Are America’s wealth differences the new “Jim Crow”?

Tom Bonan, Senior Writer

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Last week, I wrote an article denouncing the Supreme Court’s removal of yet another campaign finance law, and given the importance of the case I decided I would write follow-up article given new evidence on the impact of the case.

These campaign finance cases are shifting the political playing field in favor of the wealthiest Americans. This point has been reiterated throughout the various forms of media coverage regarding these decisions, but what may not be as evident is the truly small elite that this particular case is affecting.

The case removed a limit for total amount of donations that can be given to candidates by individuals in a given election cycle–just over $120,000 in total. According to a report released by Public Campaign (a non-profit focusing on the area of campaign finance) just 1,219 people hit the total contribution limit in 2012. There has been a significant amount of media coverage attacking the “1 percent” in this country, but this number represents a paltry 0.00039 percent of the country–an incredibly tiny elite.

Not only does this number comprise an incredibly small number of voters, this group is nowhere near indicative of the United States on a macro level. The same report stated “47.6 percent of these voters live in the richest one percent of neighborhoods” and “80.5 percent live in the richest 10 percent of neighborhoods.” Only 25.7 percent of this 1,219-person group were women, and of those 304 people on the list, there was spouse reciprocation, meaning that many people were probably using their spouses as a means of getting around the existing limit.

When you factor in race, the numbers become even more jarring. Currently, one in six Americans lives in a neighborhood that is predominately Black or Hispanic, but less than one in 50 of these elite donors do. The median elite donor lives in a neighborhood where Blacks comprise just 1.4 percent of the population.

These numbers are incredibly astonishing, especially given that Chief Justice John Roberts, in his majority opinion, equates the act of giving money to political campaigns as having a democratic voice. There has been little to no attempt to even disguise what is going on here.

Top donors in this country–and thus the ones with the greatest amount of “speech”–are disproportionally white, male, and wealthy. By overturning campaign finance laws such as the one we saw discarded last week, the Supreme Court is not only upholding existing power structures, but actually endorsing the status quo (and possibly something that could be even more skewed along gender and race lines) as a model system of government.

Controlling the ballot box has been a political tool used by many, starting as early as before the Civil War, and we seem to be entering upon an era of the new Jim Crow.

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