The SuperPAC President
In The Dictator’s Handbook, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith advocate a new framework for evaluating political behavior – The Selectorate Theory. The conclusion sounds overly simple: leaders will do whatever it takes to say in power. They present overwhelming evidence that politics, the business of accumulating and using power, rewards bad behavior. This simple truth was on display last week as President Obama reversed his stance on the evils of SuperPACs, the new weapon of mass destruction in political fundraising and electioneering. Once the bane of open and fair elections, whatever those are, SuperPACs are now just the reality of getting elected. And if we have to sacrifice a few morals and our ethics along the way…well, power at any cost.
In 2010, the Supreme Court paved the way for corporations, unions, trade associations, Mitt-Romney-level-rich-guys and various groups of politically-aligned interests to exercise an overwhelming economic influence on the outcomes of elections. Subsequent decisions created the perfect mix of marketing and subterfuge – SuperPACs must disclose their donors, but they can align themselves with a non-profit companion company maintaining the secrecy of private contributions. Oh and yes you can find channels to move money from the non-profit to the SuperPAC. But wait, there’s more! The SuperPACs have to be completely independent of the candidates they support. And by completely independent we mean they are staffed by very recently departed members of the candidate’s core campaign team. The result, a well-marketed TRANSPARENCY© campaign proving our commitment to fair and open elections backed by the opaqueness the ultra-wealthy need to ruthlessly exert influence over the democratic process to buy political loyalties. How clandestinely corporate of us.
In 2008 both Senator McCain and President-to-be Obama very publically denounced the corrupting influence of massive-monied interests in political elections. After the 2010 decision opening the door for the SuperPACs, the President very publically denounced them in his State of the Union, saying the decision would “open the floodgates for special interests” and present “threat to our democracy”.
Fast-forward to the hotly contested and heavily-financed-by-SuperPACs Republican primaries. Armed with war chests in the hundreds of millions, the win-at-very-high-costs game is in full swing. Time to change the teleprompter. Confronted with the very real possibility of losing the election and POWER because of an economic disadvantage, the President did what any dictator statesman would do, compromise his own moral convictions. In a not-so-stunning decision, the President directed his supporters to contribute to a SuperPAC investing in his reelection. So the lesson, kids, is that something is bad until you really, really need it to stay in power. Now that our President is openly opening floodgates for special interests and threatening our democracy, we finally have the transparency we were promised. In the parlance of our times: #facepalm #fml