This is not an article about policies.
It is not about parties.
It is not about who would make a better president of the United States.
This is an article about media, and information, and how we come to know things.
We all know that the influence of money on politics is overwhelming. In 2012, the U.S. presidential candidates -- not counting PACs -- spent $1.12 billion on their campaigns. In 2016, they spent $1.5 billion.
In this election cycle, Mike Bloomberg, who will not be on a ballot until next Tuesday, has already spent more than $500 million dollars.
So what? It’s his money. He can spend it however he wants, right?
Think about what a $500 million ad buy does.
1. It blankets the airwaves. Total saturation. In the book "Thinking Fast and Slow," the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman mentioned the “mere availability” effect, describing an experiment where people were significantly more likely to rate unfamiliar words favorably if they had recently seen those words many times in advertisements.
“The mere exposure effect does not depend on the conscious experience of familiarity. In fact, the effect does not depend on consciousness at all: it occurs even when the repeated words or pictures are shown so quickly that the observers never become aware of having seen them. They still end up liking the words or pictures that were presented more frequently.”
2. It distorts the market. According to -- *checks notes* -- Bloomberg the media outlet, Bloomberg the candidate is spending $5.6 million per day, almost double the previous record for a presidential primary.
As a result, we’re experiencing a shortage of supply for ad buys. Politico reports that, “On average in markets around the country, prices for political TV ads have risen by 20 percent since Bloomberg began his campaign.”
3. It delivers an untested candidate. The difference between paid media and earned media is that you control the former and not the latter. Bloomberg skipped eight debates, leaving his opponents to duke it out without him. There’s a reason he’s been a disaster in both of his debates: because it’s the first time he’s had to face any scrutiny.
In an interview with CBS News' Gayle King in December, Bloomberg claimed that, “I’m not buying [the election]… I’m doing exactly the same thing [the other candidates] are doing, except that I’m using my own money and they’re using somebody else’s money.”
But he is not doing the same thing as the other candidates. He is not having to use his power of persuasion or the strength of his stances to convince people that he is a better option. He is simply sucking up all the oxygen and waiting for the others to die.
Bloomberg’s billions make him a jet plane in a horse race. He’s Kramer from “Seinfeld” beating up nine-year-olds, whining, “We’re at the same belt level!”
None of this is about whether he would be a good president. Rasonable people can disagree about that. It’s about the fact that using a vast personal fortune to circumvent the political process is a corruption.
This is a media problem. It’s a problem of how much you are allowed to spend, where you are allowed to spend it, and where you are allowed to get it. It’s a problem that can be addressed at the level of campaign finance reform or at the level of media regulation. But it is a problem that must be addressed.
Bloomberg’s nomination would represent the utter annihilation of the marketplace of ideas. And surely ideas still count for something in America?