Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign is set to raise another record breaking $1 billion this year. If this trend continues, billionaire candidates will be the norm in future election cycles.
In America today, representative democracy is a system that underlines that America’s elected officials can be any average person. But money is becoming the focus of many elections today and has become a barrier for average citizens to attain the presidency. To give you an idea of how big the gap is, the average American household income was $49,445 in 2010. In comparison Mitt Romney has an estimated wealth of between, $190-250 million making him 50 times richer than Obama. Obama has an estimated wealth of between $2.2 -7.5 million, meaning that he is not exactly an “Average Joe” either.
Let’s say an average middle class citizen decides to run for president. The average citizen knows s/he can’t do this by him or her self of course let’s say s/he hires a campaign staff including all other expenditures it could run $100,000 a day. If s/he was John Edwards in 2008 it would cost about $12.9 million in just the primaries alone. Registering to become an official candidate with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) alone requires the average citizen to have raised or paid more then $5,000, which, remember is 10% of the average American household’s annual income.
From there, the real meat of the election begins. Obama in 2008 raised close to $760 million. And if you can’t raise money quick enough, you might just have to spend it from your own pocket if you really want to win. Romney, for example, invested $44.7 million of his personal income in the 2008 election. More modest was Republican Jon Huntsman’s personal contribution of $2.2 million to his run in 2011.
The argument isn’t only limited to the presidency. Senators and congresspersons have to self-fund millions in order to compete during lections. As an example: Ron Johnson from Wisconsin spent $1.4 million, David Malpass form New York spent 2.5 million, and William Binnie form New Hampshire $3.5 million.
Abraham Lincoln ran for president in 1860 and was said to have little to no financial backing. A matter a fact “Honest Abe” has been noted to be one of the poorest presidents we’ve had. Lincoln would have stood no chance in 2012, campaigning off the back of a train. Today’s money standard has lead America to an elitist barrier discrediting fair representative democracy.
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