For decades now, money has been the name calling the game. The more money a candidate could raise, the more likely that candidate's victory. And the super-wealthy have been raising the stakes for all of us unwealthy just by parting with a bit of chump change. Sure, it's chump change that could buy us all dinner and a college education, but still, in comparison with their fortunes, it's insignificant. If you're already depressed about the condition of the country, don't you dare read Jane Mayer's Dark Money, for one sobering example.
So out of nowhere comes a Vermont Senator, a Socialist, no less, one almost no one outside of Vermont has heard of, and he gets popular ... without money. With only a promise to do things FDR got popular doing. No compromising, no deals, no "third way democrat" (just another term for republican in a donkey outfit). And it's exciting.
For the first time, we can see the possibility that the moneyed forces might not be able to buy an election. Sanders might lose, of course: when you attack money, you attack everything that makes money (the media and the media's funding mechanism, commercials) and everyone who takes money (almost everyone else).
Sadly, you also attack another candidate that has another demographic fired up.
I went to the local caucus (a democratic version of a primary). We stood in a very, very crowded room in a small school and decided which delegates to send to the Capitol. First, though, we exchanged opinions. And a few opinions on Clinton's candidacy were voiced by a woman whose voice was tiny. I don't know if she was nervous about public speaking, or excited about Hillary, or both, or neither. But there was such emotion behind her speaking. She was witnessing something that a vast majority of American women never lived to see: a woman running for president.
It was moving to see. But I couldn't agree.
Say what you will about Ms. Clinton—cite her experience, her record, all good, I am happy to concur—she is still mainstream. And in politics, that means she is pro-money.
When it comes to the glad-handling, the zillion-dollar-a-plate meals, the dialing for dollars, she is no change from the rest. Hell, remember President Obama's first debate with Romney, how badly he blew it? He was spending his time at fundraisers, burning the charisma instead of boning up on one of the biggest tests in his candidacy.
Back to Hillary. Back in 2008, when Hillary was running, she couldn't really go against moneyed interests. Her husband said of firms like Romney's, firms which buy companies with borrowed money, redirect them in a new direction, then bail on the "new" company, leaving them the bill for the borrowed money: "'I don't think we ought to get into the position where we say this is bad work—this is good work.'"
Never mind that it is probably the most destructive, the most parasitical practice one can imagine. Never mind that at all. Why? Family.
From 2006 until 2009, Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of the former president, worked as an associate at Avenue Capital Group, a $14 billion private equity and hedge fund firm. Marc Lasry, co-founder of Avenue Capital, was a major Clinton supporter as well as a $1 million investor in a fund managed by the Clintons' son-in-law, Marc Mezvinsky. Now, as the Obama administration was teeing up Romney's rapacious business record as his key disqualification, Clinton summarily announced that Romney's "sterling business career crosses the disqualification threshold."
So even if she wanted to revamp the tax laws and make it less likely for people with money to have enough money to leverage donations into favorable tax laws, she couldn't. Her daughter was a part of the problem, as was her husband.
Hell, Bill Clinton—one of my favorite Republican presidents, after all—pioneered the transformation of the Democratic party into a carbon-copy of the Actual Republicans. All he had to do was abandon all hope of keeping FDR's party alive and just attach the same name to the corpse. Money? No problem. You give a bit to us, they seem to say, and we'll let you keep it.
And then Bernie comes along and finally states the problem as it exists. Money is corrupting everything. The scale of the problem is seldom discussed, though there is some change happening there. Just today, I heard This American Life (same one I linked to above) interview one of the Richie Riches that is following Charles Koch's playbook. That was refreshing.
Why would he allow himself to be interviewed? I think things have gotten so bad in politics that the rich are bragging. They do call the shots. They don't donate, as in a charity; they invest, and they expect a return on that investment. Their goal is to keep taxes low, regulation (you know, those things that prevent poison from getting into too much water, air and food) non-existent as possible, and government small enough to bring to heel.
Doug Deason in the TAL piece ain't the only one bragging. One of the largest donors, Betsy DeVos of the Amway fortune, wrote this in 1997:
"I know a little something about soft money, as my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party." She said, "I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican Party to use the money to promote these policies, and yes, to win elections. People like us," she concluded archly, "must surely be stopped."
(Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Random House, 2016, pp. 235-236.)
I agree, Betsy. You should be stopped.
But no one will be able to make a dent in your corrupting influence as long as they take money and give it to commercials. Ah, but here's the trap: feed the commercials and you feed the news agencies that rely on the commercials. News agencies, as primed as they are to scoop and dish the news, seldom attack the hands that feed them. Ever notice that?
