Can Money Buy an Election?

Can Money Buy an Election?

( – Politicians can’t get enough money. Money gives them options to reach voters with their message to give them a competitive advantage. However, when is enough money enough? Is it possible that politicians who have it to spend can burn out, or even turn off, voters?

In an election, money serves two primary objectives. The first is to reach voters with a message. The second is to turn out voters at the polls.

However, for some candidates, it’s not always about winning an election or turning out voters; it is also about influencing an agenda’s outcome.

This summer, COVID-19 has put campaigns on hold. More than ever, the money will be necessary for candidates who can’t meet people in person. They will need to buy TV, radio, mail, and digital advertisements to stay in front of voters. Organic news will not help them as much as in the past since candidates are not in the public eye.

Will Money Guarantee a Candidate Wins?

Historically, those that raised and spent the most money won elections. However, since 2016 that isn’t the case. In some instances, seeing and hearing too much from a candidate was detrimental to the campaign, though there is no direct evidence other than voter turnout. For those who earned the most donations and spent the most money, they have been on the losing side of elections.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s campaign almost doubled the amount of money it spent over Donald Trump’s campaign. We all know the outcome of that election. Independent groups also outspent those who supported Trump by a 3-1 margin and more ads were run for Clinton than Trump by 3-1 as well.

In the 2020 Democratic primary, it seems they didn’t learn their lesson. Former New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg (D) spent over $1 billion in just a few months. That works out to 49 delegates at $22.6 million per delegate. Though his advertising was extremely effective, his debate performances were terrible. Voters felt a disconnect between his ads and his live debates.

Likewise, billionaire Tom Steyer spent $300 million of his own money only to get one delegate.

It’s not just presidential politics. This is happening to incumbent members of Congress as well. In New York, outsider Jamaal Bowman spent $626,000 and defeated long-time incumbent Eliot Engel (D-NY). Engel spent $1.3 million. In Kentucky, Amy McGrath (D-KY) spent $21 million and barely beat a challenger who spent a little more than $500,000.

What Does It Mean?

At some point, voters are not influenced by all the fundraising and spending. They have their own thoughts, opinions, and only a few are persuadable. Many are upset at the perception that money is more important to politicians than serving their constituents. As a result, in the last few elections, voters are getting rid of incumbents with large amounts of cash and political influence.

For decades, a debate has ensued about the influence of money in US elections and it appears that voters are winning. Money can no longer buy an election. What it can do is deliver a message. However, if the message is off, the money means nothing.

Here’s what it really means. Millionaires and billionaires are not able to buy elections. Elections are decided by voters who buy a candidate’s message or don’t. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about?

Perhaps in this time of uncertainty and anger over politics, one part of the system is self-correcting and getting it right?

By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor

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