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Capitalism, Society, and Politics; How Politics Gets In The Way of Politics

Updated on November 17, 2016

The Position

ABSTRACT

This paper elaborates on the results of seven independent studies and

one study conducted by the researcher himself. The results from these

studies expose a dangerous threat to American politics. The Journal of

Politics found that the two reasons for such low rates of successful

House challengers were the increasing cost of elections and the

decreasing ability for challengers to produce that money. Furthermore,

Legislative Studies Quarterly determined that in 6 out of the 7 states

analyzed a person can directly influence their share of the votes by

increasing campaign expenditures. The Citizens United Supreme Court

case allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums of money in favor of

political candidates. All of these things threaten the fairness of our

electoral process and without a working campaign program we will be

without a working government.


CAPITALISM, SOCIETY, AND POLITICS: HOW POLITICS GETS IN THE WAY OF POLITICS

Oliver Hanfmann

INTRODUCTION

Clear Statement of the Problem: The way our political system works is

inherently flawed and these flaws create an ineffective government.

These flaws are important because the only thing that prevents a

government from acting effectively is what stops it from acting

effectively. Over time these flaws have manifested in different forms

and I seek to expose all of them.

Purpose of the Study: With this study I hope to expose some of the

inherent flaws of our government and politics itself. I wish to raise

general awareness of this issue because the government through

legislation directly affects each one of our lives so it’s in all of our best

interests to create the best government we can. I also hope to gain a

more intimate knowledge of the topic myself.

Definitions:

Political Action Committee (PAC) – A committee in which unlimited

anonymous donations can be made to candidates in an election

Significance of the Investigation: The importance of this investigation

cannot be stressed enough. The government directly affects each one

of us, through our intervention the government can be bettered, thus

bettering the quality of each of our lives and creating a healthier

society.

Literature Review:

LITERATURE REVIEW

  1. Abramowitz, A. I. (1991). Incumbency, campaign spending, and the decline of competition in US House elections. The Journal of Politics, 53(01), 34-56.

The article tells us that incumbent reelection is at all all-time high as two dangerous trends are on the rise. Both the level of money needed to adequately campaign and the ability to collect these funds is much harder for any House challenger to acquire than an incumbent. This is important because if those who have the most money win, then our government officials represent the candidate with more money instead of the candidate with better values.

  1. Austen-Smith, D. (1987). Interest groups, campaign contributions, and probabilistic voting. Public choice, 54(2), 123-139.

This article goes in depth about the issue of campaign contributions affecting election results and influence in policies made after the fact by that politician. It goes into how interest groups and corporations have inherent incentives to try and push forward their own policy agenda to promote their own interests. It then talks about the trade-off between a policy position for money and a policy position for votes, and how a policy position for money can still retain votes based on how that money is used to shape public perception.

  1. Breaux, D. A., & Gierzynski, A. (1991). " It's Money That Matters": Campaign Expenditures and State Legislative Primaries. Legislative Studies Quarterly, 429-443.

This article attempts to show to what extent increased campaign expenditures can affect voter outcome. It finds that in 6 out of 7 studied states, candidates can increase their share of votes by increasing campaign funding. They are also able to negatively affect the share of their opponent’s votes. This is very problematic because it shows a direct correlation between amount of funding and outcome of the election, if elections can be bought our government can be bought and policies can be bought as well. The rich rule.

  1. Gerber, A. (1998). Estimating the effect of campaign spending on senate election outcomes using instrumental variables. American Political Science Review, 401-411.

This article attempts to quantify the advantage the incumbent gains with his advantage of increased spending capabilities. His findings imply that incumbent spending has a direct correlation with incumbent reelection. This is problematic because it is not just that campaign funds have the ability to influence elections, campaign funds DO and HAVE ALREADY influenced election results.

  1. Hasen, R. L. (2010). Citizens United and the illusion of coherence. Mich. L. Rev., 109, 581.

The Citizens United supreme court case allowed corporations to donate unlimited funds to oppose or support any political candidate. The decision was based on upholding the first amendment right of these organizations to voice their opinion. The significance of this decision was that it allowed for discrete, unlimited sums of money to be given to any political candidate, essentially legalized bribery. It turns our political candidates into products that can be bought.

  1. Hanfmann, Oliver (2014). Independent American Citizen survey
  2. Kang, M. S. (2010). After Citizens United. Ind. L. Rev., 44, 243.

The Citizens United case struck down previous federal and state laws that made restrictions on the amount of money corporations could donate. All of these policies that restricted corporate expenditure were now nullified. This article focuses on the trend of government as previously these restrictions were upheld but an emerging trend of decreasing government campaign regulation is now dominating the Court. This leads one to wonder WHY is this trend emerging?

  1. Overton, S. (2004). The donor class: campaign finance, democracy, and participation. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 73-118.

This articles refers to the extremely wealthy individuals who fund the bulk of political campaigns as the ‘donor class.’ The donor class determines which individuals will have enough money to run viable elections and undermines the value of mass political participation. It states that campaign reform should not be focused on eliminating wealth disparities between candidates, but by negating the advantage that that wealth disparity provides to the wealthier candidate.

Questions:

  1. In what ways does our political system work against itself or against the common good of the people?
  2. In what areas are these different flaws similar?
  3. How do these flaws come about?
  4. If the result of a person or distinguishable group of people, who?
  5. If the result of a person or distinguishable group of people, why? What possible motives could there be?
  6. How can we go about to fix these flaws?


METHODOLOGY

(sorry if this isn’t right I didn’t really know what to do and didn’t see the methodology section in the EDU notes so I googled what to do for this)


Research Paradigm: I am mainly going to use a qualitative approach, identifying and explaining relationships and individual significance of political phenomena. I will also use quantitative statistics to prove some points but by far I will be qualitatively assessing this situation.


