I strongly encourage you to checkout Thomas Ferguson's (et al) latest post on Alternet. It's the closest thing I've read to a factual summary of the state of electoral politics in the U.S. (circa 2012). It’s loaded with statistical data and graphics; but it's still very easy to read. And, IMHO, it's an absolute must-read for all interested in the current, inconvenient reality of our country’s supposed “two-party system.” As economist Joseph Stiglitz has told us, time and time again: “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%."

Revealed: Why the Pundits Are Wrong About Big Money and the 2012 Elections

Thomas Ferguson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston,
Paul Jorgensen, Assistant Professor of Political Science at University of Texas, and
Jie Chen, University Statistician at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
December 20, 2012

Analysts of American elections routinely confuse the voice of the people with the sound of money  talking. Habitual modes of thought and long standing incentives to reaffirm the democratic faith encourage grasping at straws. Pundits become hopeful that big money doesn’t matter as much as they feared, and that democracy is alive and well.

In the Spring of 2012, however, as Mitt Romney’s Super Pacs carpet bombed the rest of the Republican field into oblivion, falling into that trap became much harder. It was obvious that a handful of multimillionaires were playing pivotal roles in the election. Despite some talk about small donors in President Obama’s campaign, the general election enhanced the impression that American politics was sliding into a new and sinister phase…

Our conclusion is that there is nothing paradoxical about the Republican loss. One  campaign funded largely by the super-rich lost to another just about as affluently funded.

On another occasion we will pursue the question of what this might mean for the future. For now we remind readers that the dynamics of campaigns funded mostly by major investors are quite different  than the campaigns imagined by traditional democratic theory: “Big Money’s most significant impact on politics is certainly not to deliver elections to the highest bidders. Instead it is to cement parties, candidates, and campaigns into the narrow range of issues that are acceptable to big donors. The basis of the “Golden Rule” in politics derives from the simple fact that running for major office in the U.S. is fabulously expensive.  In the absence of large scale social movements, only political positions that can be financed can be presented to voters. On issues on which all major investors agree (think of the now famous 1 percent), no party competition at all takes place, even if everyone knows that heavy majorities of voters want something else.” (Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen, AlterNet).

So when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who is now in charge of the talks on the fiscal cliff for the White House, tells reporters  that the administration would like to include Social Security in the negotiations, pay attention.

(Bold type is diarist’s emphasis.)

A couple of Ferguson’s more important books: “Right Turn: The Decline of the Democrats and the Future of American Politics,” and “Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems.”

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