Summary - The Role of Money in Elections, 2016 in Particular

    When people talk about money in politics, they are usually referring to money expended on elections, but you [Peracles] show that that's just the tip of an iceberg of communications infrastructure the goes much deeper and wider below the surface. It's this infrastructure that creates the, how to put it? the group state of mind that drives many elections. Focusing on elections is focusing too late. By the time the election comes along, the battle is half over because the mental ground has long ago been prepared.

    Take Hillary. By the time she gets to 2008 and certainly by 2016 she is walking around like Pig Pen with a 35-year-old stink of corruption that was well documented in The Hunting of the President. And this is an odor that reaches liberals and progressives as well as independents. So anything new that gets added to this mix finds fertile ground. IOW, there is a presumption of guilt about her that new events simply confirm. Emails harken back to lost billing records. The Clinton Foundation harkens back to the ill-gotten $100,000 she made on commodities in Arkansas or the sweetheart deal the Clintons got from the McDougals. And much, much else.

    She gets no benefit of the doubt because, in people's minds, she's already gotten away with murder (literally) over the past 35 years, and anything new, like the emails, is simply fit into this narrative.

    Last year, or the year before, I realized I might have to vote for Hillary. I say "have to" because I knew that, rightly or wrongly, her running would bring on a huge shit show I didn't want to go through. So, in preparation, I did a lot of reading about all the Clinton scandals, which I never really understood at the time they were happening. Whitewater, in particular, was opaque. The Hunting of the President was the best book by far. Even though WW turns out to be fairly simple in essence--a losing land deal--there is a cast of characters worthy of any Russian novel. The book is a masterful piece of reporting. As PP notes, there really was a "vast right-wing conspiracy" arrayed against Bill and by extension against Hillary.

    Bottom line, there was no there there with the scandals of the 1990s,** but it took a huge amount of money to create this "negative brand" and pin it on the Clintons over the past 35 years or so.

    This is what the Republicans do so well and Democrats at least seem to do poorly. They till the soil. They add fertilizer. They plant complementary crops together. They don't just stick some gorgeous plants into the ground, water them, and hope for the best. After the loss, I stepped back to think about it, and the most amazing thing to me was how much we Democrats focused on the presidential if nothing else mattered. But when you look at Congress and then the states, it's clear that the Republicans essentially "own" this country politically.

    And this would still have been true, largely, even if Hillary had won. Losing the presidency threw into stark relief that the Democrats had nothing else. It was as if we'd gone to the roulette table and put all of our money on R11. And when we lost, we had nothing left. Even worse, we had no one in the pipeline. No up and comers to grab the fallen flag and continue to charge. Had Hillary won, we'd have been so happy or relieved, but we'd still only have gained a small, albeit important, beach head in a much bigger battle that we've been losing for a while now. All of which takes a lot of money to wage. And not just money, but persistence over many years. But it was almost as if we were so focused on this one battle, we didn't recognize that we had lost almost everywhere else.

    Here's something I heard that I haven't verified. At this point, the GOP is only one state away from being able to pass an amendment to the Constitution, basically on their own (assuming they could all agree). That's shocking.

    So yes, spending lots of money on any given race is essential. Essential and necessary, but not always sufficient to win. Sometimes, the low spender wins on any given Sunday. Ironically, spending money on specific elections probably plays a more decisive role at the state level (including Senate and House races) than at the national level, even though you need many shekels to succeed at the national level. But the real spending goes into softening up public opinion, not on the race per se. If people think that global warming is a hoax, this position in the minds of millions of people, this negative brand, if you will, becomes a broad sword that's powerful in a LOT of races, not just the one one candidate may be running.

    If you tallied up all the "free advertising" Trump got from a supine and witless press, it might reach the billion-dollar mark. And all of that air time was much more effective at changing people's minds than an equivalent amount of time spent on spots would've been. People tune out spots because they know they're advertising and thus slanted. They pay a lot more attention to the candidate standing there "naked" in front of the cameras and blabbing off the cuff. It's reality T.V. They're watching the actual guy say what he thinks at that moment. So Trump got a helluva lot more air time and more effective air time, IMO, than Hillary with all her advertising spend. My 2¢.

    And this doesn't count the many millions of dollars that had already been spent against the Clintons during the preceding 35 years. I'd call all of this spending tilling the ground, keeping it fertile, never letting it go to seed.

