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Since the bulk of campaign contributions go to incumbent politicians, they can win reelection even when their behavior and decisions have been basically unpopular.
ln total, candidates spent about $10 billion of private money to gain office between 1988 and 1996. Those who pay for the broadcast advertisements, publications, mailing lists, airplane rentals, and phone banks of a modern campaign determine to a significant degree what is said and who wins. These contributors are, by any measure, an extremely affluent slice of the American population. Less than 1 percent of Americans give the vast majority of political contributions. In 1996, 95 percent of the people who contributed at least $200 to congressional campaigns were white; 81 percent were male; 87 percent were older than 45; and 81 percent made over $100,000 per year. More than half made over $250,000; and more than half belonged to "high status mainline Protestant churches."
Under these conditions, citizens do not have equal weight; candidates have grossly unequal resources; the campaign dialogue is distorted; and true deliberation is rare. On election day, the wheels of public opinion are supposed to interlock with the apparatus of government, so that citizens can control the whole mechanism. However, in privately funded campaigns, a different kind of coupling occurs. Public opinion hardly forms on most issues; it certainly doesn't direct the course of political events. Instead, the market manipulates the political system.