Turns Out Money Doesn’t Buy Elections After All
The 2020 Democrat primary began with what seemed like an endless field of candidates that’s since been cut down to four individuals who have any chance at winning the nomination: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg. There are still ten other candidates in the primary with differing levels of name recognition – but all their poll numbers combined still don’t equal Biden’s.
From a political science perspective, the entrance of billionaires Michael Bloomberg an Tom Steyer into the race has allowed for a case study on the role of money in politics. For as much as the Left decries money “buying elections,” the billionaires of this race are learning that not to be the case.
Michael Bloomberg has spent nearly $100 million on campaign ads, and for all that, he’s only polling at 5.1% in the Real Clear Politics average.
The case of Tom Steyer – whose name may only vaguely ring a bell – is more of the same. Despite spending over $81 million on advertisements, he polls between zero percent and three percent. He’s averaging a steady 1.3% across all the polls, roughly the same as “insert name here.” $81 billion is roughly 5% of Steyer’s net worth, so it’s been a relatively costly gamble with nothing to show.
So what gives? Quite simply – no amount of money is going to make most people want to vote for Bloomberg or Steyer. As explained in Freakonomics:
It is almost always the guy with the most money who wins. That is what we know as correlation without cause. So let me explain: When it’s raining out, everybody’s got an umbrella, we know that. Those things are correlated. But you know what, the umbrellas don’t cause the rain, we know that too. Here’s the thing: Winning an election and raising money do go together, but it doesn’t seem as though money actually causes the winning either. It’s just that the kind of candidate who’s attractive to voters also ends up, along the way, attracting a lot of money and the losing candidate, nobody wants to give money to that guy.
What about a billionaire like Donald Trump? In the Republican primary he decimated heavily funded opponents like Jeb! Bush, and defeated Hillary Clinton while spending half as much money. Candidates want money for publicity, andTrump simply cut out the media man and monopolized the media’s attention himself.
Currently Trump dominates the entire field of 2020 Democrat candidates according to a recent USA Today poll, and no amount of money is going to change that for Democrats.