As the dust settles on a special election to fill a seat in Georgia’s Sixth District, the American electoral process moves another step deeper into an era of big budget office sales. Republicans are still celebrating, and democrats are frustrated, but no American should be proud of how the race was hailed as the most expensive House contest in modern politics.
Early estimates for the special election indicate that the two candidates — Jon Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R) — spent at least $50 million for a seat in the U.S. Congress that has been a republican staple since 1975. Almost half of the money spent in the race came from out-of-state interest groups and super PACS. The investment by both parties is a strong affirmation that the American government is for sale at many levels. It is just one of many problems plaguing our democratic institution.
Georgia residents cast roughly one quarter-million votes in the sixth district race. Assuming the $50 million estimates are correct, candidates spent about $200 per vote. The finances of the sixth district election demonstrate how high value cash infusions have eroded political races to a game of who can heap the most money on a few trivial sound bites. It is partly how the nation ended up in the current situation of an apprentice in the White House instead of a president.
The practices and processes of a democratic election have been declining for years. In 2010, the United States Supreme Court essentially legalized the sale and purchase of elected positions. The Citizens United decision paved the way for walking civil rights disasters like Donald Trump and Karen Handel by approving wholesale high-roller election investments. America went on the auction block for every lobbyist, special interest, and super PAC — or any Bozo-the-clown with an alleged $3.5 billion.
Citizens United devastated the struggling and nearly defunct electoral process. However, a plethora of other issues faces America’s elections. Voters share a portion of the responsibility for what has happened to the country. If only a small portion of eligible voters took the time to see beyond the high-priced flashy ads, and consider the black-and-white issues that affect our nation on a daily basis, the system could begin to self-correct. Following the money and voting solely by party are poor ways to maintain a nation’s historic foundation…it’s like a farmer who sows a field using bad seeds and then complains about the quality of the vegetables.
That a candidate like Donald Trump duped 62 million Americans into voting for him, demonstrates how voters lack the critical thinking skills and reasoning necessary to safeguard the democratic process. Likewise, it seems probable that not every Republican in Georgia agrees with Karen Handel’s racist and bigoted views. A system as important as our democracy cannot subsist exclusively on so many slogan-chanting sheep crying “MAGA, MAGA!”
The biggest lesson from Trump and Handel is not how democrats must change to win, or that more money means more votes, but that a democracy is only as intelligent as its most intelligent voting bloc is.
Many other election related issues restrict, deny, or otherwise hamper the voting rights of millions of Americans: felony disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, questionable voter ID laws, a lack of centralized electoral infrastructure, and the single weekday voting scheme. Each of these needs to be addressed and corrected — along with the Citizens United spending sprees — to restore true democracy to America. Until we do, Congress is just another one of Donald Trump’s private clubs that most of us cannot afford to join.