What Price American Democracy? The Midterm Elections of Campaign 2014
Ivan C. Potter, Publisher West Kentucky Journal
Tuesday, November 11, 2014 3:06 pm
(Clinton, KY November 4, 2014) - I won my race, but did America lose its future?
At 6:00 pm the polls closed. At 6:48 an elderly lady made her way to the windows of the Hickman County Elementary School Gym door. In her hand were the voting results for Clinton Percent 1. These were long CPA machine tapes two inches wide by thirty plus inches long, filled with raw voter counts for each office and candidate.
For the six of us outside the window, waiting for any glimpse or knowledge on what had taken place at the polls, it seem that the lady made the ten foot journey in the slowest possible time imaginable.
At last she reached the window. With one hand she fixed the data tape to the window for us to see. One has to marvel at the experience of watching the seconds seem to flow into hours as the lady posted the voting results.
Somehow by 7:15 pm, all Clinton three city percents totals were taped to the windows. In the next five minutes of calculation, we learned that Clinton would have a new mayor, a new city councilman, plus five returning councilmen.
I had won my race for a third term city councilman. My vote total was 261. My rank was second place out of a field of seven candidates. The top vote cast for city council was 263.
Standing just out of reach of the night rain but still in boundary of the new mist growing from where the school building pushed out into the uncovered steps, I reflected on what had just happened.
Dreams had been realized and dreams had been lost. At every level of our local government on this night, change had rocked our little part of the planet.
On this night Hickman County (population 4,750) elected a new county judge, fiscal court, PVA, and county attorney. The City of Clinton (population 1,230) has a new woman mayor, a new woman city councilmember, plus five returning councilmen. The City of Columbus (population 210) has a new woman mayor with a majority of women on city council.
Out of 26 elected positions on the ballot, women had won 12 of them. This was 46% of the positions. Not since 1988, had their been this extent of important change in the leadership of the county.
The average campaign cost was just under a $1,000 dollars. My campaign budget was $178.89 dollars for one newspaper ad plus 200 door to door hand outs. Another $20 dollars paid for filing fee. My total race costs were $198.89 dollars. My campaign costs per voter was $0.76 cents.
The struggle for political control and direction of leadership of our place was no different than the powerful national battles won and lost on the night of November 4, 2014.
The one common core connecting all campaigns was the fact that voting took place in thousands of poll stations in some 3,000 counties in America. No one was shot or killed over their political thoughts. No revolutionary councils decided who got power.
Americans went to their polling stations, voted, with the firm knowledge that as a way of life, men and women through out history had died, fought in far away places to make sure we remained free.
In this election cycle, a billion dollars was spent in thousands of hateful attack ads. Money has become a new form of elite speech. We have now officially reached a new low of national political governance, where only the rich and their candidates, decide our futures.
Against this tidal wave of big money buying senators, governors, and congressmen stands the constant vitality of local government. It is up to the judges and mayors to make America work on a daily basis.
The total cost of the past election cycle for 26 county and city positions in Hickman County Campaign 2014 was around $30,000 dollars. This is a cheap price for the American way of life and freedom.
Will America's future be better off with the billions of corporate special interests dollars buying power and control over our lives? I think not. Of course, this was a mid term election. If the big money continues to influence the next big election for President, then American way of life and freedoms stand in harm's way and may even be subverted to where the words "American democracy" is lost to historical footnote.
Is it time for the American people to demand another way of having large amounts of money to engage or subvert our elections?
I think so!
Money cannot be allowed to become the only talking point in hateful TV ads. Somehow, somewhere in our political process, we must return to talking and debating real and shared common problems.
If we do not change our ways, American democracy may well become the slave to the highest bidder.
If we do not change our way, we will lose America.