I've Got 14 Billion Problems with Politics

...and This Ain't One

$14 billion.

That’s how much money was spent across federal and congressional races in 2020 and that’s not even counting local elections.

Is it any wonder people are saying they’re tired of politics?

Just today, I turned on the radio in the car and heard an add bashing a local politician that I know well. It was full of gloom and doom about New York City—a vision of crime and despair that just doesn’t reflect what’s actually happening here on the ground. It was paid for by “Safe Together NY, Inc.”

I was curious who Safe Together actually was, and couldn’t find the names of the people involved very easily. All I found was a Treasurer, Cabell Hobbs, who seems to be putting up a lot of these shadowy groups all around the country, and a mention that a billionaire donor made a $1.7mm donation in order to flip the state senate in a way that doesn’t actually reflect the population base of the state.

I don’t care which side of the aisle you’re on—it’s tough to be for blind pools of money buying up radio ads against local candidates without someone’s name attached to them.

You’ve got a problem with politics? Think all candidates are corrupt?

It’s the money, not the politics.

And it’s not just the ad buys.

It’s the business of political news as well. Whether it’s Facebook or Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, YouTube, Twitter or Spotify—there’s a lot of money out there being made keeping us tuned in, no better informed, and often stressed out.

Angry clicks, doom scrolling, and endless hours of streaming video drive billions of dollars for some very large companies that don’t particularly care much whether you’re engaged in the political process itself. They care that you’re engaged in the coverage of politics—and they’d rather you be deeply emotionally invested, regardless of what those emotions are.

And that’s where I’d ask you to focus on the difference between that and actual political engagement. Earlier this year, I had a discussion with a retired school teacher while I was phone banking for a local candidate. We talked about what issues were important to him and various strategies for making sure one particular candidate that neither of us liked snuck through the primary. It was a respectful and inspiring conversation.

That’s the kind of politics everyone should be able to get behind—just one person, listening to another, and talking about their shared interests and visions for the country.

We can argue some other time about all the hot button issues. We can argue about our current President some other time.

Today, if you haven’t voted yet, I would ask you to be a one-issue voter.

You should vote to get rid of the money in politics.

Joe Biden wants not only to repeal the Citizens United decision that allowed anonymous, dark pools of money to pollute our elections but to end all private money in our federal elections. That’s the money “not paid for by anyone in particular” behind much of the flood of ads you can’t escape from.

If you want to say something political to someone in an effort to try and convince them of something, fine—but not only should you have to put your name next to it, but just because you’re rich doesn’t mean we should be forced to hear your opinion more often than someone else’s. Rich people aren’t the majority in this country—so they shouldn’t make up a majority of the opinions we have to consume during an election.

I’m thrilled at the number of people I know engaged in phone banking, text campaigns, letter writing, etc. for causes and candidates they care about. That’s the kind of street-level politics that I’m psyched about. I love a good one on one debate, live and in person, with faces to match.

More of that politics, please!

The more working-class people care about what goes on in their schools and in their neighborhoods and in the country at large, the better.

There’s no such thing as too much of that politics.

But dark money attack ads? Elections where the only candidates we’re left with are the ones that can raise billions of dollars?

I am completely over it and cannot wait until it ends.

If you’re tired of this kind of politics, vote for the candidate that wants to take the billions out of the election. Let’s refocus on street corner debates, town halls, and barbershop discourse, and away from the bombardment of big media ad buys from spooky sources.

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