It certainly wasn’t the only thing*, but it was a key factor in his surviving the recall. Now, I wouldn’t feel compelled to point this out, but a professor of political science, Kenneth Mayer, wrote the following in a column:
Stop blaming the American Legislative Exchange Council, or Super PACS, or the Koch Brothers, or Citizens United. Stop insisting that the only reason you lost was you were outspent 3-to-1, or 5-to-1, or 10-to-1, or that democracy has ended because billionaires can buy elections.
While I agree that it might not be the only factor, breezily dismissing it is unwise, especially in light of research that seems to indicate the following:
2. Campaign ads matter more when a candidate can outspend the opponent. This simple fact sometimes gets lost because people fixate on the content of ads. But the volume of ads may matter more. Consider the 2000 presidential election. In the final two weeks of the campaign, residents in battleground state were twice as likely to see a Bush ad as a Gore ad. This cost Gore 4 points among uncommitted voters.
According to most estimates, Governor Walker outspent Tom Barrett by a factor of 7 – 1. You’ll note that the text quoted above highlights how important spending ratios are. Professor Mayer does not cite any sources in his column, so I have no idea what kind of studies or other logic he is basing his assertion on.
Furthermore, his shallow dismissal of money in politics is dismaying. The influence of those with money is a threat to basic fairness. Could we reach point where a wealthy elite dictate choices to the people at large and we just pick from a list of approved candidates? If billionaires can simply buy elections, is it still democracy?
I’d also like to point out that this concern is not new nor is it uncommon. For example, the US Supreme Court stated in the Buckley v. Valeo (1979) decision. which upheld limits on campaign donations:
“[T]he Act’s primary purpose” to limit the actuality and appearance of corruption resulting from large individual financial contribution “[provides] a constitutionally sufficient justification for the $1,000 contribution limitation.”
I love the thought of Professor Mayer yelling “STOP!” at the judges as they delivered their verdict. Good argument professor!
If you’d look where Governor Walker raised money, the majority being from out of state, it’s reasonable to wonder what the people who donated to Governor Walker think they are getting in return?
Regardless of the outcome of this election, I remain alarmed at the influence of money on the political process and the potential to make government inaccessible to many Americans. I felt that way long before Scott Walker was elected as Governor and I expect to feel that way forever.
*If I had to pick other factors I would say at the very least these things factored in (which maybe I’ll try to write about):
- Governor Walker had a clear message that enough people liked.
- The anti-Walker messaging was either confused or not good enough or both.
- There was a persistent population of people who thought that Governor Walker deserved to finish his term, even if these people might have otherwise voted for a Democrat (at least these people showed up in exit polls and other polling).
- The Democratic primary was not a feel good event.
Categories: | Better Government | Media | Wisconsin