In certain corners of the electorate, there is joy. The tidal wave of cash that threatened to sink the ship of democracy did not. The power of grassroots democracy—ordinary citizens making small donations to the candidates they supported, combined with a well-organized ground game—beat fat cat billionaires with money to burn. But the plain fact as we approach a new season of national politics is that the victory was only a partial one.
True, money alone couldn’t buy a presidency for Mitt Romney. But SuperPac America did accomplish, to a large degree, a big part of what it set out to do. It focused a huge number of voters on trivial issues, political gaffes, and misinformation, and by doing so, prevented a substantive discussion on issues that are truly critical to the United States and its citizens.
Keeping the focus on Barack Obama’s citizenship status, which is not in question, deflected attention from a real and meaningful dialogue about immigration reform. Erecting billboards in minority neighborhoods implying that they were centers of voter fraud—again a patently false claim—shifted the discussion toward the criminalization of these citizens, rather than toward how their communities might thrive.
And then there was the biggest misdirection of all. The candidate who made correcting the alleged economic mistakes of the past four years was allowed clear sailing to election day without revealing a single detail of how he might change the system. That Mitt Romney received so many votes without doing this is evidence of big money’s power to create a vortex of distraction that only pushes us deeper into the partisan mire. And by that measure, the SuperPacs won.