Now that the polls have closed and American voters are either flaunting their victories or crying in their post electoral concession beers, voters can rest easy that they helped facilitate some change or did their civic duty. Major corporations, “super” PAC’s and the candidates they backed can run at least one victory lap though, even if their horse actually lost the race. Meanwhile, once the balloons shrink and the cocktails go flat, expect more Americans to feel marginalized. Partially thanks to the Citizens United decision, this mid-term election season saw record spending on campaigns nationwide. Between party spending and independent interest groups it’s possible campaign spending will top $4 billion.
Nearly half a billion dollars (over 12%) of that money came from private interests, many of which did not disclose their political interests thanks to the GOP blocking legislation that would’ve required disclosure. According to the Sunlight Foundation, one group attempting to follow the money, independent groups poured at least $110 million into the midterm elections without disclosing their donors. Sadly, this is just a precursor to the 2012 elections, which will almost assuredly break spending records.
So what does that $4 billion, more money than the GDP of many small countries, spent on electioneering get us? Ask a tea party patriot or a Republican and the answer will probably be “a chance to take the country back.” Ask a Democrat or slightly more left of center progressive and the answer might be “a chance to defend the country from a GOP takeover.” Considering the amount of attack ads throughout the media, the banal campaign rhetoric and usual lukewarm political promises, we’re probably left with the same broken republic we’ve had for decades. As Mother Jones highlighted last month, Congress represents little more than big business interests . President Obama has pretty much carried out the same agenda as Bush, with some exceptions, albeit wrapped in prettier rhetoric.Whether citizens cast their ballots hoping to topple Democratic tyranny or keep Republicans home at a tea party, Tuesday's election was a loss for democracy itself and a victory towards a more plutocratic republic. The right is already claiming a “mandate” on the “Obama agenda” for winning the House while the center/left will claim a victory by clinging to a slim Senate majority. However, voter turnout still appears to be about 50% in most states. Knowing spending will likely increase in our next election cycle and funding will come from more shadowy interest groups makes the whole election cycle feel more hollow. Perhaps the fact that 40% or more of Americans stay away from the polls is a mandate on our electoral system itself.