We live in a democracy, but the ancient Greek ideal of government by the people may be corrupted by the power of money. Recent developments in this area make it clear.
Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic candidate for Governor, reported he had 23.6 million in his campaign war chest. His Republican opponent, Rick Lazio, has raised a mere $688, 821.
In Connecticut, wrestling impresario Linda McMahon, a Republican, has contributed $21.5 million to her campaign so far. Her Democratic opponent, Richard Blumenthal, has raised just $2.1.That isn’t hay but a 10-1 ratio in favor of McMahon makes it seem like an unfair fight.
And the latest figures for the successful campaign waged by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009 show he spent $109 million to win a third term. His Democratic opponent, William Thompson, was outspent 11-1 by the multi-billionaire mayor. That translates into Bloomberg spending about $186 per vote. Thompson spent just $17 a vote and lost by only about 50,000 votes.
Was it a fair fight? Not if you believe in a level playing field.
Again and again efforts to reform campaign financing have failed in the past. It’s still a rocky road for those who truly believe in reform.
We live in a democracy. The word democracy comes from the ancient Greek words demos kratia, rule of the people. It means, according to the dictionary, “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them…’’
The ancient democrats would be aghast if they could see some of the things that pass for democracy today. Especially the influence of money from powerful, rich people to virtually buy elective office. And, sadly, we in the press regard the money-raising ability of candidates as of paramount importance. A candidate’s qualifications to serve in high office don’t seem to matter as much.
Abraham Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg of his ideal of a government of the people, by the people and for the people. He didn’t mean government of the fat cats and by the fat cats. With all due respect to the feline family -- and I happen to love cats -- Lincoln was an apostle of democracy in a purer sense.
The machinations of millionaires and billionaires are foreign to what he believed. The lack of strict laws governing campaign expenditures continues to be a disgrace to our country.