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How Super PACs Warped the 2012 Election

American democracy's downhill slide continued in 2012.

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Athough Democrats and political junkies were delighted with the way GOP candidates beat each other up in their presidential primaries, when that process was done and large slices of the electorate took a fresh look at Romney, the Obama’s campaign was able to shape voter’s first impressions. Conversely, there also came a point in the final stretch where voters reached a saturation point—or diminishing returns—where no matter how much the GOP spent on TV ads that it was not longer influential.

No matter how you look at big money’s role in 2012—from afar or from the trenches—it’s had, Ferguson said, a “permanent effect” on the democratic process. When he looks ahead he sees the U.S., from its political system to its economic system, devolving to what has become commonplace in Latin America: nations run by oligarchs.

“The only thing that can beat this kind of stuff is a mass movement,” he said. “This is an aspect of [broader economic] inequality. If you get to Latin America-style inequality, you’ll get Latin-American style politics.”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, the low-wage economy, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).