No, not ISIS.
Not even Donald Trump.
One of the real threats to democracy in this country today is money.
You were excited about one of this year’s presidential candidates. Maybe it was Bernie Sanders. Maybe it was Marco Rubio or Carly Fiorina or Chris Christie. Maybe, like The Curmudgeon, you wanted to see more of Martin O’Malley.
Maybe you even liked Poor Bobby Jindal.
So you decided to contribute to your candidate’s campaign. Nothing big: maybe fifty dollars, maybe a hundred.
And it felt good, like you were participating in democracy in a whole new way, a way beyond simply casting your vote. Maybe your contribution, even though it’s modest, would help make a difference.
Well, think again.
Our small contributions are barely even felt, as this explanation from a Washington Monthly book review explains:
In 2012, according to the public policy think tank Demos, 159 donors accounted for nearly 60 percent of all Super PAC funding, and about 93 percent came from 3,318 donors—about one-thousandth of 1 percent of the population. The cap on direct campaign contributions, currently $2,700 per candidate, survived Citizens United, but that money, too, comes overwhelmingly from the rich: the donors who gave more than $200 to federal candidates in 2012 represented just 0.4 percent of the population but accounted for 64 percent of campaign donations from individuals. Not many people have a spare $2,700 lying around to give to politicians.
Is it any wonder that the concerns of working people are such a low priority among those we elect to public office?