Whenever I hear a professional politician in Washington talking as if he he really understands our lot in life I can only laugh at the disconnect. I mean how likely is it that a sitting U.S. senator, who’s probably at least a multi-millionaire or a congressman, who’s time is consumed with fund raising would even have the faintest idea of the trials and tribulations of us ordinary souls. Well this situation is even more dramatic when viewed through the lens of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge him his success or his money and I’m not exactly broke either, but when viewed against the lives that the vast majority of us lead, Romney’s comments reveal just how different he is from the average American. Romney’s presidential campaign has been plagued by a number of inopportune remarks about money and wealth that have cast him in the light of a privileged character. His public misstatements prove to what extent he is truly divorced from our reality: ”Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are”; ”I’ll tell you what, ten-thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?”; ”I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.”;”There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip” and a comment which states that the $300,00.00 plus made on the speakers podium was “just a small part of my income” are all cases in point. Now I’ll give Romney a pass on the “I like firing people” and his comments on the poor, both of which were initially misunderstood by the media and thereafter grossly misrepresented. Jacob Heilbrunn writing in The National Interest said “Michael Kinsley famously defined defined a gaffe as something a politician inadvertently says that is true but also embarrassing. Mitt Romney’s remark yesterday about his not being concerned about the poor may fall into that category. It reinforces the perception that he is the 200 million dollar man–a politician who truly is out of touch with common folks.”
Now against this backdrop of Romney’s public pratfalls, there is another revelation that only serves to reinforce the image of his disconnected public persona, the fact that a relative few mega rich patrons are pouring millions into his campaign. An article recently written by Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo, “G.O.P. Donors Showing Thirst to Oust Obama in November”, revealed “Close to 60 corporations and wealthy individuals gave checks of $100,000 or more to a “super PAC” supporting Mitt Romney in the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses…underwriting a $17 million blitz of advertising that has swamped his Republican rivals in the early primary states. The filings to the Federal Election Commission…showed his ability to win substantial backing from a small number of his party’s most influential and wealthy patrons, each contributing to the super PAC far more than the $2,500 check each could legally write to his campaign. All told, the group, Restore Our Future, raised about $18 million from just 200 donors in the second half of 2011.” A detailed look at who these few benefactors are can be seen in the aforementioned article and in “Who’s Financing the “Super PACs” cited below. A Washington Post article also shows how a relative few wealthy patrons are seeking to affect the 2012 political season: “There are probably fewer than 100 people who are fueling 90 percent of this outside money right now,” said David Donnelly, national campaigns director at the Public Campaign Action Fund, an advocacy group favoring limits on political spending. “When you think about the amazing impact that this small number of people have on deciding the election, on the information that people will have on who to vote for, it’s mind-boggling.” Thus it goes without saying that if 100 to 200 people can determine the outcome of an election in a society of over 300 million that clearly would fit the definition of a plutocracy influencing politics to suit its own narrow interests.
That’s not to say that Barack Obama doesn’t have his own well heeled patrons who could pony up large sums of money as well as the campaign progresses, but presently the influence of a wealthy few on funding the Republican primaries is undeniable. And even though Obama has been forced to encourage supporters to create and fund pro-Obama super Pacs as a means of self defense, the president in contrast to Mitt Romney, has relied far more on a grass-roots network of the people, individuals who donate smaller sums and “bundlers”, those who aggregate individual donations and then forward those contributions on to the Obama campaign. That’s a distinct contrast to the Romney fund raising machine which shows that the Republican elite is “relying far more heavily on independent groups empowered by court decisions that have made it easier for wealthy individuals and corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to intervene directly in election contests.”
The contrast between the efforts of a few and the rest of the American electorate is seen within the G.O.P. as well and is evident in part in the continuing overall lack of enthusiasm for Governor Romney. The cyclical and recurring rise and fall of a parade of “not Romney’s” and the recent emergence of the cash strapped Rick Santorum as a serious contender buoyed by popular conservative support represents another side of the story in the contest of the people versus the plutocrats. Santorum’s recent sweep of Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota shows the extent to which there is a continuing revolt within the Republican Party between its own grass-roots, predominately the Tea Party, and the establishment G.O.P. elite. This intra-G.O.P. revolt clearly represents a rejection of the mega donor in the primary process and an assertion of individual will. Whether or not Santorum, or whom ever replaces him as the anti-Romney candidate, can outlast the well funded Romney remains to be seen, but if someone other than Mitt Romney emerges as the Republican nominee, it will represent a victory for the conservative grass-roots over the establishment plutocrats who have boldly and blatantly tried to sway the Republican primary and with it the 2012 presidential election in their favor. Likewise the same would hold true if Barack Obama can reassemble his 2008 coalition and defeat Mitt Romney if he becomes the president’s eventual opponent. In the end if Mitt Romney is to prevail and become our next president and he does so in a low turnout election and with a small margin of victory it could only be seen as a victory of the plutocrats over the people and that would be a further setback to popular democracy in America.
Steven J. Gulitti