Money and politics. The age old issue. Since the dawn of politics, humans have debated the role of money in politics, and bemoaned its misuse and abuse. The refrain, "Get the money out of politics!" has been uttered in countless languages over centuries of time. In our own country, "campaign finance reform" has been a frequent campaign promise, and one that is just as frequently broken. It's 2018, and we still haven't figured out how to "get the money out" of politics.
The main reason for our failure to remove money from politics is that politics cost money. Campaign signs, candidate rallies, constituent outreach, voter registration drives, campaign organizers, websites, business cards, mailers, letterhead, buttons, stickers, advertisements, insurance, security, travel, etc., etc., etc., all of those things (and many more) cost money. It is impossible to get the money out of politics because you need money to operate politics.
I'm not saying there isn't waste and even fraud. I'm not saying that the backdoor deals, insider trading and in kind compensation earned by sitting lawmakers aren't a corrupting factor. I'm not saying that the money in politics doesn't need to be controlled in order to ensure ethical government. But the fact remains, campaigns cost money. Money is an inextricable part of our political process.
Even in campaigns like Donald Trump's, where he was able to spend much less than the budget Hillary Clinton did and win, millions of dollars were still spent to attain that victory. The Trump campaign spent $333 million dollars, the GOP spent $543 million, and SuperPACs spent another $80 million for a total of $957 million dollars spent to elect Trump. While that is far less than the $1.4 BILLION the Clinton campaign spent, it is still quite clear that it took great resources to elect our President.
It's just Political Economics 101. Campaigns cost money. And money doesn't grow on trees. Somebody needs to raise it.
Now there are those Trump supporters who are triggered by the idea of political economics. They are under the impression that Trump was elected by an army of grassroots volunteers and that all we need to do to win the 2018 primaries is have volunteers go around knocking on doors. While I agree that campaign volunteerism is a critical tool in the political arsenal, and that it played a significant role in electing President Trump, it is NOT the only tool necessary to win elections.
We on the Trump Train have been a little spoiled by the strength of our candidate. Donald Trump was able to spend millions of his own money. His name recognition and charisma commanded countless "free" hours of airtime. He is a consumate fundraiser, and as such makes his mastery of political economics seem effortless. At times, this has created the illusion for some Trump supporters that there is a new paradigm in politics that no longer needs money. These "no money" patriots hold a purist ideology of a "volunteer" campaign crew, and decry anyone who "makes money off of politics". They complain about patriots selling t-shirts and pro-Trump gear as "profiteering off the movement". They rail on about "useless superPACs" and accuse anyone working for a PAC of selfish greed. They insist that everyone who is "working to MAGA" should be willing, and able, to do the political work needed with NO compensation. Not even for gas, or meals. Anyone who disagrees is "just a profiteer and not a real patriot". They have taken the "get money out of politics" to the absurd extreme.
If that mentality is allowed to prevail in the Trump movement, we will lose to the Democrats in 2024 and all of our gains to MAGA will be wiped away within a year.
I'm not trying to be alarmist. It is merely cold hard economic facts. While we may be able to succeed in 2018 despite the "grassroots only" crowd, and Trump's skill as a candidate may get us through 2020, the 2024 presidential election is a whole new game. It's unlikely we will find another self financing billionaire willing to sacrifice the good life to become the media's punching bag for 4-8 years. It's even less likely that person will have the strength of personality and charisma to draw the crowds and free media attention. Come 2024 we will be struck with a very harsh wake up call: politics is NOT as easy as Trump made it look.
By 2024, the MAGA movement better understand political economics, or we will lose. And lose ALL the ground we gained.
The first step to understanding political economics is understanding economics itself. Money is not "the root of all evil". Money is a tool, like a hammer, or a gun. All three can be used as a weapon, all three can be used to protect and shelter those we love. So it's not "money in politics" that is the problem; it's the corrupt people accessing the money in politics for corrupt gain. Just like the saying "guns don't kill people, people do", the same could be said that "money doesn't corrupt government, bad politicians do". We can't blame the tool for being abused by the criminal. Once we remove the (nearly Marxist) notion that it's the money that is evil, we can start using it as an effective tool.
As a tool, money is used by the campaign to buy signs and pay staff, or by the party to host fundraising events, buy ads and hire emergency campaign workers, or by PACs and other political organizations to hold rallies and events that give candidates a place to speak out to potential voters, among MANY other necessary things. Even the "grassroots" costs money, and even an army of unpaid volunteers require signs, organizers, flyers and more to accomplish their "volunteer" work.
The harsher reality is this: both the Democrats and the establishment GOP are already well versed in political economics. They don't hold this false notion of an "all volunteer" campaign. They are happy to spend money on political work, bus in thousands for rallies, pay door knockers and phone bank callers. They get the fact that money is a tool in politics, and must be wielded effectively in order to win. If we cannot learn the same lesson in the Trump movement, we will be at a severe disadvantage once we no longer have Trump as our political paladin.
Once we accept we need the tool of money to participate effectively in politics, we can begin the second lesson in political economics: how to GET money to spend on politics. Every dime spent on politics has to be RAISED. Either the candidate raises funds, the party raises funds, or PACs, political action committees, raise funds. If you've ever tried to raise funds, you know how difficult it can be. In fact, there is an entire art/science to fundraising, and THIS is why professional fundraisers exist. If you want to raise the maximum amount possible in the least amount of time and at the lowest cost, your best bet is to hire the best fundraiser you can find. The Democrats and establishment RINO's have already hired expert fundraisers to raise money against us. Again, if we do not learn to embrace professional fundraising as a necessity to political success, we put ourselves at a grave disadvantage.
Come 2024, the MAGA movement will face a crossroads, like every other grassroots movement before it. We will have to learn to operate effectively AS A PARTY, even if we do so WITHIN the Republican Party. We will need to engage our opponents properly armed and ready with our own "political war chest" of campaign cash if we intend to secure the election of non establishment candidates. We will need the networks of donor class supporters donating, we will need the teams of fundraisers who know how to find those donors, and we will need professional campaigneers to run efficient and effective campaigns. We will need people who can invest more than just "a few hours in their spare time" to volunteer to knock on doors. We will need full time MAGA supportive campaign staff and if we want success, we should pay them well. You get what you pay for, after all.
We will also need robust and effective SuperPACs helping to raise money outside of the two party system, PACs that can compensate for an establish party that refuses in many cases to fund MAGA candidates or agendas. Like money, the Political Action Committee is a TOOL, it is a method by which people can get involved in the necessary funding of politics without being beholden to the two parties in power. The PAC may be our best weapon in the battle against the establishment swamp because of it's flexibility as a professional political fundraising tool. And we need every tool we can get.
IF we in the MAGA movement want to truly succeed in securing Trump's legacy, we will need to elect more MAGA presidents in the future. We will need to fill Congress with MAGA lawmakers. We will need to not only compete with the establishment, we will need to BEAT them, and we're going to have to learn to do it without our billionaire president. It's time we start embracing the reality that money and politics are inseparable. It's time we start acting like a grown up party capable of professional politics. It's time to grow beyond our grassroots and put down real roots as a political party, and accept professionalism in our political movement.
If we don't, then it will soon become time to accept we are going to lose.