Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 2: High Dollar Campaigns = Government of the Puppet People

There are two ways to campaign for office: hire a consultant or do it yourself.

Consultants cost money; lots of it. They earn this money by raising money. Like lawyers who work on contingency, campaign consultants take home a piece of the money action that the campaign generates. They also run high-dollar, glitzy campaigns that are long on smears, slogans and invective-filled one-liners, all designed to pound home the party line while hiding the actual party agenda.

Candidates who are recruited by political parties get saddled up with a party-approved consultant early on. The candidate signs a contract with the consultant and that ends their contribution to the thinking end of the campaign process. From then on, their job is to meet voters and repeat what they’ve been told to say.

The weird part is that we wonder why they “betray” us once they’re in office. They don’t betray anybody. We just misunderstand. In truth, these party loyalists who ignore the needs of their constituents to line the pockets of the people who paid for their campaigns are keeping their word. This is what they were recruited and created to do.

The other way to campaign, do it yourself, has mostly passed from fashion. A few dinosaurs like me cling to it and manage to get elected, but we’re definitely old school, remnants of an almost forgotten past. Do it yourselfers have to think their way through a campaign. They’ve got to raise their own campaign funds, explain themselves to the voters, design their own media and decide for themselves what they believe.

The best thing about do-it-yourself campaigns is that they are a kind of natural selection process. Genuine idiots can’t get themselves elected in a competitive do-it-yourself campaign. They just don’t have the brains, the tactical sense or the communication skills to become elected officials.

Old-style do-it-yourself campaigns didn’t necessarily produce a bi-annual crop of Washingtons and Lincolns. Those campaigns could be heavy on the schlock and name recognition, light on the issues. Here in Oklahoma, we elected candidates to office named Cowboy Pink Williams and Happy Camp. Will Rogers ran for office decades after the well-known humorist was laid in his grave, and Wilbur Wright managed to get elected to statewide office and then almost impeached, presumably because voters thought he invented the airplane.

None of these colorful candidates would have gotten through in today’s big-money climate. They were elected simply because uninformed voters picked a name on the ballot that sounded familiar. The Cowboy Pinks won when the competition was light.

In a rough and tumble do-it-yourself campaign, and there were lots of them, the best candidate usually won. By best I mean the candidate who could think on his or her feet, learn from mistakes and think tactically under pressure. That doesn’t mean they were the nicest, but in a surprisingly effective way, these races usually elected people who had what it takes to govern.

Money-based consultant-run campaigns, on the other hand, eliminate election based on familiar names by the simple expedient of dumping so much money and advertising on the race that voters become aware that this Wilbur Wright didn’t invent anything. Unfortunately, the money obscures the candidate just as effectively as voter indifference ever could have, and it does it in a far more dangerous way. The old way put a sprinkling of buffoons in office with every passing election. But they weren’t puppets, and they did care about this country. Their damage was limited to their particular office and their personal lack of talent.

Today, instead of a familiar name, we elect a familiar face. The difference is that, while the Cowboy Pinks decided to run and got elected on their own, today’s familiar faces were recruited and are controlled by outside forces. We elect people on the basis of celebrity and how they make us feel in ads that are so dishonest they could never rise to the level of schlock. We don’t know these people. Our votes aren’t any more informed than they were in the days of Cowboy Pink and Happy Camp. They are just more maliciously manipulated.

We are encouraged by advertising to imagine candidates in a certain way that usually has no relation to the people they are. It’s a skillful sort of propaganda that uses advertising that is heavy on long-shots of the candidate walking across the prairie while a lone trumpet plays soulfully and an actor with a resonant voice tells us that the candidate is a series of adjectives that add up to exactly nothing. We come away from these ads, thinking we’ve been told something when in fact all that’s happened is that we’ve been induced into feeling something. We take this feeling and attach it to the candidate. In this way, today’s political advertising induces us to create the candidate in our own minds and then vote for whatever we imagine him or her to be.

These ads, combined with orchestrated internet smears and other propaganda designed to enrage and terrify us to the point that we can’t think, lead us to vote the way the consultant wants. We think we’re voting for a candidate. We’re actually voting for a trumpet solo.

The Cowboy Pinks, Happy Camps and Wilbur Wrights more or less blundered into office, then bumbled around once they got there. There’s nothing blundering or bumbling about the verbal blood baths we call campaigns today. It takes a lot of talent to manipulate the electorate and there’s no lack of it in these consultant-driven races. But this talent is not directed toward representing the people or the good of the country. It’s focused on servicing the needs of the people who paid for the consultants, advertising, polls and think tanks who created this campaign engine in the first place.

Stop and think for a minute. Why should it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to get elected to an Oklahoma House seat that pays $38,400 in salary and represents around 35,000 people? Who would invest that kind of money in something with such a minuscule return?

