Some of the liberal elite within the democratic party are still reeling from the 2016 election. The playbook seemed absolutely rock solid: corporate donorship, executive backing, and populous coattail riding from Clinton’s husband. Then Sanders came along with his large grassroots base and small donation playbook. Clinton and the DNC doubled down, ran Sanders out of town, and then Trump won.
Much of the DNC, I suspect, are still scratching their heads as to what happened. Fortunately, there has been some progress to ward off rich plutocrats from swallowing genuine democratic, grassroots movements. To qualify for each primary debate, and also to winnow the field, candidates were required to get a minimum number of donors, from a minimum number of states. These requirements got more and more aggressive as the number of debates increased. This is a good thing, I feel, as it requires a candidate to continuously build nationwide support by placing their platform on the open market of ideas, and not only be popular in their home and surrounding states. An excellent example of this is Sanders, who has raised the most money of any democratic candidate, and still has an average donation of 27$; he is a grassroots politician.
Then, late in the game, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg walz into picture. This is clearly a case of two very rich people who think they can buy their way into the presidency. Why do I think this? Exhibit A:
At first glance you may be thinking, “he’s a benevolent millionaire!” You notice at the very bottom that he only wants one dollar from each donor. This implies that he’s saving everyone money by paying for his campaign himself!
The $1 donation which Steyer is asking for goes against the point of the donor requirement completely. By making the donation request for only 1$, he’s tacitly saying,”hey I don’t need your actual support, I just need your name as a token I can use as a stand in for true support.” If people actually knew and liked Steyer, why not leave it open ended and just ask for any donation? If his target audience is other rich people like him, ask for $100 donations. No, he wants to make it as easy as possible to get to 130,000 donors, even if it doesn’t mean anything. Clearly a candidate can build a very successful campaign from small donations, provided they come from a lot of people. That isn’t what is happening here. Steyer doesn’t need the money; he needs the names.
The convention I’m describing here is: money=support. A candidate can get a huge amount of support(money) from a relatively small group of people nationally, or they can get a modest amount of support(money) from a relatively large amount of people nationally. What Steyer is attempting to do is to disguise his support system, to make the public believe that his $1 donors are as legitimate as any other donor.
Tom Steyer’s platform doesn’t include anything that other progressive candidates don’t have on their platforms, like Sanders and Warren. So what is he doing then? With a small base and impossible odds there must be something he is getting out of this other than publicity right?
Maybe not, and Bloomberg is in the same boat. If climate change were really a top priority for these two “candidates” they would remove their ego from the process, and simply spend that money on buying chunks of the rainforest, or suing Nestle for basically everything they do. Instead, they are deluded in the same way as past wealthy businessman candidates into thinking that private sector success as a leader will translate into success as a political and social leader.
As a business leader, your sole goal is to deliver value to your shareholders. As a political leader, your sole goal is to…what? Deliver value to the people who elected you? Perhaps that’s true, but what exactly does “value” mean in this context? This is where many successful people from the private sector fail in public service. Value doesn’t carry the same connotation for the public sector; costs can’t be cut by sending teaching jobs overseas. Social security can’t be retrofitted for “expansion into the global market”. The goal of healthcare isn’t to sell all people the most cutting edge medical technology; the goal is prevent sickness and make sure people are healthy.
The government and business should have fundamentally different goals. That isn’t to say that the government can’t adopt good techniques from the private sector, and vice versa, but the government is not, and should not, be in the business of making a profit. If you can’t understand that, you might be Tom Steyer or Michael Bloomberg. If Steyer really wanted to held advance his policies, he would leverage his most important asset, his money, toward achieving public objectives. Instead, he is choosing to elevate himself and his vanishingly small chance of winning the primary.
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