Lysistrata 2012

A few weeks ago, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz suggested that we close the spigot of contributions to political candidates until our employees in the legislative and executive branches of government (“leaders” hardly seems apt at this point) get their collective act together.

A few thousand years ago, Aristophanes, an early observer of democracy and community organizing, wrote a play in which Greek women organize to stop having sex with the men until the men stop fighting yet another war.  I’m sure the analogy is flawed in more ways than I’ve already imagined, but maybe it’s good enough for government work – pun intended.

We merrily point our mouses and click our money away, happy to be part of the internet fund raising “miracle” pioneered by the 2006 Patrick campaign, and kicked into high gear by Obama in 2008.  I’d like to propose an experiment: we, the “grassroots”, “netroots”, or whatever roots you like to think you’re part of, shut down the ATM we have created for political candidates.

Admittedly it’s a scary experiment, not because it could cost a candidate the election, but because we might not like what we have discovered if it doesn’t matter.  It’s always upsetting to learn that you are not playing the real game, but instead are being entertained by the kiddie version so you don’t distract the big kids who are playing an altogether different game.

If roots dollars do matter, capping the well could cause candidates to alter their behavior.  Imagine a senate race in which the ultimate goal is something other than blanketing the air with tv commercials to deliver a consultant branded image.  That could be a race in which candidates and their campaigns have to spend time in real conversations with people, and local party committees are forced to go out and engage voters who aren’t already committed to supporting the party’s nominee.  It wouldn’t take money out of politics, but it might shift the focus of government back ever so slightly toward the needs of the people who live in the economy we’ve created.

Personally, I’m going to give it a try.  Along with Bill Moyers, “I don’t harbor any idealized notion of politics and democracy … but there is nothing idealized or romantic about the difference between a society whose arrangements roughly serve all its citizens and one whose institutions have been converted into a stupendous fraud. That difference can be the difference between democracy and oligarchy.”



Discuss

5 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. But is there any real doubt

    that any strategy along these lines would be tantamount to unilateral disarmament, where the forces whose power you lament would simply take over the entire field?

    No, President Obama isn’t perfect. But yes, he’s a whole hell of a lot better than President Perry, or even President Romney, would be. If you don’t believe that, you are simply kidding yourself.

    • pilot program at the state level

      How about something more modest, we don’t pay for tv commercials in the US Senate Race? If you want to contribute dollars and raise dollars, establish a local pac and support Warren, Khazei, or whomever, that way. If we don’t want to stop feeding the machine altogether, put it on a diet that it will notice.

      I wasn’t meaning this comment as a dig at Obama, but maybe at a subconcious level I have been carrying Cornel West’s recent very critical article around in my head.

  2. Why this is unutterably stupid

    Take it from former GOP operative Mike Lofgren:

    A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

  3. Thats an old adage

    The Republican Party rests on the theory that the government is ineffective at improving the welfare of the people and then when they are in power they do a great job of proving this theory correct-Adlai E Stevenson

    I prefer Truman

    “Republicans don’t like people to talk about depressions. You can hardly blame them for that. You remember the old saying: Don’t talk about rope in the house where somebody has been hanged.”

  4. *blink*

    We merrily point our mouses and click our money away, happy to be part of the internet fund raising “miracle” pioneered by the 2006 Patrick campaign, and kicked into high gear by Obama in 2008. I’d like to propose an experiment: we, the “grassroots”, “netroots”, or whatever roots you like to think you’re part of, shut down the ATM we have created for political candidates.

    Why don’t we just take that money and pay somebody to poke us in the eye with a sharp stick? Any excess funds can be spent on slathering the pointy end of the stick with some toxic waste mixed with a suitably infectious material. That’ll really show ‘em.

    All seriousness aside, the notion that political candidates take money for granted is a real one but withdrawing that money, at this particular time, isn’t a particularly sane course. If you’d really like to make a statement then the path to take, it seems to me, is to challenge the laws directly: there are some glaring gaps in logic with respect to all campaign funding laws and, especially, with current jurisprudence on the same…

    At least with respect to money in politics, it’s all or nothing and sad but true.

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Mon 1 Sep 4:57 PM