As you know, according to the landmark Citizens United case, political money is a form of protected speech and corporations are people. And because those people happen to be blabbermouths, the Supreme Court’s nutty 2010 ruling has amounted to the Broadcast Stations Not Becoming Completely Irrelevant and Going Out of Business Act.
Every two years the money sluice begins, and in presidential years it’s more like a tidal wave. Last time around, in 2012, it was $2.9 billion, buying up almost all the inventory surrounding the local news, especially in battleground states. You know how many retailers do 75% of their volume in Q4? Well, Citizens United is broadcast Christmas.
This even though people decreasingly watch TV and those who watch local news are, on average, 104 years old. It turns out that that demographic is really, really dependable at voting. (I’m guessing that Election Day is also very good for Old Country Buffet.)
But maybe not this year. It’s already a bizarre election. One nominee is the Lady Macbeth of national politics who is roundly despised partly because she isn’t in the kitchen baking cookies, and partly because she exudes a sense of entitlement so intense it leaves a silhouette on X-ray film. The other is a spoiled-brat hatemongering ignoramus who can’t recite the alphabet without telling 26 lies.
Another weird thing is that guy will get 50 million votes, which is -- to quote the philosopher -- sad. Incredibly sad. Because it means that it can happen here after all. Among his most ardent supporters, according to recent polls, are evangelicals -- who are ignoring his multiple marriages, sleazy affairs both personal and professional, vastly un-Christian lack of humility, pathological lying, bullying, vulgarity and history of supporting abortion. So what are they attracted to, these holier-than-thou Americans? Could it be the naked racism? Nooooo.
His other big constituency is the people who hate big intrusive government so much they want to elect a dictator. So what are they attracted to, these small-government cultists? Could it be the naked racism? Nooooo.
And most unexpected of all, he’s gotten the Republican nomination for the presidency spending less money than is sitting in the cupholder of your car. It’s all been on Twitter, and so-called earned media, which means this: if you mimic the spastic body movements and vocal deficit of a disabled reporter, it will be on the news within the hour. It’s the old Al Sharpton/Calvin Klein trick. Keep setting fires, and the media fire trucks will come racing to the scene every single time.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard the news: Syria is a pile of rubble, Zika is headed north, the planet is burning to a cinder, but the big story on Action news: Donald Trump says something assholic again.
And that has done what four Supreme Court Justices and the entire political left could not do: neutralized Citizens United.
According to Bloomberg news, spending in the general election so far has been $146 million -- down from $373 million at this point four years ago. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 60% less. TV stations will also note that the Trump campaign has signaled its intentions to devote much of its war chest to online advertising…..
(pausing here to let you laugh hard and then regain your composure)
….having plunked down $8.4 million there in July alone. He perhaps has not been informed of 0% click-through rates, banner blindness, slow-loading, ad blockers et al. On the plus side, he’ll be able to finely target the portions of the electorate that polls show are not buying his act: Hispanics, African-Americans, women, Muslims, gun-control advocates, federal judges, the disabled, college-educated whites, Gold Star families, worriers about nuclear annihilation, those with a shred of human decency.
That should go splendidly for him. I’m mainly out of the ad-criticism racket, but I strongly advise that he stick with the strategy he just took up to cultivate African-Americans: that their lives are so uniformly horrendous “what have you got to lose?”
So, yeah, the irony is that the novel SCOTUS construct of money “speech” has been entirely usurped by actual speech. Ironic because that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work, and -- as the GOP’s scummy demagogue nominee runs his mouth to keep citizens disunited -- exactly how it isn’t.