Ron Paul, oil spills, and the guy from Men's Wearhouse all get a cameo in this New York Times op-ed by author Dave Eggers. For Eggers, a photo op with a presidential candidate at a swanky fundraising event in the Oakland hills is a subtle reminder of just how bad the campaign money chase has become.
Most of us see high-dollar fundraising from the outside in, but Eggers donates to Barack Obama's presidential campaign and gets a front row seat to watch money's influence on the modern campaign.
This is, though, the original sin of politics: that once born into such a life, one has already sold and will always be required to sell (and usually for a depressingly small price) bits of him or herself, just about every day for the rest of one’s time seeking election and serving in office. We complain about politicians being salesmen, and we wonder why so many end up in trouble or even jail — with the former governor of Illinois, George Ryan, reporting to prison just last month.
In the past the analogy has been that money is water that will always find its way around the the rocks that campaign finance regulations place in its path. Eggers finds an ever more apt comparison:
Because the San Francisco Bay is choking on 58,000 gallons of oil spilled from an errant tanker — whose pilot could not, in utterly placid water, avoid a bridge (a bridge!) — it’s inevitable that a strained analogy be made, so here goes. Just as using oil to power our nation’s homes and cars will inevitably lead to accidents like this current one (which will affect and diminish our lives for many years to come), and will inevitably lead to wars like this current one (which has affected and will diminish our lives for many years to come), so has the powering of our democracy on cash inevitably led, and will always lead, to any number of similar and corollary catastrophes.
We can try to clean it up, like oil spilled in a bay, but as long as we use the substance in the first place, it will ooze its way into every aspect of our lives. There will be compromised decision-making abroad; there will be the growth and misappropriation of corporate influence; there will be the opting-out of millions of disillusioned youth, the void filled by the cynical and self-interested; and, in the most benign manifestation, there will be a very good man taking thousands of photos, with progressives who wish their support did not have a price tag, in exchange for the maximum personal donation allowed by law.