The Day After

The pundits are out in full force to tell you the meaning of yesterday’s Democratic primary vote in New Hampshire, I’ll bow to their expertise – no matter how wrong they are.

It was the end of the line for some candidates. Not because they don’t believe they have the right stuff to be president. Their faith in themselves is still strong, though the voters of New Hampshire may not have agreed.

But believing in yourself is not enough. Good policy ideas are not enough. Charisma is not enough. American politics is ruled by money, and those with money flock to a winner. Those who drop out at this point in the race are doing so because the money is drying up.

It could be argued that money is the root of all that is wrong with American politics. Vast amounts are spent to place candidates in office. Why? Are those contributing millions to American political campaigns motivated by civic duty? Or do they expect something in return, favor from elected officials?

The easy way to answer that question is to propose electoral reform that would place limits on contributions. In Canada, as in other places, corporate donations are banned. Individual donations can amount to no more than about $1,500 annually. That changes the balance of the political equation.

Contributions are monitored. Electoral spending limits are enforced. The idea is that no corporations or billionaires should be allowed to buy an election or a candidate. In theory Americans agree with that concept. Practice seems a little different.

A few years ago I attended a seminar put on my an American organization that worked to elect conservative candidates. Basically, the got Republicans elected.

It was an eye-opening event. One of the things that stuck with me was the amount of money that American politicians need to run a campaign.

A Congressman must raise $10,000 a week to have a chance of re-election. Given the two-year term, that means they need a million dollars. You can imagine how much a presidential campaign costs.

By contrast, Canadian Members of Parliament can only spend about $100,000 on their re-election bids. Overspending could void the results. National campaigns have similar restrictions.

Who knows, those candidates dropping out of the presidential race after yesterday’s results may have been the best qualified to win the White House, at least as far as their policy ideas go. But they committed the unpardonable sin of American politics – they didn’t raise enough money to allow themselves time to win over the electorate.

Which makes them more likely to be a footnote to history. And partly explains why a billionaire with no political experience managed to win the 2016 Republican nomination.

Are those still in the race beholden to those controlling the purse strings? I leave that for you to judge.

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