David Trone was emphatic, “You shouldn’t have to apologize for success,” he said defending using his personal wealth in his run for the District 8 congressional seat being vacated by Chris Van Hollen.
According to Trone special interest groups are “continuing to corrode democracy,” but his wealth afforded him complete independence. He made these points in a debate sponsored by The Montgomery County Sentinel last week.
He is right about special interest groups. He is also right about other candidates for the office he seeks who have their problems with the stain of money haunting them.
But there is a logical fallacy in Trone’s argument. First there is the statement attributed to a California politician; “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, take their money and then vote against them you’ve got no business being up here.”
Trone believes huge amounts of money from PACs and special interest groups are influencing his other opponents for the democratic nomination for Congress, specifically, and all politicians in general. This suggests Trone only believes the truly honest politician would either be the extremely wealthy who owes nothing to special interests or the candidate who refuses to accept large donations and has a grass roots following.
We all know grassroots followings are fine things, but the backside of that argument is no grass roots candidate can possibly hope to raise as much money as the mega-wealthy can. Democracy, therefore, if we follow Trone’s logic belongs to the sugar-daddy class of the ultra-wealthy.
If Trone, as a member of the extremely wealthy class wants to hit home with his message he would be telling me why we need campaign finance reform so every candidate gets as much attention as the mega-wealthy.
But there is another logical fallacy inherent in Trone’s assertion about his independence.
If, as Trone suggests, donations from PACs and contributors make a candidate a slave to those contributors, then at least with other candidates there are many competing interests involved.
If you are largely funding your own candidacy and claim to be “independent,” then who funded you? In Trone’s case he’s made his fortune in the alcohol industry. Is Trone any less dependent on what made his fortune than the average politician who receives donations from multiple sources?
The whole idea of “independence” should be put to rest as well. I don’t want an independent politician. I want one who realizes they work for the people and are dependent on us for their livelihood. The arrogance of money may give one the idea they are independent and while we all are fans of independent thought – a politician who thinks they are independent can be the worst of the lot.
Anyone seen Donald Trump on the national stage? His money gives him the illusion of independence but in fact he’s dependent on pandering to the lowest-common-denominator of humanity in order to garner support.
He’s not been a public servant. He’s never cast a vote, never had to debate with opponents and never had to answer to the public.
This isn’t to say those currently in office are the best choice for the current seat.
While a voting record, debating skills and the ability to handle yourself in the rough and tumble world of the legislature are intrinsic qualities needed by our next representative in the House, there are plenty of examples of people who never held public office who did just fine once they got into Congress.
Our debate Saturday showed us that all nine candidates have qualities which would make them decent, if not great members of Congress.
We respectfully disagree with all of them on some of their stances.
Some of these candidates deserve greater scrutiny for good and for ill than they are currently receiving. Some of that is a function of money.
Money is a huge problem in politics – and that problem exists whether the money comes from a PAC or out of your own pocket.
But the “appearance” of purchasing an election out of your own pocket is particularly worrisome to the electorate.
At the end of our debate Trone held up his watch and waved it to indicate he wanted to leave. As he left he was overheard disparaging the debate and “wasting” his time.
The impression he left was of a man with deep pockets upset he couldn’t control the events of the debate to his liking.
If he wants to be a Congressman he’ll have to do better than that.