by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
… [T]hey will also be the most expensive midterms in U.S. history, with a total price tag surpassing $5 billion, according to the watchdog group OpenSecrets.
That we are spending more money with each passing election cycle does not in itself reveal much beyond the obvious: Americans are wealthy and increasingly eager to give to politicians. It certainly doesn’t prove what it’s often implied to — namely, that American democracy is being warped by the pernicious influence of “monied interests.”
One of the worst things about right-wing populism is the incorporation of hackneyed left-wing talking points into a conservative narrative on the pretext of finding anti-establishment common ground. Conservatives were at one time leading skeptics of the money-in-politics moral panic, yet paranoia over Trump-age demons such as Silicon Valley and George Soros now mirrors leftist scaremongering about Big Oil and the Koch brothers. To his supporters, a considerable part of Trump’s superhuman mystique comes from beating the moneyed interests aligned against him, including the Clinton campaign, which outspent him nearly two-to-one. …
… The Platonic ideal of a perfectly fair fight may be a nice one, but few of life’s contests are fought on a level playing field. In the case of Congress, two handicaps reign: firmly partisan districts and the strength of most incumbents. The presence of money in any given race tends to revolve around these realities, rather than superseding them.