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No campaign for poor men (or women)

Democracy – a word we derive from the Greek: demos (the common people); kratos (rule) – hence democracy: rule of the common people.[1] Except there is nothing very common at all about the obscene wealth being used to try and “democratically” elect the most powerful man (or woman) in the world. The average cost to date in the race to become the Republican candidate for U.S. president is $32,283,430. This isn’t surprising, as the Republicans are the “right-wing” pro-corporate party. But their union-backed “alternative”? Average cost per candidate to date is $44,847,149 for the Democratic Party.[2] Let’s be clear – this is no campaign for poor men (or women).

Here’s the breakdown. The Republican candidates have to date raised $258,267,439 to spend on their various campaigns, led by the rich (but hapless) Mitt Romney ($90,076,402) and followed by the rich (and vacuous) Rudy Giuliani ($61,645,421). Both these rich white men have dropped out, put in their place by John McCain whose campaign has so far raised $42,094,077.

But these guys have nothing on the Democrats. Hillary Clinton leads the way with receipts of $118,301,659 followed by Barack Obama at $103,802,537. Total receipts for the Democrats so far – $313,930,041. Now, when you total up the money raised for both parties and throw in the $140-million raised by the Democratic and Republican National Committees, then the total cost to date to select a candidate for these two parties is – $712,634,261. Let’s say that in words – seven hundred twelve million, six hundred thirty-four thousand, two hundred sixty-one dollars.

Now remember – we’re just getting started. These campaigns are not over, and once they are – the real campaign begins, the actual contest for president. The final tally for both parties will be well over $1-billion. It will be even higher next time around, because if you look back at previous campaigns, it is clear that the cost of being president is going through the roof. In 1996, total cost for both parties for primaries, conventions and election campaigns was $478-million, in 2000 it was $649.5-million, in 2004 it was $1,016.5-million.[3]

Time to introduce another couple of Greek words: arkein (rule) and oligos (few)– hence oligarchy: rule of the few. Given how few of us travel in the world of seven, eight and nine-figure fund-raising, it might be a better fit.

© 2008 Paul Kellogg. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.


[1] All derivations from the Greek taken from William Little, The Oxford International Dictionary (Toronto: Leland Publishing Company Ltd., 1957).
[2] All figures for the 2008 campaign derived from CNN, “ElectionCenter2008 Primaries and Caucuses: Money
[3] Federal Election Commission, “Presidential Pre-Nomination Campaign Receipts Through December 31, 2004

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