Written by Sam Aydlette
For many, the election on November 6 represented a polarized struggle between distinct ideological visions. Yet the differences between presidential candidates Romney and Obama were, for the most part, a reiteration of the same tired rhetoric of party politics. The reality is that both candidates would serve as co-conspirators of the unjust status quo that is tearing America apart.
After the dust cleared, the amount spent by individuals and groups attempting to influence the political situation on Capitol Hill was staggering. Nearly $6 billion were spent in the 2012 election cycle. Much of this money came from various economic or ideological interest groups that compete to place into power individuals who, once in office, will enact policies that they will benefit from. For example, the University of California’s employees donated over a million dollars to the Obama campaign, compared to only $59 thousand to the Romney campaign. The administration’s firm stance on Government aid through grants and low interest loans to people seeking higher education probably has a lot to do with the support from individuals at that major University. On the other hand, On the other hand, PACs affiliated with and employees of Goldman Sachs contributed $994,139 to Romney compared to only $184,925 to Obama, perhaps due to the perceived hostility of the Obama administration to the “1%,” or hopes that Romney will loosen regulations on the banking industry which will lead to higher profits. In any case, the point to be taken from this analysis is that people generally support candidates based on their own immediate self-interest, and that this self-interest may not be beneficial to the country as a whole.
Self-interested behavior is not necessarily wrong or evil in and of itself; in fact, it is human nature to act in a way that benefits ourselves and the people close to us. Attempting to regulate this sort of behavior through campaign finance laws is impracticable as well as antithetical to individual liberty. Yet, it cannot be denied that the competing interests that are vying for power each election cycle are creating a serious problem. The amount of money spent to control the balance of power in Washington seems grotesque when one considers that $6 billion could buy groceries for one year for 1.5 million families. But this sum is paltry compared to the $388 billion TARP program and the $819 billion stimulus package, or the various cancelled or unused weapons programs that have cost taxpayers over $100 billion dollars.
Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama propose a continuation of increased federal spending and direct involvement in the country’s affairs. They only disagree on which interest groups their policies would favor. Despite this, there is a clear path toward a solution. The American electorate must rise to meet the challenge our founding fathers granted to us, and vote candidates into office that above all things will respect the Constitution and uphold the rule of law. If we commit to reducing the size and scope of the Federal Government to what it was intended to be, much of the money intended to induce favor would dry up. Of course, this requires that the electorate stop being armchair patriots. Not only does it mean educating oneself about major issues and candidates, but also being involved in the political process more heavily than merely voting once every four years. Petitioning to put quality candidates on the ballot, communicating with elected officials, and working to educate others about how the political process works are all tasks every citizen must strive to do. In fact, these tasks are essential in order to restore the health of our Republic, and even more important, to preserve our liberty.