Four billion dollars buys a lot of perception: that’s how much money was spent this midterm election. Two outcomes are known, a) the Republican Party has majorities now in both houses of Congress, and b) when it came to progressive ballot measures Americans voted like liberals. So yes to the “party of no,” but on the other hand, yes to gun control, access to abortion clinics, hikes in the minimum wage, gay rights, and the legalization of marijuana.

Oh, America – land of the schizophrenic doodles, what can one conclude?

For starters, if there were complaints about money in politics prior to the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United (Jackson Browne sang about electioneering back in 1986, “They sell us the President the same way they sell us our clothes and our cars”), then this marriage of ungodly sums of cash to that blitzkrieg of negatively reinforced marketer-driven political campaigns – hold on folks, this was just a midterm: just wait for 2016.

Second, elections are about perceptions, not issues – and $4 billion can buy a whole lot of perception. Obama lost his tenuous hold of the Senate despite a deficit less than half of what it was when he took office; jobs reports that continue to show six-digit gains in employment in the private sector month after month after month; not leaping willy-nilly to war in Syria, Libya, or anywhere else; bringing troops back home from the disaster that was Bush’s Iraq; fixing a broken health care system that actually addresses costs and covers all Americans: this despite a Congress who refused to work and acted more to tow a party line than fix American problems. But Democrats lose seats?

All I can say is “messaging”: Obama is the anti-Christ, and Mitch McConnell is … a turtle? Really, Democrats – that’s all you got? Don’t you realize that in the land of negativity advertising, the anti-Christ will trump the shell-trodden amphibian every time?

1800 newspaper advertisement against Jefferson "the atheist."

1800 newspaper advertisement against Jefferson “the atheist.”

Third, creating and running on perceptions while avoiding issues like the plague is a time honored tradition in America. The 1800 election, er – mud-slinging, between Adams and Jefferson is proof. The Adams camp charged Jefferson with having a “Congo Harem” on his Virginia plantation, and the Jefferson camp countered with Adams marrying off his daughter to King George III to create a royal bloodline in America. It got worse from there. During Andrew Jackson’s second run at the presidency – he was an illiterate backwoodsman who can’t spell his own name. Lincoln was a baboon, with a baboon’s ass for a face. You see? No issues.

Fourth, the two-party system has graduated. While the old style mud-slinging is very much in vogue, what’s new is the amount of money spent, and the opaque PACs that pay heaps of cash to sling it.

1800 Handbill attacking Adams as a "British Tory"

1800 Handbill attacking Adams as a “British Tory”

In the crosshair of this is the typical American doodle – that pay-me-more, let-me-toke, please-don’t-shoot-me, supporter of gay-rights, and women’s issues… who keeps voting for a block of Republican incumbents they themselves admit they cannot stand. Yes, Congress has a dismal 8% approval rating (source WSJ), but we just reelected nearly 100% of them. We can blame gerrymandering, we can say “what the heck?” to all the negative advertisements, and we can implore “can we please talk about the issues!”, but the new election paradigm is here, SCOTUS sanctioned, and replete with a hefty price tag. We now know how much it cost to buy an election: $4-billion. But that’s in midterm dollars. Oh, Hillary – will you be the $100-billion dollar woman?

Advertisements