly cuckolded by their party and/or their financiers. The Supreme Court when given the chance to at least uphold limits on campaign financing, failed miserably to do so in their historically anti-democratic decision Citizens United. Therefore, the problem seemed insurmountable since the only people who could legally change campaign finance laws had their hands tied by the people whom they depended on for re-election.