“The mega rich are the new political bosses. Is that bad for democracy?”

From the Washington Post:

The demise of political party bosses and the smoke-filled rooms in which they operated was heralded a long time ago as an important step toward handing more power over the selection of presidential nominees to ordinary citizens. Who would have thought then that billionaires would seek to become the new bosses of American politics?

Super-wealthy individuals receive outsize attention in presidential politics. And virtually every prospective candidate wants the support of a well-funded super PAC and the vocal backing of the mega rich. The defection of a disenchanted billionaire is treated as bad news for any candidate. But what difference does all this make?…

What all this says about the nature of politics today is far more concerning. Citizens — voters — do have a larger voice in the selection of presidential nominees than they did many decades ago, but billionaires get special treatment. The richest among us can influence who runs and who does not, who has the money to stay in the race and who does not. No one planned this. The system today is an accident of several seemingly unrelated changes.

The influence of the old bosses, including powerful governors, mayors and other party leaders, began to wane over half a century ago when, after the tumultuous 1968 Chicago convention, the Democratic Party revamped rules to give more power over the selection of national convention delegates, and therefore the eventual nominee, to voters….

Few viable candidates run for president without a flush super PAC backing them up, which enhances the power of the mega-rich donors. They are courted by candidates, their family members and their top strategists, and sought out by political reporters as sources of inside information. Their opinions should carry no more weight about the strengths and weaknesses of a candidate than those of voters in Iowa or Michigan or Arizona. But their voices are amplified because they speak with dollar signs.

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