Which costs more and scares you less: Halloween or the 2022 elections?
Many Americans will spend October stoking fear and building tension, with no shortage of blood-curdling screams. Then there's Halloween.
Over a two-year period, more than $9 billion will be spent on Elections 2022. Money will be thrown at Americans to get them to choose between political candidates and parties, just as it will be spent on Marvel costumes, candy corn, and the rest. Between the midterm elections and Halloween celebrations, U.S. spending will total upwards of $20 billion, dominating public discourse.
While Halloween spending is driven by market demand and impervious to criticism (as it should be), election-related spending drives some people crazy. Spending money to promote your ideas is far scarier than Halloween to those whose ideas your particular spending may oppose.
Campaign finance "reform" is now a top priority of the Democrat party, with End Citizens United spokesman Adam Bozzi claiming that "it's both good policy and good politics." (Side note: End Citizens United, as a nonprofit organization, does not disclose its own donors.)
The left's insistence on shutting down free speech and free association is strangely obsessive when it comes to politics. It seems as though only speech and association that have to do with the electoral system and the democratic process are worth condemning, despite the fact that they form the very foundations of our democracy.
What is democracy but your freedom to organize and communicate on behalf of your ideas? And yes, meaningful communication requires spending money — something Democrats have no problem with, so long as their ideas are being communicated.
But as long as you're not spending money on politics, it's quite all right. And, yes, a Marvel Halloween is quite all right. Consumerism is a good thing, just as money in politics is a good thing. In fact, American politics needs more money, not less, because political spending is associated with the free flow of ideas. It is a reflection of public discourse in the idea marketplace, with the most popular ones (like Marvel) dominating the discourse while the least popular ones (sorry, Green Lantern) ultimately fade away. Similarly, candy choices with the most appeal attract the most consumer dollars, while the organic alternatives get thrown away.
That's the whole point. The market is the ultimate freedom: taking the product of your own hard work (or that of your parents) and spending it on whatever ideas — or candy — you may choose. In politics, good ideas attract money, just as sugary candy attracts the most kids.
Winning candidates and political parties draw attention from donors large and small. Of course, losing ones (i.e., Michael Bloomberg) can flood the political system with billions of dollars, but money is no guarantee of victory. Bloomberg knows that better than most.
So why shouldn't we be free to choose, in any marketplace, what's right for us?
No amount of money will get Americans to embrace ideas that aren't actually popular, just as you can't pay me enough to eat Hot Tamales for Halloween.
The amount of money in politics is a barometer of civic engagement writ large, and civic engagement is inherently beneficial to democracy. A democratic system can't function without it. The more money spent, the more people are engaged, and the more ideas compete to curry favor in the marketplace. Just like in the U.S. economy, competition leads to greater consumer choice and more personal freedom.
Leading up to Election Day, here's a pro tip: don't listen to Democrats crying wolf about political spending. Keep dressing up as Spiderman, keep eating your Skittles, and keep contributing to American democracy.
Dan Backer is a veteran campaign counsel, having served more than 100 candidates and PACs, including two of the largest pro-Trump super-PACs, and now Ready for Ron. He is of counsel at Chalmers & Adams LLC, a political law and litigation firm.