    ** The only caveat I'd add is that the Clintons do have a talent for drawing enemies and for getting themselves tangled up in these non-scandal scandals. That's curious, because no one else seems to have this much talent for creating controversy and not being able to kill off the attacks. They survive, but the smell lingers and lingers.

    I don't know what this talent is. Some people say, the Clintons are so convinced they are doing good, they don't bother to cross all the tees. Politics is so thoroughly their life and "business," the two get entwined, as seems to have happened with the Foundation (maybe). In reading The Hunting, my theory was that they do X. X looks bad, or someone says that X looks bad and bears investigating. Instead of just saying this is what happened, they try to keep up appearances with various cover stories to smooth it over. When the stories don't pan out, it then looks like they are trying to cover up a crime. This, then, encourages further investigations, lots of news, etc.

    So with WW, the McDougals were hiding how much money the project was losing from the Clintons and feeding money into the maw of this failing project to try to save it. When it came out that the McDougals were putting in far more money than the Clintons even though they were equal partners (I believe, though it was a corporation, not a partnership), the suspicion arose that this money was pay back for favors granted the McDougals by the state government. In this case, one of the "favors" was supposedly granting McDougal's failing S&L the right to raise money by issuing and selling shares.

    So when it came out--and the Clintons learned for the first time--that the Ms were putting in tons of dough, it didn't "look good." It looked like there had been pay for play. So the Clintons lied about how much money they had in fact put in just for appearances' sake. (I think I have this right.) They had done nothing wrong. They hadn't known that WW was failing because they were, in essence, silent partners. They hadn't known that the Ms were throwing lots of money at the project. But once this all came out, it LOOKED like Clinton might have taken a bribe in exchange for getting the government to do the Ms various favors.

    Same thing with Travelgate. They had the right to replace the travel office staff and put in their own people. Especially if they believed, as they did (wrongly, as it turned out) there was corruption in the office. Hillary WAS involved in this decision, but the press made it seem as if there were something wrong with her being involved. (She wasn't the person the people had elected, after all.) So they lied and said she'd had nothing to do with it, again to keep up appearances. Of course, they handled the firing and re-instating of the staff very badly in lots of other ways, but there was nothing illegal or even unethical with what they did, as I recall. It didn't rise to the level of scandal, but it was turned into a scandal.


    This post was in response to Peracles's Money In Politics essay.

    I fundamentally disagree.

    As everyone else in capitalist countries  we are the beneficiaries of a system of  pervasive misconduct.

    Beneficiaries ? In any time up to Jan 1 1990 you could just take a two hour train ride from Vienna to Prague and see the consequences of a non  capitalistic society. We benefited by just not living there.

    Pervasive misconduct. Gotta go so let me just state Goldman Sachs , for example, was no more unethical than any other  capitalist organization. The incentives:rewards or punishments for success are so powerful that it is romantic to believe in the honesty of any corporation.

    Much the same is true of politics. "Political dishonesty" is tautological.

    What was unique about Hillary was that she also did good.Her 40 year connection with the Children's Defense Fund was not matched by any other politician. Although  often disputed here during 2016 by the

    claim that Marian Wright Edelman had broken with her. To acknowledge her life time of doing good would

    have been  to fly in the face of the "rich bitch" assessment  that was in vogue.

    See ya.



    To your point about the Children's Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman introduced Hillary at the first speech after losing the election.

    Yah, Michelle Obama hated her, Edelman had broken with her, she felt challenged by Elizabeth Warren... all this People Magazine/National Enquirer manufactured scandal, like keeping up with Taylor Swift v Kim Kardashian.

    2 hours? surprise

    I don't know what you're disagreeing with here, Flavius.

    I don't agree that any of  the "Clinton scandals" were worth discussion

    We weren't selecting a candidate for sainthood ;we were trying to increase the odds on Obamacare  being  preserved.




    I don't think they were worth discussing, either.

    My assertion is they had an impact on the election.

    It fed into the claim that she "lied" and was "untrustworthy."

    Rather, those scandals formed the foundation of these charges and the newer ones simply fit into a long-running narrative that always came out whenever she ran.


    It's always time for a little Auden


    Evil is unspectacular and always human,

    And shares our bed and eats at our own table

    And we are introduced to Goodness every day,

    Even in drawing- rooms among a crowd of faults;

    He has a name like Billy and is almost perfect

    But wears a stammer like a  decoration:

    And every time they meet the same thing has to happen;

    It is Evil that is helpless like a lover

    And has to pick a quarrel and succeeds,

    And both are openly destroyed before our eyes.


    from Herman Melville



    We'll see.

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