By Joseph Vazquez
Apparently the plebeians supporting the candidates of their choice with small dollar donations represent a major problem for American society. At least, that’s what a condescending New York Times columnist argued.
Thomas Edsall, who has an apparent obsession with telling the world how much he despises former President Donald Trump, also revealed a particular distaste for the grassroots Americans who helped propel his ascendance to the White House.
“Small Donors Are a Big Problem,” read Edsall’s grossly elitist Aug. 30 headline. “Increasing the share of campaign pledges from modest donors has long been a goal of campaign-finance reformers, but it turns out that small donors hold far more ideologically extreme views than those of the average voter.”
The “better example” of “the appeal of extremist campaigns to small donors” for Edsall, of course, was Trump.
Edsall clearly didn’t consider the optics of an elitist columnist whining about small donors getting involved in the electoral process.
The median weekly earnings for full-time American workers in 2023 was $1,100 in the second quarter of 2023, which breaks down to about $220 per day in a five-day work week. The average pay per “guest column” at The Times could be anywhere from $600 to $700, according to Chron. This indicates that it could take the average full-time worker well over 2 full work days to earn as much as writers at The Times make when they publish one single column.
Edsall must have realized the implicit snobbery in his headline, because he later changed it to: “For $200, a Person Can Fuel the Decline of Our Major Parties.”
“The development of microtargeting,” decried Edsall, “contributed to polarization by increasing the emphasis of campaigns on tactics designed to make specific constituencies angry or afraid, primarily by demonizing the opposition.” Edsall whined that the increase in political polarization bolstered by small donors meant “the prospects for those seeking to restore sanity to American politics — or at least reduce extremism — look increasingly dismal.”
“Edsall’s attack on regular Americans who care about their country reveals his obvious disdain for representational democracy,” rebuked MRC Business Vice President Dan Schneider in a statement. “Liberal elites share the same goal: silencing the little guy who they believe is too ignorant to make decisions for himself. Hairdressers, mechanics and accountants are the heart of America, not a cancer to be eradicated.”
Convenient for Edsall is the fact that nowhere does he mention that small dollar donors were heavily influential in former President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. In fact, Edsall doesn’t even mention Obama’s name.
The Washington Post reported in February 2012 that “[n]early half of the donors to Obama’s reelection campaign in 2011 gave $200 or less, more than double the proportion seen in 2007.” Apparently, Obama — who typically demonized his opponents and whom The Post once called “[t]he most polarizing president” ever during the 2012 election season — didn’t fit the bill of an “extremist campaign” fueled by small dollar donors.
Edsall is also apparently inept when it comes to understanding legal precedent. He railed that “[p]olitical parties have been steadily losing the power to shape the election process to super PACs, independent expenditure organizations and individual donors.” He blamed the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC case for being a “crucial factor in shaping the ideological commitments of elected officials and their challengers.”
Here’s the problem: That case had nothing to do with individual contributions, let alone small dollar donors. That case, which Edsall links to in his piece, specifically dealt only with caps on “independent expenditures by corporations” and corporate “electioneering communications,” not campaign contributions. Were the Supreme Court to extend Citizens United’s reasoning to campaign contributions — which are currently capped by federal law — then the relative power of small dollar donors would be greatly reduced.
But Edsall isn’t the only media elitist to grumble about small donors having a say in elections. The Dispatch Editor-in-Chief Jonah Goldberg was recently roasted on Twitter for acting pretentious while kicking up a stink about the same issue on CNN: “Small donors really are just venting their spleen with their credit card.”
It appears that Edsall didn’t learn the lesson.
Editor’s note. This appeared at Newsbusters and is reposted with permission.