Sunday, July 18, 2010

California political paradox unveils underlying tension between voters, interest groups

The Los Angeles Times has highlighted a political paradox that's playing out in California and certainly other states and the nation as a whole. While anti-incumbent sentiment remains high (last month, California voters nearly elected an unknown state worker who spent less than $5,000 on his campaign over an incumbent Assemblymember as the GOP nominee for insurance commissioner), it is incumbents whose campaigns are getting funded and not their challengers.

Voters in effect are saying we want new blood and someone not beholden to special interest groups, but we'll elect incumbents over non-incumbents since special interest groups get the incumbents' name out there more than their relatively unknown challengers. The real fight isn't over who gets elected, but between the voters and special interest groups.

The explosion of the Internet, which is already blowing a huge hole in the business models of the mass media, could change the equation. Folks running for office -- particularly in large, populous states like California -- have to raise gobs of money in order to buy political ads from mass media outlets. However, if more voters already sick of junior high school level attack ads decide to ignore them and visit candidates' websites instead, the balance of power is shifted between them and the special interest groups that fund candidates' high priced TV spots.

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