As I continue to reflect on last night's election results, one thought that keeps returning is this: A small number of very rich men threw a good deal of their money into the race, and bought virtually nothing with it. I do not think one can point to a single state that went Republican because of the floods of dark money, nor a single senate race whose outcome was determined by these attempts to buy results.
These men are very rich, and they can easily afford the money they gave to various superpacs, but they are not, I would imagine, philanthropists or compulsive gamblers [even Sheldon Adelson seems not to be a gambler, even though his many billions are derived from a world-wide chain of gambling casinos.] I have to wonder: the next time Karl Rove approaches them for the odd million or two, are they going to open their wallets, or will they decide that that is not a very prudent use of their money? They did not get rich, we can assume, by throwing good money after bad.
The cost effectiveness of their expenditures may have been greater in House races. I simply do not know. But it is striking how little they got for their money.
One reason, by the bye, is that America is a very wealthy country, overall, for all that the wealth is very unequally distributed, and a couple of billion dollars every four years is really not a great deal to spend on a presidential election. The Obama campaign demonstrated that there is more than enough money in the hands of those to the left to fund a campaign very nicely without relying heavily on a handful of billionaires.
A second thought, or perhaps it would be better to call it a puzzlement. Barack Obama has now run three highly visibly national political campaigns: the campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2008 and two presidential races. You may not like Obama, Fair enough. You may consider him a Kenyan socialist, or a Muslim bent upon imposing sharia law on an unsuspecting America, or a mediocre student who was foisted on the Harvard Law review by affirmative action. Again, fair enough. But how could anyone who is not blind imagine that he is an ineffective or incompetent campaigner? His three campaigns have been far and away the most technically proficient operations ever mounted in modern American politics. And yet it has been an article of faith on the extreme right that Obama is a bumbling amateur incapable of doing anything more than making a rabble-rousing speech. It would be easy to suppose that this bizarre misperception is merely the expression of barely concealed racism, but I have a feeling something else is at work. What it is, however, I do not know.