The answer is that the return is not minuscule; at least not for the money men behind the scenes. They’re not making an investment. They’re certainly not “supporting” a candidate. They’re buying. And what they are buying is control of our government. In exchange for a few hundred thousand dollars they get control of a vote on a budget that runs into the billions; on other votes on bond issues that will put hundreds of millions of dollars through their companies; on tax breaks, government give aways and competitive advantages that, over time, become an endless river of government money.

Why would corporations in Florida and New York, Texas and Mexico care about who represents a single senate or house district in Gotebo Oklahoma? Because money is fluid; it flows from one place to the other. That, and because these legislative seats are the seed corn for bigger crops. They supply the candidates when it’s time to re-load at the national level, where the money goes from huge to unimaginable.

President Obama is an example. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1997,  ran for and was elected to the United States Senate in 2004, and then four years later, to President of the United States. His example is extreme, but it is of a type that is re-played continuously all over the nation. State legislatures are the seedbed of national politics. This process of selecting/grooming/electing candidates who will act as operatives for money interests now and into the future is what the two political parties actually do. It is, as I said in Part 1, about power.

Money spent to gain control of the taxing/regulating/treaty-making/military-sending/contract-giving/appropriating power of government is smart money. It is also destructive, amoral, uncaring money. It harms our country. It endangers our democracy. It threatens our future as a great nation and a free people.

It’s a simple equation:   High Dollar Campaigns = Government of the Puppet People

  • http://jessicahof.wordpress.com JessicaHof

    Government by the bought, on behalf of the buyer in their mutual interests? That’s an oligarchy, isn’t it? It is much the same in the UK. Guys straight from private school into Oxford or Cambridge, then work in a Think Tank, then as special advisers to ministers, then as MPs. A smaller and smaller group of people who know less and less about the lives of those they claim to be representing.
    We need more like you Rebecca.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      It’s sad to hear that this is an international problem, but not a surprise. As usual, your summary of the situation was pithy and clear-cut. Thanks.

      • http://jessicahof.wordpress.com JessicaHof

        We do have some honest politicians. By that I would mean ones who, like you, think for themselves and try to represent their public and their conscience without spinning it all. But how rare – and therefore refreshing, your voice is.

      • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

        Thank you Jessica. Support those honest politicians. They will need it.

  • http:s.com//mcdermottfootcare.wordpress.com McDermott Footcare

    from http://8kidsandabusiness.wordpress.com This is extremely worrisome and applies to Canadian politics as well. The LIberal Party of Canada is choosing a new Party leader. The front runner is an new-to-politics, unproven, inexperienced, ultra-liberal young man whose father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, lead the Liberal Party for over 20 years and was voted Prime Minister of Canada 2 times. All he has going for him is his dad’s name and a few gimmicky publicity stunts designed to further his name, but polls indicate he would win not just the leadership of the Party but the leadership of the country. Scary thought. His dad brought in the disaster of multiculturalism and abolished abortion laws. The younger Trudeau is even more liberal than his father. His propaganda people, just like the ones in the U.S., are working overtime.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      It IS worrisome, even more so because it appears to afflict at least several of our great Democracies.

    • Richard Bell

      This analysis is not quite accurate. Justin Trudeau would win the liberal leadership just by running, but there is only a small chance that win the following election, without drastically shifting the party positions to be more in line with how the country feels. Harper did not by some fluke, but because enough canadians agreed with him. If Justin lost his first election, he would run the risk of being tossed out. If Justin had the acumen of his father, he will not campaign for the leadership of the liberals, until the liberals are again poised to be the governing party.

  • http://ackans.wordpress.com Mr. V.

    One option I think is worth exploring is if enough states get together to call a new Constitutional Convention. I think the federal government has gotten too large and out of control, and there’s really no fixing it from within. It’s time to call a new convention and redo the federal. I wouldn’t want to see the Constitution itself changed or replaced, necessarily, but the federal does need to be retooled. Trim it down, get rid of the waste, get rid of all the frivolous perks enjoyed by our public servants, get rid of all current politicians at the federal level, and start it fresh.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      I fear a Constitutional Convention. I think it would end up being controlled by the same people who are rotting our government now. Besides, I don’t think the Constitution is the problem.

      There ARE things we can do. I’m getting to them. I just have to explain the situation before I can talk about them. Hang in there with me.

      • http://ackans.wordpress.com Mr. V.

        I agree, the Constitution is not the problem. And I do share the fears you have about such a convention being used the wrong way and ending up making things worse. I just think the federal government has been lengthening and loosening its leash, and it’s time to shorten it back down and tighten it back up, forgive the cliches.

