Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When To Support The Two Party System

Every major election year there's the same big debate amongst progressives and radicals -- is it better to vote for the Democrats as the lesser of two evils, or are both of the two big parties so corrupt and out-of-touch you can hardly ever justify voting for them?

As is most likely obvious from everything I've ever posted here, I lean much more toward the second of those two options. But really, I don't care that much, because I'm actually more aligned with the school of thought that says elections are basically pointless and good or bad policies will result from social movements pressuring politicians into doing their work, regardless of party affiliation. I'm not quite of the hardcore school of thought that sees elections as actually harmful (because they give the illusion of free choice and an open political process, pushing people to limit their political action to meaningless elections at the expense of more important social activism), but I sympathize with the viewpoint.

But regardless of where you come down on this issue, I think it's especially revealing to look at who the big money donors support. Because Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, and all of their friends don't give a shit about abortion or gay rights or the environment. They care about one thing -- increasing their profit margins by any means necessary. And as such, they will give money to whomever they feel will best do that, pretty much regardless of that candidate's view on any other issue. Thus, the funding streams of these big money donors can tell us a great deal about who the candidate is working for the hardest.

For example, here's a list (from the incomparable opensecrets.org) showing you Mitt Romney's top donors and the top donors of two major presidential candidates from two previous election cycles. The highlighted organizations on the previous candidates represent groups who are currently major Romney donors.

In case you can't guess who they are, the 2008 candidate is Obama and the 2004 candidate is Bush Jr.

Sure, there's context and nuance and all that and it's more complicated than this, but it's a good example of how it doesn't really matter who it is; as long as they're a nominee of one of the two major parties, they will be reliant on the same donors for the bulk of their funding. And I don't mean to sound too cynical about the state of American politics, but I'm guessing these major corporations giving millions of dollars to political candidates expect some sort of return on their investment...

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