When consumerism parades as democracy

A $14 billion election spectacle devoid of real solutions

In 1976, former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford spent $35.5 million and $33.4 million respectively on their presidential campaigns, an inflation adjusted 2020 total of $319 million.

In 2020, Open Secrets calculates that total election spending (President, Senate, House) will total a historic high $14 billion, doubling the previous record set in 2016. Small donors account for only 22 percent of contributions in the 2020 cycle. 

This flood of money is a blinking red light reminder that the Democratic and Republican parties of the 21st century are little more than money-laundering operations in which cash investments are converted into political capital for a small donor class consisting of corporations, banks and the wealthy.

In 2020, Democrat spending is nearly double that of Republicans, and Joe Biden has twice the number of $100,000 donors as Trump. Biden has raised over $1 billion with events such as a $500,000 per ticket virtual fundraiser ‘hosted’ by entertainment mogul Haim Saban. Much of Biden’s money is also coming from wealthy Silicon Valley tech donors, and his campaign has made top aides who are probable future cabinet members who will be in charge of regulating tech monopolies available to large donors for Q&A. As the New York Times (which endorsed Biden) explains: “From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Wall Street, Mr. Biden’s campaign has aggressively courted the megadonor class.”

This is no longer a quadrennial exercise. The United States is living in permanent, mind numbing campaign mode. In the 2020 election cycle, 24 Democratic presidential candidates declared their candidacies 80 to 100 weeks before the election, while President Trump filed for re-election January 20, 2017, the day of his inauguration.

Yet today, one day before the election, business media are busy explaining why ‘jittery’ Wall Street banks are 'war gaming' the election with drills, client calls and special pollsters due to electoral uncertainty. Some banks have been “…running drills across major trading hubs in New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong for a variety of scenarios to make sure systems can handle enormous volatility,” even though there is a “…common assumption that Biden is likely to win.”

This is not the kind of country any of us want to live in – a nation in which citizenship has devolved into the act of voting in never ending, vitriolic, psychosis inducing multi-billion dollar consumer election spectacles.

No other nation besides the US turns their elections into this kind of imperial spectacle. The global scale and reach of our election media extravaganza display a level of heedless self-dramatization that would make ancient Romans blush. 

The enormous psychic, social, civic and economic costs of these nearly hallucinogenic electoral spectacles are in inverse proportion to their relationship to something as quaint as citizen-driven democracy.

Only blind partisans can argue that this kind of political consumerism is producing good outcomes, let alone a renaissance of problem solving. While voters are distracted by an all consuming media spectacle, the global financial class under cover of the Covid-19 pandemic is working overtime to advance a radical agenda that would reconfigure all political, social and economic life on earth if left unopposed. Not a word has been said about any of it during this multi-year, $14 billion campaign.

There has been no discussion of the World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset,” which in partnership with the UN, would radically alter daily life for everyone on earth. Although it is packaged as a great humanitarian venture, it is at its core an anti-democratic program to salvage globalized finance capitalism, which was failing dramatically before Covid. (See my Covidnomics series.)

No candidate nor media outlet has done a story about the intense push by global elites and corporations during Covid lockdowns for a transition to ‘natural capital’ that is being spearheaded by the so called Natural Capital Coalition. This corporate greenwash scheme by some of the world’s largest corporations and NGOs to privatize nature and natural resources worldwide has not been mentioned once in this long campaign.

Coupled with a move to crypto-currency, it would eliminate the idea of national currencies, moving monetary policy in a globalized financial system out of the hands of the state, and the citizens to whom the state is theoretically accountable, and into the hands of unaccountable private interests.

Vote however you want, but do not labor under the illusion that the many ominous threats to citizen driven democracy worldwide will abate after this election. With all political protest essentially outlawed under the paternalist authoritarianism of government Covid restrictions backed by the power of the state, these threats are just beginning.