        In the long term, I think the way to go is to start small, i.e., affect real change in our local and state governments, and then have that carry on up to the federal. That is, however, a lengthy process, and I fear of the damage that will be done before a stop can be put to the excesses and abuses of our national administration.

        • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

          I understand. Completely.

      • http://ackans.wordpress.com Mr. V.

        And yes, I’m hanging in there with you. :D I’m glad I found your blog a few weeks back, and have greatly enjoyed reading your posts. You’ve given me much to think about and do, and I’m looking forward to reading the next installment of this series.

        Thanks for all your posts!

        • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

          :-)

  • http://servusfidelis.wordpress.com servusfidelis

    I always remember my grandfather (a state representative from KY) explaining why the candidates for sheriff fought so hard for a job that paid next to nothing. He explained that through their power and corruption, they all ended up rich and had no financial needs for the rest of their lives. The other story he related to me was about a governor that was elected to the state many years ago that was elected largely due to his campaigning among uneducated Baptists living in the hills of the coal districts of eastern KY. They were told that if they elected his opponent, a Catholic, that he would take away their Bibles and make them read the Catholic Bible. Pretty unscrupulous but he was elected anyway but ended up being impeached for a variety of offenses. He went down in history by the name of “Flim Flam Sampson”. So I guess the corruption and lies have been in our politics for years and seem to be a way of political life in this country. Thank God a few like yourself have the integrity to run as politicians were meant to run: on the issues and in response to answering to the concerns of their voters.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Great stories! Maybe you should write a book. :-)

      • http://servusfidelis.wordpress.com servusfidelis

        You want to help me?

        • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

          I think I may already be doing that! :-)

    • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

      Along the line of that Sheriff, I not that d’Tocqueville said that the corruption of a local official wasn’t important because elections were frequent so he could be removed befor the damage was too great. Well, along that line, anyway, working from memory.

      • http://servusfidelis.wordpress.com servusfidelis

        That should have been the case. But during the time of my grandfather or perhaps the corruptness of the area itself (remember this is the area of the Hatfield’s and McCoys) votes were co-opted by fear. If you went against the sheriff you might just be found out in the woods, an apparent victim of a hunting accident. The sheriffs were very powerful and they had the law in their pocket.

        • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

          That’s true, and not uncommon. d’Tocqueville tends to draw generalizations from the specific as we all do, they don’t always hold in specific cases but, are a guide. I know a little of the area but, not enough to sound even halfway intelligent about it.

          • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

            One thing you never have to worry about is sounding intelligent!

        • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

          If I remember correctly, we instituted the secret ballot because of pressure on votes in senatorial elections. There are still parts of Oklahoma that have the ethos you describe. My family goes way back, too. Lots of interesting stories. Thanks for this fascinating comment.

          • http://servusfidelis.wordpress.com servusfidelis

            Today it seems that they use more “civil” coercion: law suits, taxes, fines for dissuading disobedient voters. On he bribe side, it used to be precinct captains that had a lot of “walking around money” and tried to buy votes. I’m sure that still goes on to some extent but now they use taxpayers money to offer goods, services, entitlements at exorbitant expense to the taxpayers to buy their votes and seal their constituencies. I’m sure some of that went on in past politics as well but I’ve never seen the likes or scale of what we see today.

            • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

              All true.

      • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

        Well, maybe, thanks, Rebecca. :) But there are few things less intelligent than talking about things you don’t without stating that you don’t.

  • http://kathieevenhouse.wordpress.com kathieevenhouse

    Too many of us–myself included–have gotten so disgusted with the process that we throw up our hands in disgust. Then we ignore anything political or don’t enter into the polls, the voting, the discussions. I can see that I have given up on effecting any change. Thank you for re-engaging my mind, my focus, and my hope that we can make our voices heard and challenge the status quo.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      That is exactly what I was hoping to do!! You’ve made my day. Thank you!

  • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

    Yup, the kindest term for it is oligarchy. It’s very destructive of a free country. It does strike me that the internet may be a two edged sword here though, it can lower, maybe, the cost of production and campaigning, assuming that one can get their name known, enough to bring back more of the homegrown, homemade campaigns, which were the hallmark of an earlier America.

    Superb series, Rebecca. I also note that the NEGOP has hired security (according to the NOLA Times-Picayune) for the convention this weekend. They SAY they are expecting trouble from out of state Paulians. The Liberty Caucus is asking if they plan on following the rules.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      I think you’re right about the internet. It represents a huge opportunity as well as a challenge. Keep us posted about what’s happening.

  • http://jamesbrownlord.wordpress.com J.G.Brown

    Very insightful and on target, money begets money;so once power is held that power corrupts and the more power and wealth one has the more one desires to get(now evil head of greed comes into play ). the old adage is power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. well in the house and in the senate on the federal state and local level. there is no tone who truly now does seek after God nor do they call on his wisdom. perferring their corrupt way.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Thanks J. G.

