I’ve raised money for candidates myself, and I’ve given money to
candidates. And you know what? I hate it. I feel like I’m suckered into
a game that I know is heavily slanted against me, and whose rules have
nothing to do with anything I value. In short, it’s a shakedown — I’m
paying protection money so that maybe someone will actually pay
attention to what I care about. (That’s why I hate all the supposed
candidate-evaluation-by-dollars that occurs on this blog and others;
sure, it’s relevant to who wins, but it ain’t no-how relevant to what’s
good for us. )
And so we’re left with the current sad state of our party. The
Democrats are trapped playing a money game which is designed for them
to lose. For a party that’s generally disposed to equality of
opportunity and the good of many instead of a few, there’s simply no
way to compete with those that have a lot and wish to keep it. But,
Dems in office are disinclined to change the game, since after all,
it’s worked well enough for them. These Dems must understand that their
days are numbered: You can continue with the current system and resign
yourselves to permanent minority status, or to the prospect that a
moneyed candidate can threaten your seat.
Or you can decide not to play the game at all.
US Reps Barney Frank (D-Newton) and David Obey (D-WI) will propose a
campaign finance bill which would provide for all congressional
elections. Now, some conservatarian sorts may object to either the use
of taxpayer funds for races, or to the civil liberties aspect of
restricting campaign giving. As for the latter, in spite of Buckley vs.
Vallejo, I think it’s pretty clear that Money Is Not Speech. It used to
be said that “for freedom of the press, you need a press”, but that’s
certainly not true now, if it ever was. Speech happens, regardless of
who’s paying for it, if anyone.
As a taxpayer issue… come on. Within reason, this has got to be a
slam-dunk in favor of taxpayers. <a
at earmarking — $27.3 billion worth. Do you think this would
happen at this scale without the influence of campaign cash? How about
our insanely wasteful prescription drug bill (<a
trillion — with a “T” — over ten years)? <a
for oil drilling ($8.1 billion in tax breaks alone)? I would
genuinely love to hear from conservatives as to whether they think all
that is money well spent. (Peter Porcupine, you out there? Bruce?
rightmiddleleft?) I have to think that without the largely-hidden
influence of campaign cash, we’d get smaller, more efficient government.
Now, many are skeptical as to whether campaign finance laws work:
- All that money’s got to go someplace, right? It’ll just end up on
the airwaves, just as independently produced ads that will propagandize
all of us into a docile Borg.
- And heck, McCain-Feingold didn’t change anything anyway, right?
Now, #1 is partly true. The money will go someplace — hopefully “into
the sunlight”. If moneyed interests are buying their influence through
public discussion of their issues, that’s a net gain in comparison to
bribes made directly to politicians, out of the public view. As it
always has been, it will be up to a strong, independent press and a
well-informed electorate to make sense of the content of such
propaganda. More work for us, no question, but I like the odds of good
policy better under those circumstances.
#2 is false, in my opinion. I actually think there has been a move of
the political center of gravity back to the grassroots, possibly as a
result of McCain-Feingold. The problem for those of us on the left is
that not only does the right have more money, it’s better organized,
too, due to the “social capital” of the religious right. It’ll always
be hard for us to compete on money; but <a
no excuse for not being
Think of publicly-funded campaigns as a security system for our budget
against looting by special interests. Yes, it costs money up front, but
at least you don’t lose the store.