Sorry, Politicians' Dance Cards Are Full

When the amateurs ask me - and by amateurs I mean the good citizens outside the circle of professional politics - when they ask me why Washington doesn't seem to listen when every poll shows that people hate partisanship and want compromise, I tell them, 'The professional politicians always listen. They listen to the people who gave them the money to get to Washington.'

American politics used to be an amateur sport, but somewhere along the way, we handed over to professionals all the things people used to do for free.

So an enormous cottage industry sprang up - consultants, gurus, strategists, pollsters who discovered it was easier to win elections by driving wedges between people than bringing them together.

Politics got nastier, and - worse - it came with a price.

Did it ever!

The Center for Responsive Politics says the 2008 campaigns cost $5.3 billion. Good money if you can get it and, full disclosure, TV got a lot of it.

It cost an average $8.5 million to win a seat in the Senate. In Minnesota, Norm Coleman spent $20 million and lost.

On average, a Senate candidate had to raise $3,881 a day for every day of a six-year term. Only those willing to do that run any more.

So to raise that kind of money, candidates must promise so much to so many, that before they get to Washington, once here, they can't compromise on anything - their positions are set in stone.

So they're listening all right, but like the loyal country girl, they're just listening to them that brung 'em.
  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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