Fantasize, if you will, Meg Whitman’s winning the governorship of California come November. It’s a stretch, but should it happen you can also imagine that in the wake of the election the airwaves and op-ed pages would be filled with comment about the millions Whitman spent and how the democratic process was headed for hell on a fast-track of money-in-politics.
But back to reality: Whitman loses to Jerry Brown, despite the fortune she threw into the race. Any chance the True Believers in McCain-Feingold and campaign finance reform would have second thoughts about whether money dictates the outcome of elections? Don’t bet me on it. Though they hold themselves out as believers in democracy, you have to wonder about people whose argument for reform is based on a vision of voters as mindless robots manipulated by whichever candidate runs the most TV spots, has the best-paid staff, and operates the biggest campaign organization in the field.
It can happen, of course. Voters often do get carried away. But if big money — even big corporate money — is all there is to it, Nelson Rockefeller would have served two terms as President and, after her then-husband Michael invested tens of millions to win office, Arianna Huffington would have reached the apex of her political career sharing finger sandwiches-and-gossip with Cindy McCain as a member of the Senate Wives Club.