So why would they delve deeply into political races with a critical eye to the deformations done in the name of money? They, after all, are the ultimate recipients of that money. Listen to a CBS executive crow about all that sweet, sweet political ad cash that will soon fill their coffers:
Les Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, celebrated Donald Trump’s candidacy for the second time on Monday, calling it “good for us economically.” Moonves, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference at the Park Hotel in San Francisco, described the “circus” of a presidential campaign and the flow of political advertising dollars, and stated that it “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS, that’s all I got to say.”
“So what can I say? The money’s rolling in, this is fun,” Moonves continued, observing that the debates had attracted record audiences.
(I emboldened the bold words.)
I want to defund the entire system. For the first time, thanks to Bernie, I can see that it might be possible.
And that's exciting.
But that would interfere with Hillary Clinton's presidency, wouldn't it? Well, yes. She's vulnerable when it comes to money, so yes.
And when I say things like this, express my disgust at money, my disgust at corruption, say I might sit this one out, I get nagging gnats in my ear.
I'm accused of being a "Bernie Bro," whatever that means. I assume it's not flattering.
I'm accused of voting for Trump. Okay, this has some merit, but very, very little. When I was young and ... well, young, I accused people who voted for Nader of being the cause for all the Shrubbery troubles that followed.
And now... I realize how wrong I was. Our problem then as now is our broken voting system. It sucks. We have to vote strategically to avoid "worse" evils.
But in places where they tried to fix this problem, we have the political status quo (and the media agencies that carry their water) describing a good outcome as a terrible one:
A record 8 of 11 supervisors on the new board have an interesting distinction: They were not the first choices of a majority of voters, but prevailed in the city’s ranked-choice voting system.
If you're unfamiliar, ranked choice gives people the option of voting for more than one candidate by rank. That way, if they candidate you do like doesn't win, your vote (or a portion of it, depending upon the system being used) goes to another you chose down your ranking.
It does mean, though, that candidates don't necessarily win by getting a majority of the first ranking.
Which the NYTs has declared means they were chosen by almost no one:
Several factors — including ranked-choice voting, which is an instant runoff system; the low turnout of 61 percent; and district elections with many candidates — mean that, individually, supervisors received the support of a tiny fraction of overall residents compared with 1980 to 1998, when board members ran citywide.
How small? Several supervisors were the first choice of only 2 percent or less of the city’s total voters.
So what?! They were also the second and third choice of a lot of people! Meaning they weren't "losers" as the article exclaims:
Since winning in the instant runoff, Mr. Weiner has been meeting with those who preferred his opponents. “I’ve been actively engaging those who did not support me,” he said.
Ms. Cohen, a fourth-generation San Franciscan, has had similar meetings and said she planned to hold office hours in cafes and libraries “to earn the support of those who did not support me.”
Which is ridiculous! Supporting a candidate with a first-rank vote is just a little better than supporting one with a second- or third-rank. It doesn't mean, as the first speaker described, that the people didn't support him at all!
But having more than one candidate in an election is disastrous to a newspaper or television station. They want the easiest way to report things, not the fairest. And easy means horse-race style, the fewer nuances between the participants the better.
That election style buys the most ads.
Which brings to to the overly-emotional displays of shock, of condescension, of disappointment that I've been seeing when anyone hears that anyone might dare vote someone other than Her. (And let's remember that not voting or writing in someone else is the same as voting for Hitler in this logic.)
I'm tired of this nattering crowd. They are HillSplaining, but I'm done listening.
Money is the problem. Would you like to know how bad? In the TAL piece, Deason said that Charles Koch himself might vote for Hillary.
Which means he does not see her policies as that threatening to his own privileged position.
And what little media coverage of this clusterfuck I've seen does nothing what journalists should be doing: Comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable. They can't. Their bottoms are riding on business winning, both fiscal bottom lines and asses.
So Bernie gets short shrift.
In the near future, though, I see a shift. Younger people have almost no future. Be the next 4 or 8 years under one of today's candidates, that future is almost guaranteed a continuing bleak destiny of sad. Which means these same young folks will hopefully vote against money next time.
In the meantime, if you are supporting Hillary, do so positively. Don't harangue. Don't challenge. Just support her. That's good political strategy. I won't challenge your decision, other than to good-naturedly quip that a real progressive would pick a logo that didn't point to the right.
We've gone rightward quite enough.