Wednesday, June 09, 2010

I do not have a problem with rich people but I do have a problem with rich people buying votes

There. I said it.

Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina being on the other side of the political spectrum doesn't bother me. I don't agree with their stance on many things but that's ok - I don't agree with many people stance on many things. However, what irkles me no end, is the fact that they were able to buy votes in yesterday's primary election.

Arguably, you could say it was a middle-finger to traditional politicians and an embracing of corporate CEOs as the "solution" to the terrible mess we find California in. However, it is hard to argue with these numbers: MEG WHITMAN spent more than $71 million from her personal fortune to win votes and CARLY FIORINA spent $5 million, both women outspending their opponents by a margin that was beyond ridiculous.

Of course, you can't air radio and tv spots or organize a grass-roots effort without money but the whole concept of the political process is that spending is closely related to support via donations and is, therefore, somewhat an extension of the voting process itself.

What Whitman and Fiorina did was completely skip the grass-roots support completely and buy themselves exposure that had nothing to do with their ability to win hearts and minds. Meg in particular clogged up our TVs with a mud slinging campaign that made me sick to my stomach (egged on by her fellow-billionnaire opponent) and to the point where you could barely turn on a tv without being subjected to their torrent of insults. It was disgusting. I don't care what their politics are. And yet, by virtue of the fact that you just couldn't get away from her, she won votes. (I'm not saying some people didn't vote from an informed perspective but, hey, most of us can agree that's not the majority of the electorate.)

As for Carly, we all know that her votes came from being the "other" choice. She spent her millions just telling us that, if we didn't like the other guy, she was our only other option. When you can spend enough money to drown out all other voices, it's definitely easy to make it seem that way.

I used to like politics when I lived in England. Since I moved to the U.S.... notsomuch. It's a battle driven by personality, money and the deeds involved in getting it. Not that this isn't present in the UK at all but the political atmosphere is more driven by issues and money is not the deciding factor in any way, shape or form. (I could explain why but I won't bother you with a lesson on the British parliamentary system.)

At first when I moved out here, I couldn't understand the sense of apathy most people had to voting and the political process, or the disdain they had for politicians in general. Now I totally get it. After 15 years, I'm pretty sick of it myself. And if anyone thinks that corporate CEOs will be any less drawn into the political pitfalls that career politicians have been criticized for, they appear to be sorely mistaken. The recent cat fight played out on our TV sets makes that pretty clear.

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