Cambrian: Opinion

Sticking a monkey wrench in the political money machine

Steve Provost
Steve Provost

Prepare for the running of the bull. Singular and with the second, missing syllable fully implied. Or running of the mouth, if you prefer. Both would be apropos in this case.

The New York Times reported this week that campaign ads worth a staggering $2 billion are set to air on television in advance of this year’s congressional elections. That’s a lot of bullion, to be sure. (There’s that second syllable; I’ll bet you thought it was something else.)

Money talks. Indeed, the Supreme Court has decreed it’s the practical equivalent of speech, which means if you have enough of it, you can buy virtually unlimited quantities of airtime to spew your hot air.

There’s no getting around the fact that those of us who don’t have plenty of bullion are at asevere disadvantage under the current system. Want to get an initiative on the ballot? You need a wad full of green to pay those signature gatherers who moonlight by ambushing voters on the sidewalk outside of Trader Joe’s (which does its best to discourage such activities). Want to run for office? You’ll need truckloads of cash to spend getting your face on the tube.

So what’s a poor — or middle class — voter to do?

As for me, I’ve decided to fight back by making my limited resources work for me, instead of against me.

First of all, I go to Trader Joe’s to buy salads, not to sign petitions. I don’t care what you want me to sign. Unless it’s a guaranteed cure for cancer or a surefire lottery winner, you won’t get me to subsidize your little game of “signing for dollars.” I’ll take my salad and be on my way, and you should be thankful I don’t give you a good dressing-down.

Second, I don’t watch broadcast or cable TV. So unless you’ve somehow managed to retroactively insert your ad onto that 20-year-old episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” queued up on my DVD player, you might as well be broadcasting from Vulcan. Hint: Vulcan is very, very far away, and it’s fictional, to boot. Even if it were real, politicians would feel decidedly out of place there: The place has a reputation for logic, which isn’t exactly a hot commodity in political circles.

Here’s what makes fighting back from a position of poverty so much fun: I get to laugh out loud at all these political egotists pumping insane amounts of money into TV ads that will never affect me in the slightest. The reason is simple: I do my homework, I cast my vote and I do it all as early as possible.

That’s the third part of my carefully laid-out act of gleeful vengeance on the political money machine. I vote by mail within a few days after receiving my ballot, before many of the candidates have even started airing their ads. As far as my vote is concerned, most of them are wasting both their bullion and their breath.

Imagine if everyone were to adopt this strategy. We could make money irrelevant, level the playing field, restore honor to politics and make it about public service again. We could

Aw, heck. Who am I kidding? They’d probably just move their ads up earlier and record backwardsmasked subliminal messages on every single episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space 9.”

Still, a guy can dream, can’t he? Reforming this corrupt system sometimes seems about as attainable as a cure for cancer or winning the lottery, and I’m sure not holding my breath. But in the meantime, I’ll keep voting early, laughing as they waste their money, and hoping we eventually dare to boldly go where no one has gone before (or at least in a very long time): toward real reform.