George Graham

Don’t Complain. V ote!

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The U.S. Senate is supposed to be voting today on a constitutional amendment that would allow the federal and state governments to limit political campaign spending. But the amendment has very little chance of passing. And if by some miracle it slips past the procedural roadblocks and gets the two-thirds majority such legislation requires, the Republican controlled House would never even debate such a bill.

Money is very persuasive, and there’s a lot of money at stake here. Politicians tend to vote in favor of their wallets.

For reasons that I don’t completely grasp, it seems to take massive campaign spending to win elections nowadays. Not always, of course, but often enough to affect the balance of power in Congress. America is becoming a plutocracy – if it hasn’t become one already.

The Supreme Court’s decision to let corporations spend as much as they want on American elections made the situation a lot worse. With campaign limits, there was some semblance of a level playing field. Now, elections can be bought by billionaires like the Koch brothers and mighty corporations like Monsanto and the oil companies.

Why? Don’t tell me American voters are so impressionable that they are influenced by those absurd TV commercials? Surely, by now we all know the commercials are bogus? I hear some sonorous voice on TV declaring that whenCharlie Crist was governor, Florida’s unemployment soared. Does that make me change my mind and vote for Rick Scott?

Don’t make me laugh. I know that even if the commercial is loosely based on real figures, Crist was not responsible for Florida losing jobs. During his time as governor (from 2007 to 2011) a lot of things were happening nationally – such as the horrific recession triggered by George W. Bush’s wild and woolly presidency. But even if the commercial was rock solid, I wouldn’t change my mind and vote Republican after all these years.

And I don’t expect Republicans to change their minds either. So who gets influenced by the ads? I don’t know one person who changed their vote because of something they saw or heard in the media. Do you?

In my experience, it’s the turnout that matters. Sometimes a lot of Democrats stay home, and the Republicans get elected. It’s as simple as that.

My in basket is deluged with begging emails and I bet yours is too. I read that both parties are raising huge sums of money for the November elections. The argument is that the more money raised the better the chance of victory. And I suppose there’s some truth in that. But it’s not always true.

Of course, a lot of professional campaigners get fat off bloated campaign spending. And so do a lot of politicians. The media gets its share too. But we don’t have to vote for the bad guys. It’s our job to keep abreast of what’s going on and vote accordingly. If we rely on TV ads for our information, we will get what we deserve

Door-to-door campaigning has to be more effective than those ludicrous campaign ads. I remember how an obscure Lakeland lawyer named Lawton Chiles walked across Florida and drummed up enough support to get elected to the US Senate and later became our governor. Sure it cost money – but not the kind of money those TV ads cost.

I suspect the PR operatives and the marketing hucksters have sold us all a bill of goods. They’re the ones who profit most from today’s obscene campaign spending. But don’t wait for Congress to set things right. Campaign spending limits will never be reintroduced in America. Too many people profit too much by the current system. Even in Canada, I see Stephen Harper is trying to get their limits removed.

The only way to get your candidate elected is to vote. And a lot of us aren’t voting. So let’s stop blaming the filthy rich for showering the airwaves with cash in an effort to take over our government. Let’s take responsibility for our own destinies. Let’s get off our rear ends and vote!

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com