  • http://iftodaywehear.wordpress.com Debbie

    Thank you, Rebecca, for giving us a look at what goes on. :) God bless you!

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Debbie!

  • http://neoprimitive.wordpress.com jmar198013

    “[T]oday’s familiar faces were recruited and are controlled by outside forces.” Many citizens seem to have an understanding that this is what is going on, but they don’t seem to be able to adequately parse out precisely WHAT outside forces are doing it and which strings they are pulling. I think the U.S.’s widespread, ill-defined but definitely-embodied mistrust in our institutions illustrates this.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      True.

  • http://faithfulnibbles.wordpress.com faithfulnibbles

    Reblogged this on faithfulnibbles.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you for the re-blog!

  • http://scpeanutgallery.com abcinsc

    Hi Rebecca – I’ve re-posted your blog with my comments under the title – Public Catholic Comment: “Stop Slogan-Voting Part 2 – “Who’s your Momma?” Here’s a link – http://scpeanutgallery.com/2012/07/12/public-catholic-comment-stop-slogan-voting-pt-2-whos-your-momma/ – it’s too long to add in here as a reply.

    My purpose in this re-post was to apply what I’m learning from you to our local experience. I hope others will do the same.

    When I think about it, much of this should have been obvious. But it wasn’t – especially to me as a newcomer to public politics. What was obvious to me was that most grassroots people I know, who were activated by the election of our current President, were very naive and lacked the skills and savvy required to prevail over the long haul. But we’re all getting smarter and wiser… and I don’t think we’ll be going away any time soon.

    I have a few more things to say about “puppet-masters” – I think of them as the hand inside the sock-puppet – but I’ll do that another time.

    Thank you again for your honesty and insights. God bless.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Art. I am doing this to encourage other Christians to start standing up and to do it effectively. I have to say it one more time: Thank you again, for what you are doing.

  • http://scpeanutgallery.com abcinsc

    I just blogged a follow up comment to this post that I titled – “Put me in coach.” Here’s the link – http://scpeanutgallery.com/2012/07/17/put-me-in-coach-follow-up-public-catholic-stop-slogan-voting-pt-2-high-dollar-campaigns/ .

    I do have a question though. I see that you are term limited in 2014. Who will carry the torch then.

    Thanks again for the award.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      I just saw this. The answer is simple. I am not irreplaceable. We need to build up lots of Christian people who will stand up for Jesus in whatever walk they walk. Some of them will run for office.

      That’s why I’m doing this blog, to do my part to help raise them up.

      • http://scpeanutgallery.com abcinsc

        And so you are. Thank you.

      • http://scpeanutgallery.com abcinsc

        And so you are. Thank you.
        One other thought: You may not be irreplaceable, but you are one-of-a-kind. And that’s just fine.

        • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

          As are you, Pastor Art!

  • http://rjdawson.com RJ Dawson

    Hi Rebecca,
    First of all I appreciate your integrity and honesty. Our so-called political process is quickly reaching the “corrupts absolutely” stage. God designed things in such a way that evil will indeed have its day. But then it will come crashing down in destruction.
    But the insane, money-grubbing idiots do not represent America. The problem, as you stated so many times and so eloquently, is that the American voter keeps buying in to a corrupt system. As I read this article and pretty much the entire comment thread, the thought came to me that of those who vote, the vast majority have been deceived and manipulated. Sad but true.
    Yet, what we must never do is give in to pessimism. Though it often looks like all is lost, this is not the case. In fact, I am very optimistic about the future of this country. Why? Because of people like you. Because of millions of Americans who are fighting back and will continue.
    We know from the perfect example of our Lord that honesty and goodness eventually wins. ALWAYS. We just have to keep believing and putting forth effort and fighting for our country.
    Instead of allowing the evil to wear out the good, we must press on to wear out evil.
    Keep up the great work. You and so many others are having a huge impact.

  • Bill S

    “God designed things in such a way that evil will indeed have its day. But then it will come crashing down in destruction.”

    It is sad to say that there are many politicians and even more people who support them that walk around talking like this. Would you like to see your government reduce its debt, get the economy on track, protect national security, get a handle on the cost of health care, overcome terrorism, etc. or would you prefer that it “come crashing down in destruction”? Or is that just a metaphor?

    It’s really hard to work with the religious right. Everything is Good v. Evil. It can’t just be that we are all just trying to get through life together and we have varying ideas on how to do that. I wish people would finally stop looking at it as we are bad and are facing a day of reckoning. We are doing the best we can under the circumstances. We’re even trying to help the 48%.


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