Data Collection Procedure: I went on google scholar and searched for articles relevant to the topic. I then interviewed various American citizens to get an idea of how they feel about the campaign process. I sorted through the articles and grouped ones that were the suggesting the same conclusion or had a similar basis. Finally, I decided which statistics I would be leading with and which would serve as supporting ones.


Discuss Data Analysis and Potential Limitations: I alone will be interpreting the meaning of the gathered data. I must try to remain objective at all times, although I must acknowledge the inherent flaws of my own procedure. My perception is prone to error because I am human and not a professional on this topic so I may not be 100% right. Furthermore, there are studies that support my stance and probably studies that attack my stance on this issue, so the fact that I can support my arguments with scholarly studies doesn’t conclusively *prove* anything nor does it suggest the entire scholarly community is on my side. Lastly, I, the author, am prone to selection and preference bias, omitting and emphasizing information to make my argument appear as strong as it can be, possibly stronger than it objectively is.



Discussion:

What is it exactly that shapes a nation? What shapes a nation


are the policies that define the nation, and the politicians who


define the policies that will continue to define that nation. So it is


every citizen of a nation’s duty to be aware of the shady facets of


politics in that nation. In my dissertation, I attempt to raise


awareness of some of the unfavorable aspects of politics. I believe


that the current way we conduct campaigns is counterintuitive to


the aims of politics because elections require immensely large


sums of money, money has too much influence over the election

results and public opinion, and the only way candidates can raise enough

money to adequately run is to be bought out by private interest groups.

The current campaigning process lends the wealthier candidate an

unfair advantage over their competition. The Journal of Politics had this

to say, “the extraordinarily low level of competition in recent House

elections is directly attributable to two trends which affected these

elections during the 1980s: the increasing cost of House campaigns and

the declining ability of House challengers to raise campaign funds

(Abramowitz, 1991). This essentially means that those in power stay in

power. The campaign’s purpose is to give the public more access to the

various candidates so that they have a better idea of their options when it

comes time to go to the voting booth but it seems that candidates with

enough money can shape the public’s view of themselves and of their

competition. A study conducted by Legislative Studies Quarterly states

that “their analysis of primary elections indicates that candidates in six

of the seven states analyzed are able to increase their share of the

primary vote by increasing their level of campaign spending. By

increasing their own level of campaign spending they were also enabled

to directly negatively affect the share of votes that their competition

received (Breaux, 1991). This conclusion is supported by the American

Political Science Review, which found that an incumbent’s spending

advantage in the average Senate election lends him on average a 6%

increase in the incumbent’s vote share (Gerber 1998). This difference is

important because his findings imply that incumbent spending has a

direct correlation with incumbent reelection. This is problematic because

it is not just that campaign funds have the ability to influence elections,

campaign funds DO and HAVE ALREADY influenced election results.

The need for immensely large fortunes to adequately run for an


election turns politicians into products that can (and frankly have


to be in order to compete) be bought. While it is self-explanatory


while this is a bad thing, not only does it mean that politicians


themselves can be bought. It means that policies can be bought. It


means that portions of the government and the government itself


can be bought. It means that the future of a nation can be bought.


And those with the money are happy to do so. Public Choice goes


in depth on this topic.


“In Democracies, such groups (interest groups) cannot legally


buy policies. But they might nevertheless be able to influence


policy through campaign contributions. Contributions may either

be made to affect the election outcome or to obtain influence over


legislative decision-making by the successful candidate (or both).


In the first case, interest groups seek simply to promote the


electoral chances of their favored candidate, taking that candidate’s


policy position as fixed. In the second case, the groups may not


have a preference but wish to ‘buy’ access to the successful


candidate.” (Austen-Smith 1987) And this trend is only


exacerbated by current policies.

The controversial Citizens United supreme court allowed “an absolutist

vision of the First Amendment that allows corporations to spend

unlimited sums of money independently to support or oppose candidates

running for office” (Hasen 2010). “The decision explicity overruled

longstanding Court precedents and struck down as unconstitutional

federal prohibitions on the use of corporate treasury funds for campaign

expenditures in connection with federal elections. In short, federal law

that blocked corporations from spending treasury funds on federal

campaign speech was struck down, and by extension, similar state laws

were struck down as they applied to state and local elections (Kang

2010). It’s so obvious that allowing corporations to spend unlimited

sums of money to influence elections is a bad thing, it makes you

wonder why they passed it. But this special ‘elite’ access to politics

skews the intent of politics to give us the best or most representative

candidate. According to a study conducted by the University of

Pennsylvania Law Review, “ Less than one percent of the U.S.

population makes financial contributions over $200 to federal

candidates, and these contributions represent the vast majority of funds

that candidates receive from individuals. Of those who contribute over

$200, approximately 85 percent have household incomes of $100,000 or

more, 70 percent are male, and 96 percent are white. This donor class

effectively determines which candidates possess the resources to run

viable campaigns” (Overton 2004). Allowing 1% of the nation to shape

elections, election results, and candidate’s policy platforms shapes the

future of the nation, and we cannot allow such a non-representative,

miniscule minority to shape the future for all of us. And we know this,

fourteen out of fifteen American citizens feel the current campaign

process the ridiculously high cost of campaigning makes it so only the

ultra-rich can campaign (Hanfmann, 2014). Out of those 14, 10 agreed

that a government full of the ultra-rich will yield a government that

serves the ultra-rich. My conclusion is that we must reform the

campaign process and legislature relative to the campaign process, and

once that is done, better candidates will be enabled to run, and we will

finally have real options for who we want to lead the nation rather than

which terrible candidate is the least terrible.



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