President-elect Trump broke a lot of barriers this election. He overcame controversy, a so-called "unprofessional" campaign operation and the opposition of both major party establishments.
His election should also allow political observers to retire an old cliche: The idea that "money buys elections." How can anyone say otherwise at this point?
Of course, the battlefield was already littered with candidates from both parties that outspent their opponents, only to lose. Meg Whitman, John Corzine, Linda McMahon and a host of other famous and unfamous names outspent their opponents on the way to defeat in previous years. But Trump may put all of those elections to shame when it comes to disparity of resources.
Consider that Hillary Clinton's campaign outspent Trump by more than two-to-one. Pro-Clinton ads outnumbered pro-Trump ads by three-to-one. Independent groups (the "super PACs") supporting Clinton outspent independent groups supporting Trump by three-to-one. The average contribution to Trump was smaller than the average contribution to Clinton. And on and on it goes.
We're told by campaign finance "reformers" that we must restrict spending in politics so that "people" can have their voices heard. But voters in 2016 ultimately chose the candidate without even a "real" super PAC to speak of.
This tells us two things: First, that money is simply the facilitator by which candidates speak to voters, but that voters will make up their own minds. Second, it shows us that money simply can't make up for a message that people aren't interested in. After his defeat, the man in charge of Jeb Bush's $100 million super PAC remarked of the voters: "They just weren't buying what we were selling."
Let's hope the same goes for tired tropes on money in politics.
Bradley Smith is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is chairman and founder of the Center for Competitive Politics and served on the Federal Election Commission from 2000 to 2005. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.