You’ve probably heard this crazy rumor that outsized political spending is a big problem in elections. But how does this phenomenon affect American voters? The candidate with the best ideas should win, right? After all, nobody’s forcing you to vote for any specific candidate. So how does your voting experience suffer when some candidates are backed by big Benjamins, and others aren’t?
Let’s dive into this the way we know best: via sweet, delicious Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
One Scoop of Democracy, Please
Imagine that your local Scoop Shop is the American election landscape, with each flavor in the freezer case representing a candidate. You are on your way in for a scoop with your friends. Each of you has a coupon for one free scoop – your vote. You’re entitled to that scoop, and can choose any flavor your heart desires.
But when you make it to the freezer case to make your choice, you notice something is off. There are lots of flavors in this Scoop Shop— everything from Mango Sorbet to Chocolate Fudge Brownie. But some flavors are in small tubs with hard-to-read flavor names, and the Scooper on duty seems to steer you away from them. Other flavors, though, have big, full tubs, easy-to-read signs and descriptions, and the Scoopers are eager to tell you more about them, let you taste them, and give them to you as your free scoop.
It's hard not to choose the big, flashy flavors, since you don't know much about the flavors in the smaller tubs. But you assume, "Hey, they wouldn't be pushing these big flavors on me if they weren't the best."
So you choose the biggest flavor of them all, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. It's good, but you notice that your friend chose Chunky Monkey, and you're pretty jealous of those walnuts and fudge chunks. "Where was that flavor?" you ask. "Way in the back," they say, "The Scooper even told me it wasn't very good, but boy were they wrong, it's delicious!"
And such is the American election stage, where some candidates are visible in the media and make a memorable splash with their candidacy; while others are little-known, overtly ostracized by the media, and struggling for visibility. Sure, they’re all there for your choosing, but some choices are easier than others.
With $5 billion expected to be put behind 2016 presidential candidates, it’s clear that outsized spending on elections isn’t going away anytime soon. And don’t even get us started on where those millions come from. In 2012, 68% of political donations came from just 1% of donors, meaning that a small cadre of wealthy donors are trying really, really hard to make sure you choose Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough over Chunky Monkey. Why would they do that? Probably because Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough will vote for policies that benefit them personally.
Regardless of whom you vote for, be aware of all the candidates, even the ones in the back that are hard to see and that the media tells you aren't worth looking at— they might just have some pretty awesome fudge chunks.
You can also support the Democracy For All Amendment, which would reverse the Supreme Court decision that allowed big money to drown out our individual political choices. States around the nation have passed resolutions supporting the amendment, while more than 550 cities and towns, plus over 160 former and current members of Congress have voiced their support, too. Click over to Free Speech for the People to sign a petition supporting the amendment, and get involved as an organizer in your own state. Because you deserve to have a voice in elections that doesn’t come from your wallet.