For poor and working people, $5.8 billion is an unimaginably huge sum of money. It is roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of Niger or Moldova, both countries of millions of people. For the U.S. capitalist class, $5.8 billion is the expected price tag for the 2012 elections, a worthwhile investment in fostering the illusion of choice. Some $2.5 billion will go to the race for the presidency alone.
The current election cycle is likely to be the most expensive ever. Several important developments have paved the way for an especially massive cash infusion into the 2012 elections.
In early 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the extreme right-wing organization Citizens United in their lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission. Living up to their reputation as “guardian of the dollar, defender of private property— as one New York banker put it in 1895—the court ruled that corporations could make “independent expenditures” to influence elections.
An appellate court decision made shortly thereafter paved the way for the creation of so-called Super PACs (Political Action Committees). These entities are allowed to spend an unlimited amount of money to support or oppose a politician running for public office.
An associated phenomenon has been the increase in anonymous donations made to campaigns. Groups like the United States Chamber of Commerce qualify as tax-exempt “social welfare organizations”—despite obviously not having any interest in promoting the welfare of society— – and are not required to disclose their donors.
On the other hand, some capitalists have been very public in their manipulation of the elections. For example, the notoriously racist casino oligarch Sheldon Adelson bragged that he would spend up to $100 million to defeat Obama.
Although the sheer amount of money spent on the 2012 elections is dizzying and further proof that U.S. “democracy” is a complete sham, this is simply the intensification of an already-existing practice in U.S. electoral politics. While $5.8 billion is an enormous sum of money, it is only 7 percent more than was spent in 2008, before the Citizens United ruling.
Take for example the situation in Greece. In this country, seven political parties are represented in parliament; a party only has to win 3 percent of the vote to receive legislative seats, and political parties receive public financing relative to their election performance. This arrangement is beyond the wildest dreams of even the most strident election reform advocate in the United States, and yet the Greek working class has still been devastated by years of economic crisis and austerity that resulted in average incomes declining by over 25 percent in 2011 alone.
The capitalist state serves the capitalist class—there are no exceptions. However, their accumulated wealth and power is in the final equation no match for the strength and determination of the organized working class. That too is a law of history.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation is extending this struggle-oriented approach into the electoral arena with the Peta Lindsay/Yari Osorio presidential campaign. While the capitalist politicians and their millionaire donors have access to unlimited amounts of money, we are basing our campaign on the people’s movements and the desire of the oppressed to fight for fundamental change.
Needless to say, the Lindsay/Osorio campaign does not receive any support from corporate donors. We rely solely on the dedication of our supporters to get the message of socialism out to poor and working people. Volunteer today!