Kevin Williamson writes the lead article in the Saturday WSJ Review Section, Election 2024: You Asked for It America:
For most of my life, the dominant myth that informed American politics was that there was too much “big money” in the system, that Washington lobbyists in Gucci loafers gathered with self-seeking party bosses in smoke-filled rooms to subvert the will of We the People and foist their preferred candidates and policies upon the country. The moral of the story was that the common people do not have enough of a voice.
But that’s the great lie of American politics (and of democracy at large): that the people cannot fail but can only be failed.
With the old media gatekeepers gone, right-wing content creators rushed in and filled the world with QAnon kookery on Facebook, conspiracy theories powerful enough to vault the cretinous likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene into Congress, fake news sponsored by Moscow and Beijing and fake-ish news subsidized by Viktor Orbán and his happy junta, and whatever kind of poison butterfly Tucker Carlson is going to be when he emerges from the chrysalis of filth he’s built around himself. The prim consensus of 200 Northeastern newspaper editors has been replaced by the sardonic certitude of 100 million underemployed rage-monkeys and ignoramuses on Twitter. The news was democratized, and, as such, it became corrupt, irresponsible and ugly.
Second, the same forces that disintegrated the old media cabal have radically democratized fundraising for political campaigns and committees. Whatever control those smug party bosses once lorded over candidates mostly had resided in the power of the purse. But the Internet made it possible for politicians and hustlers to go straight to the people, who don’t want to hear about the need to raise their Medicare premiums and reduce their Social Security checks to avoid a national fiscal crisis.
No, We the People want to hear more from that Marjorie lady about the Jewish space lasers and how Donald Trump is going to wreak vengeance against the “communists” and “Marxists” who run…Microsoft, and how vaccines are what gave them lumbago. The digital masses may not be dropping bundles of C-notes into the campaign contribution tip jar, but they hit that tip jar pretty often with smaller change, and there are an awful lot of them.Whatever real power big-money donors had to shape the political agenda has been dwarfed by the power—the much more thoroughly corrupting power—of small-dollar donors, who, unlike the National Association of Realtors or the AFL-CIO, do not have a long-term policy agenda or the attention spans to maintain one, because they are in this regard not citizens in a meaningful sense but only content-consumers. Spend a couple of hours reading political posts on Facebook and tell me that the smoke-filled room doesn’t look pretty good by comparison.