Party funding and the quality of discourse

On this day 10/10/10, with the midterms only a few weeks away it seems increasingly likely, barring any dramatic upsets that the Dems will lose the House next month. 

However, Andrew Sullivan, ever fawning on President Obama, does interestingly makes the point that Obama’s poll numbers are “pretty stable” and indeed slightly better than President Reagan’s were before the 1982 midterms where the GOP lost twenty eight seats in the House.   

In related developments it was well reported that the elections of this year are breaking all spending records. It would appear that the “amount spent on midterm campaigns will by one estimate surpass $4 billion, easily passing the previous record of $3 billion in 2006. The increase has been caused by a January ruling from the country’s highest court that decreed that corporations and associations could donate money directly to political campaigns”. The case was mentioned during President Obama’s State of Union in late January amid much controversy.

This raises broader questions over the funding of political parties. There are of course dangers which ever position is being taken. Those that favour funding of parties being both unlimited by size or source run into problems. As political parties are esentially run for the purposes of a small number of wealthy businesses or individuals. This leads to the common good being negated when these parties go from representing a firm political ideology with its adherants to becoming the political wing of a narrow section of interests. Not only that, those with the most money control most of the political discourse. For example, a media tycoon who owns much of a country’s media gives large amounts of money to a certain political party, which is then all but obliged to say whatever is in this businessman’s interests, irrespective of what it does to society as a whole.

The other option is barring all business donations and only allowing small donations from private citizens. It seems best for the rest of the money to come from the State, based on a calculation on how successful each party was at the last election. This would mean that parties would not be controlled from below by having to rely on donations, and equally not having to depend on a few wealthy donors, which would almost certainly threaten the common good. It fundamentally depends on the arguments/ideology that the voters are most persuaded by during elections.  

However, for the above to be fair and work properly it would ideally mean having some kind of proportional representation, as has been advocated here before in June, a party list system is best rather than first past the post.

As long as large business and wealthy individuals are able to give almost unchecked sums of money then the discourse will be skewed towards their interests and it will not serve its main purpose of being open and honest. Some are saying it could threaten the future of whole countries.


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3 Responses to “Party funding and the quality of discourse”

  1. Ignoring the solution « Order and Tradition Says:

    […] argues that “What’s not so clear is that Citizens United is the culprit”. The solution is clear. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  2. “Battle of the billionaires” | Order and Tradition Says:

    […] is being corroded on the left and the right. The faster Citizens United is overturned and the state funds political parties, the […]

  3. Order and Tradition Says:

    […] As neat as the criticism is the problem is that these people who support Trump have been “happy” to vote for the GOP up until now and thus have not been as visible as the writer seems to think. He is correct to note the centrality of money, a problem of funding that has been addressed here before. […]

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