(Disclosure: I volunteered on the Ameya Pawar campaign for most of its duration, but not having enough money, he had to drop out in October.)
There is no honest or non-cynical way to argue that money doesn’t have a corrosive impact on our politics. You can argue that it isn’t the most poisonous element in our democracy–there’s also race, unacknowledged history, a legacy of violence and exploitation, a constant genuflection toward the gods of capital, Chris Cizilla–but the unlimited flow of money in politics amplifies and entrenches all those things.
There are very few people on the actual Left, and very few liberals, and even few Democrats, who disagree with this. Most potential candidates rail against Citizens United, and vow to work to overturn it. It is solidifying a system where only the richest can compete in politics, which is cancerous to democracy. Indeed, you could argue that such alienation is one of the reasons why people voted for Trump: if the system is rigged, throw in the crazy person. (I think that’s an element, but Trumpism is way more complicated than that).
The problem is, to overturn the role of money in politics, you have to win, which generally takes money. Ideally, liberal/Democratic candidates like to brag about small donations, which are clearly less corrupt. But when you get into the higher heavens of politics, that doesn’t always cut it. Candidates have to raise huge amounts of money to win, and that means buying into the same system they are railing against.
And so the moral issue for Democrats: must we bend the knee to money in order to overthrow its reign? Or by doing so, do you solidify its rule?