What better time to talk about the “mother’s milk” of politics? And, why would anyone give money to a political candidate?
I can help to change the world
This is a biggie, and explains why Obama can generate tons of money on the basis of such platitudes as “change” and “hope.” Many people, including most politicians, will find it difficult to articulate their specific positions on anything. Real issues are too complex, after all.
LBJ, capitalizing on the notion that nearly everyone is against poverty, for example, was able to launch a hideously expensive and vastly incompetent war on poverty. The devil, of course, is in the details, but the details almost never get discussed until too late.
Thus, for a large number of Dems, especially those under 30 and those who are Black, Obama represents change, and that is enough. Moreover, by merely clicking on a website, funds can be directed to this new hero, and the clicker becomes part of the campaign and part of history. A scintillating superficiality in the electorate helps here, in that while Obama is forever touted as a great speaker, he is actually nothing of the kind. Rather, he has a good voice.
In fact, he does rather poorly if forced into extemporaneous situations, and tries to cover for this by deflecting all dissent as “cynical.”
Most candidates can take advantage of their celebrity status much the way movie stars do—and with somewhat greater justification. Many with empty lives follow those of film stars, even to the point of rooting for them to win an Oscar. Logically, it should make no difference to the fan if their favorite wins or not, since there is not present here even the sort of shared destiny whereby a championship for a city in a sporting event is felt to some extent by all residents. Clearly, in a political race, there can be a sense of shared destiny.
The point is that by sending a candidate $100, if he wins, you can claim a share in the victory. Depending on how empty your life is, this can be a major event. It helps if you don’t consider how insignificant your share actually is. Likewise, it helps if you don’t think too much about how the President—no doubt portrayed as all powerful—, is anything but.
These days, all the president can do is start undeclared wars, veto legislation, nominate federal judges, and start new cabinet departments. His power, such as it is, derives from the undeniable fact that he is the only office holder elected at large. In truth, his position is largely symbolic: If Clinton presides over a good economy that he had nothing to do with, he takes the credit. If Bush presides over a down economy that he had nothing to do with, he is awarded the blame.
Quid pro quo
This would appear to be the only rational purpose for giving contributions, and examples abound. The Clinton pardons include a number of big donors such as Marc Rich, and many office holders at the level of governor and representative have been convicted for taking bribes in the form of campaign donations (what’s the difference and how can they tell?).
A milder form of quid pro quo would be the gaining of access to influential politicos, but this might just be a distinction without a difference.
I can change the world all by myself
When it comes to those like George Soros, with virtually unlimited money at their disposal, and the intent to use it for political purposes, we have to create a special category. Perhaps Soros is guilty of the way he acquired his fortune, or about his oft-mentioned collaboration with the Nazis.
The oddest thing about Soros is that he is, as called by writer James Lewis, a socialist capitalist:
He has made it very big indeed, but he doesn’t want others getting rich in free markets. Instead, we are told, he wants “a strong central international government to correct for the excesses of self-interest.”
The closest counterpart on the Right to Soros was Fred Lennon (died 1998), an Ohio-based billionaire, whose fortune was founded on a line of tube fittings invented by his partner Cullen Crawford. As it happened, Lennon bought out Crawford for a song, and grew the business to its present levels.
Lennon was as secretive as Soros is high-profile, and may have been more pragmatic in his donations, in that his businesses appear to have directly benefited, at least due to his involvement with local office holders and state supreme court justices.
Still, one wonders if the expense can be rationalized as anything other than a rich man’s hobby.