Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Musing About Fundraisers, Power, And Access

A bit of South Dakota political blogosphere angst has arisen over the Billie Sutton fundraiser sponsored in part by Republican Ryan Maher and the Kristi Noem $500 a plate fundraiser. Lost amid the comments about personal loyalty, hypocrisy, and the alliterative "cowboy caucus" is this trenchant admission: [t]he world is run by the people who show up."

The verb "run" connotes the projection of power despite the fact that people elected to office claim to "serve." A fundraiser, therefore, is about who has access to power or service that others will not receive. In one case, a person can show up and drop $25 in the hat. In the other one must have $500.

There's no logical reason in a country premised on the idea that all are created equal that a person who shows up at a fundraiser with $500 should have more access to those in power than someone who has no money to contribute or someone who contributes only $25. Literature, as it often does, provides an illustrative answer to the conundrum. In Flannery O'Conner's short story "Revelation," the protagonist Ruby Turpin is in a doctor's waiting room. After a brief exchange with a woman Turpin finds undesirable, O'Connor describes Turpin's alliance with another waiting patient: "The look that Mrs. Turpin and the pleasant lady exchanged indicated they both understood that you had to have certain things before you could know certain things." (emphasis mine) In Noem's case, it boils down to you have have $500 before you can know certain people.

In fairness, Suttion will likely have $100, $200, or $500 fundraisers. No one can win a statewide campaign passing the hat, even one as impressive as Sutton's. He has, however, sent the message that his door might be more open to those who can't contribute $500 at a single event whereas Noem has confirmed that under her watch, the state will be run by those who show up with money because only those with money can know certain things or certain people.

No comments: