Monday, September 22, 2008

Can money buy elections?

One of the most popular canards is that elections, as it is practiced, in most liberal democracies (mostly West and India), is bought with money. We often hear sneers of how money (and by extension the accursed rich) defeats a worthy candidate. Little do we ask for proof. Little do we pause to question the premise. Without delving into too much arcane details of campaign finances I shall put to rest this popular misleading myth.

Bill Clinton in 1992 & 1996 was vastly underfunded compared to the always better funded Republicans, not to mention the skeletons that kept tumbling out of lingerie closets. We know who won.

Hillary Clinton, started out as the favorite to win. She expected a coronation. She raised a war chest of $100 million+ and kept it mostly for general elections. Then came a little known Illinois senator who literally gave her a run for her money. By April when the primaries of Ohio and Texas came, Hillary was deep in the red. Now Obama was outspending her 2-1, sometimes even 3-1, in Pennsylvania for example. Obama lost all 3 big states despite a media saturation coverage by fawning commentators and analysts not to mention record amounts spent in buying ads.

George Bush in 2000 had a similar war chest but he needed to burn through the cash fighting off John McCain. Even with his cash advantage Bush could only squeak past Gore (Yes, he did win Florida, get over it Dems).

Make no mistake, money is important but it does not guarantee.

Take India. In 2004 BJP was far better funded than Congress. Congress romped home while BJP was left in tatters. Go to more local levels. In 1996 Jaya was infinitely better funded than DMK and she suffered the worst political rout. In 2001 people returned the favor to DMK, a supposedly vanquished, demoralised ADMK roared back to life.

Consider 1977 elections when a power drunk Indira was given the boot, again by monetarily impoverished Janata.

If money alone can buy elections we would have as Presidents, Rotschilds, Morgans, Carnegies etc...not a peanut farmer or an Afro-American who decimated America's most famous political clan.

A people gets the government it deserves -- Alexander Pope

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