Over the last couple of days all the buzz has been about John Bryson, Obama’s Secretary of Commerce, and his bizarre traffic incidents. Turns out there's a medical condition at the root; Bryson had some kind of seizure. I’m fine with that explanation; it meets Occam’s test better than any other proposed alternatives.
The story that interests me even more, though, is the tweet-plus-apology episode that emanated from one American Crossroads, the Rove-ing organization that spends tons of money (along with its more secretive bigger brother, American Crossroads GPS) to influence the political landscape in decidedly neo-conservative ways. (“Tons of money”, by the way, is defined specifically as more than $70 million dollars for the 2010 election cycle alone. That’s according to a December 2010 article in The Washington Post. And a Salon article in September of that same year noted that 91% of that money came from billionaires. Add to that the fact that tens of millions more have been raised since then and you quickly realize that we're not just talking about walkin’ around money….)
When the Bryson news first hit the airwaves, the responses lunged across the Twittersphere in about the same amount of time it takes an algo-trader on Wall Street to lose a billion bucks—nanoseconds. The one that caught my attention was from that self-same Rovian org, and it went like this:
"How does @CommerceSec have 3 car crashes in 5 minutes and alcohol NOT be involved? #Skills”
Later, when more info came out and Bryson announced his medical leave, American Crossroads tweeted an apology:
“Earlier Bryson tweet with hashtag #skills attempted levity (before facts known) and failed miserably. We took it down and regret the tweet.”
Okay, then. Just a bit of levity. No harm done, right? Not according to the comments I’ve seen this morning…. Here’s a choice one (edited for spelling and grammar):
“LOL ... Yeah I believe this story..... Obozos commerce secretary wasn’t high or drunk ... he was having seizures.....”
Which gets this kind of response:
“Republicans are absolute animals, savages. The man suffered seizures and these pigs tweet their usual smears. May all Republicans take a long walk on a short pier.”
Clearly, American Crossroads gets more attention when it tweets then you or I do. Apparently those tens of millions have bought them more than we think.
We say that money buys influence, or that it buys access. Sometimes, when we’re more angry than numb, we’ll shout that money buys votes, or elections, or, even worse, that it buys politicians wholesale, outright, blatantly. All of that may be true, but it’s incidental, perhaps even unimportant.
I say that because none of it would be possible if we didn’t let money in politics buy what it really wants, that little space at the base of our brains, the space where our emotions sit, waiting for just the tiniest push. What that money really buys is residence, residence in that one tiny spot, a home for some medieval homunculus to lay carpet and hang drapery, to fill a library with thoughts and ideas, to get all warm and comfortable beside a metaphorical fire where he sits, patiently, waiting for something to happen. And when it does he springs into action, picking at emotional strings like a minstrel, looking for just the right notes.
They’re not buying influence or access or elections or politicians. They’re buying us. And we let them. A seller, after all, needs a buyer. Every transaction, no matter how subtle, has two parties.
If we don’t let all that money buy that small spot in our minds, in our soul, then they lose all that power. The Rove’s, the Koch’s, the Soros’. They lose. They've got nothing if we don't let them in. So let’s just… not.
[Author's Note: Money in Politics is a key issue for CoffeePartyUSA, and one of the reasons I joined the organization. For more info, or to join, click here.]