Thursday, March 22, 2012

As Lincoln weeps

The morning after the Illinois Republican primary, I was running on a treadmill at my gym watching the morning news.  I just can't stomach Morning Joe on MSNBC anymore, particularly after watching Scarborough pander to the sociopath Grover Norquist while Norquist shamelessly peddled his new book entitled "Poor Children Deserve to Die."  Ok, the book is actually called "Debacle," which is a wonderfully fitting title for a book by the guy who somehow convinced countless politicians to sign a pledge that he conceived when he was twelve years old.   Therefore, I grudgingly settled on CNN to accompany my morning run.  The lead story at the top of the hour was Mitt Romney's win in the Illinois primary.

The host launched the story with a line that went something like this:  Romney tops Santorum in Illinois, but it comes at a cost.  The host went on to remark how the race in Illinois "cost" the Romney camp dearly, as they outspent Santorum's campaign by a margin of eight to one.  As the pundits discussed how this event was so burdensome to poor Mitt Romney, one thought came into my head:

They missed the point entirely with this story.  The real cost of Romney's campaign in Illinois was paid by the American people.

The sentiment that the Illinois race came at a high price to Romney was echoed in the ABC News article by Matt Negrin that day as well.  Negrin remarked:
Even Romney's win in Illinois tonight cost him. He and the super PAC supporting him outspent Santorum's forces by an eight-to-one margin on campaign advertising. 
Rick Santorum was outspent by a margin of eight to one.  Mitt Romney and the Super PAC supporting him spent $3.8 million dollars carpet bombing the people of Illinois with relentless, negative and viscious campaign ads.  Over three and a half million dollars spent on behalf of one candidate in one state in a primary race.  Right now our founding fathers are rolling in their freaking graves.

What happened in Illinois was yet one more piece of evidence pointing to an undeniable truth:  American politics is thoroughly and completely infected with the cancer of money.  The cost of this truth is not levied on the campaigns, it is levied on the broken democracy that once was our Republic.  It is levied on the people of the United States who have a government that no longer represents them.  Elections, quite simply, are bought and paid for by wealth and power.

Now, don't get me wrong, I have no love lost for the former Senator from Pennsylvania whose name produces a rather unfortunate Google search result.  I am revolted by the fact that an actual presidential contender in 2012 is talking about the wisdom and ethics of widespread birth control availability.  This is a man who believes "intelligent design" (i.e. creationism) should be taught in our public schools to provide an alternative to that kooky evolution theory, and who is in complete denial of climate change.  I am not saying that Rick Santorum should have beaten Mitt Romney in Illinois. Who knows, maybe my friends to the south simply believe his is as big a crackpot as I do.  What I am saying is that with the kind of money Mitt Romney can throw at this race, Santorum doesn't stand a chance of surging from behind (sorry, I can't help myself).

The fact that Mitt Romney and his surrogates can spend $3.8 million to buy a state primary should send people into the streets with torches and pitchforks, metaphorically speaking, of course.  Our democracy has been completely hijacked by wealth, yet the media pundits merely remark on how costly the race has been to the individual campaigns.  I believe the scope of the problem is so severe that many people have a hard time defining it or knowing where to even start the conversation.  It is that denial, that paralysis, that has brought us to the point where we are today.

In my post The Plague, I talked about the role money plays in American politics.  In that piece, I discussed how the wealthiest one percent in our nation, actually a fraction of the wealthiest one percent, make 80 percent of all campaign contributions.  The top 1% of the top 1% individually make campaign contributions that exceed the median annual income in this country.  And make no mistake about it, this small group wants the robber baron, corporate-raiding, tie-your-dog-to-the-roof-of-your-car, hologram of a man to be the Republican nominee.  They know, after all, that he will serve their interests, because he is one of them.  The Republican base hates Mitt Romney, but he will be the nominee.  Mitt Romney presided over the precurser of the Affordable Care Act, but he will be the Republican nominee.   He creeps out Republicans and Democrats alike when he speaks, but he will be the nominee.  To ensure this, his campaign and gluttonous Super PAC will throw as much money into this campaign as they can, and nobody will bat an eyelash.

As I discussed in the Plague, this is not a problem limited to the Republican party in any way, shape or form.  Both parties are infected with this cancer, as evidenced by President Obama's recent nod to the Super PACs supporting his reelection campaign.  Yet while the President's decision disappointed me, unilateral disarmament under these circumstances would amount to political suicide.  After all, Republican Super PACs have already out-raised their Democratic counterparts by a an astonishing margin of four to one.

I will say it again:  Our democracy will remain sick and broken until we drive the influence of money from our political system.  We need to undue Citizens United through a constitutional amendment that declares that corporations are not people and money is not political speech.  Once that occurs, we can set out to pass sensible campaign finance laws that level the playing field for all citizens.  We can stage a legislative intervention that forces both parties to deal with their addiction to special interest money.  Until that happens, our politicians will continue to spin their wheels and fail to tackle the meaningful issues facing average Americans, because we are not the ones paying their bills.

Simply put, until we get the money out, nothing will change.  And Mitt Romney is betting a lot more than $10,000 that I am right.



  1. There is some evidence that the White House is pushing Barrett to run for Governor again and I'm sure the party will try to raise and spend a lot of money to beat Walker. But should the Democratic party's candidate win, will we know who he is beholden to? Will it be AT&T as it was with Jim Doyle? Or will mining interests stake a claim? Maybe the road builders will ante up? It would be very sad to get ourselves a new Governor and then find out that he or she is not really ours.

    1. Yet we already have a governor whom we KNOW is not really ours...

  2. I think that for many of us so inclined to agree with Brian's theme, the question of powerful abuse of wealth and unregulated money in politics is the obvious insidious factor in the loss of the people's ability to effectively participate and elect a representative government for the common good. In my mind it is all about "the tipping point". The privileged wealthy class have the financial ability to buy political public policy by these factors cited of 4 to 1 or 8 to 1 $ spent, depending on the race and interests arrayed for competing for advertising political message dispersing expenses. The beholding factor by candidates, no matter what camp they are beholding to, has become a constant factor of special interest money against the common good public policy. And that is because the success of candidates lives or dies on the ability to buy messaging in costly sound bites and attack mode confrontation, rather than honest formulation of policy for the common good.

    Yes, we who agree with Brian's premise would love to see a constitutional amendment to somehow restructure this balance of power; wealth and special interest VS common good legislative initiatives. But, that is a goal that seems far in the distance. It may be that "the tipping point" comes sooner than the process of some ideal of a constitutional amendment. Perhaps a common realization occurs of just how much political power of the many has been lost to the privileged few in the perverse money fueled political process, and that causes a societal rebuke and social contraction that becomes civil unrest. I believe if one takes the long view back in history, and project similar competing socio-economic tides, we may face such a tipping point, not unlike similar social tipping points we faced in the late 60s related to different yet similarly powerful issues, i.e., race, war, poverty.

    Or,,, maybe the human mind will evolve in such a way as to be able to critically filter out the divisive and destructive tactics and sophistry spun by the wealth-special interest classes political messaging that vie against a common public policy good, and we simply develop the ability to totally discount the ubiquitous costly assaults on our intelligence, and we begin to elect those that can actually articulate sound common good legislative public policy initiatives... it could happen!


  3. No one is arguing against the availibility of birth control. It is just a mattwr of i choose not to pay for yours. Strawman. Liberal. Synonyms.

    1. "One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." Rick Santorum, 2011

      And I'm the strawman?

  4. You should totally talk with Buddy Roemer!!! "Washington isn't 'broken': it's BOUGHT!"