A campaign cacophony

In the latest edition of The Week's editor's letter, William Falk laments the free for all created by limitless campaign spending   

William Falk

On the way back from an outing with my family last weekend, I drove past a grassy road median crammed with campaign signs, sprouting from little sticks stuck in the ground. I say crammed advisedly: The median was perhaps 100 yards long and 20 feet wide, and there were hundreds of signs, packed densely as cornstalks, shouting at me to elect dozens of candidates in red, white, and blue lettering. The effect was numbing, a cacophony of conflicting messages—free speech not in theory, but in practice, bought and sold by the ton.

Money, the U.S. Supreme Court tells us, is a form of speech, which means that we are freer than at any time in history. An astonishing $4 billion was spent on this midterm election, easily a record, with the two parties and their various advocacy groups frantically matching each other’s excesses. And what did voters learn from the toxic blitz of ads? To ominous background music, we were told that some candidates were crooks, thugs, and faux Christian worshippers of the “Aqua Buddha”; we saw other candidates firing rifles and machine guns; one candidate told us that she was not a witch. In many TV markets, stations had to cap the number of political ads, or there would have been no other kind of ads at all. This year’s orgy merely accelerated an existing phenomenon of “independent” group spending, seen in the last three elections, too. And let’s not forget that in 2008, Barack Obama disdained the public-financing system and raised and spent $800 million—$400 million more than John McCain. In 2012, it may take $1 billion to run a credible presidential campaign. The fundraising starts now. Let freedom ring.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
William Falk

William Falk is editor-in-chief of The Week, and has held that role since the magazine's first issue in 2001. He has previously been a reporter, columnist, and editor at the Gannett Westchester Newspapers and at Newsday, where he was part of two reporting teams that won Pulitzer Prizes.