Just... Wow. I hadn't checked into Daily Kos since Saturday afternoon, and I return to rec list showdown, a clash of Titans about what we're here for, what we know to be "true", and what we should do about it.
I've read the expatriation diary, the first unauthorized "redefinition" of Daily Kos, the second authorized "redefinition" of Daily Kos, and I just thought - "Wow. That really misses the point and the problem."
More over the fold.
But you know what? Both really miss an honest appraisal of the root cause of both of their issues (a better country run by better Democrats and all the effort required to affect that outcome). They are taking divergent emotional and intellectual paths towards the same goal - yet both will be continually frustrated and turned away in pursuit of that goal because neither addresses what's really going on.
Money. Money is going on.
So here's how I see it. There are certain rules that law, the courts, and the American public have set forth to even give an individual a chance at affecting change. That individual may (and likely), in their heart of hearts, have a solid set of personal ideals in which they believe strongly. When they undertake their first run for office, they carry those ideals with them, likely with the intent of stolidly pursuing policies and programs that underscore, amplify, and promote those ideals.
And then reality descends, articulated as follows:
- It is rare to impossible to get elected without money.
- Without money, it is rare to impossible to get your message out there sufficiently for a marginally engaged populace to make a choice.
"Them's the rules", as I am fond of saying. And they're the rules that have been laid down by the American people. They almost never elect someone who has no money and no ability to get their message out. It's the playing field upon which both teams are forced to play. Because having one's ideology is a wonderful thing - and deciding that that ideology can benefit other people is also a wonderful thing. But having zero chance of implementing that ideology because you can't ever get elected because you have no money (see rules above) is NOT a wonderful thing.
This is a particularly frustrating course for Democrats in particular. Republicans are pretty above-board about which master they serve. I don't sense an awful lot of underlying moral conflict with the choices they have to make to get elected and then try to push their ideology. One serves the other, one follows the other. It's a much straighter line given "them's the rules" for Republicans. Not so for Democrats - because at our core and our heart, we ARE about the poor and the working class and unions and minorities of every stripe. We always have been - it runs through what we campaign on and the grand ideas we seek to implement once elected. But "them's the rules". And Democrats know that it's impossible to get elected without money and that without money, they can't get their message out there sufficiently for a marginally engaged populace to make an informed choice that best aligns with their needs, wants and hopes. Their moral dilemma in having to accept lobbyist and industry money is a much more difficult row to hoe given what they generally believe overall. But hoe it they do - to the wrath of the non-politician Democrats who see them "selling out". Yet to me, the choice, right now and given "them's the rules", is simple: It's better to get elected and try to affect some of the changes you think are necessary than to never get elected and be very unlikely to affect even tiny part os the changes you think are necessary. It's a shitty deal, most of all for us - the non-politicians. But it's a deal I can understand them taking, even with pure intentions.
So my assertion is simple: The only way you accomplish buhdydharma's and Kestral9000's and countless other Kossacks' goals (even allowing for the divergent paths to those goals) is by changing the rules.
Yet - searching popular tags for either "Campaign Finance Reform" or "CFR" yields - wait for it - ZERO popular tags. Not one for either of those terms. Ditto for "Campaign Finance". Searching All tags gives this:
Contrast that to this:
Total diaries (ever) with tag "Sarah Palin" - 12,722
Total diaries (ever) with tag "Tea Party" - 2,412
Total diaries (ever) with tag "Rush Limbaugh" - 2,816
Total diaries (ever) with tag "Glenn Beck" - 2,403
Total diaries (ever) with tag "Bill O'Reilly" - 2,367
ALL campaign finance tagged diaries, combined, comes to only slightly more than HALF of all Bill O'Reilly tagged diaries. Am I saying that talking about Sarah Palin, the teabaggers, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly is not a fit discussion for Daily Kos? Of course not. But in context, it should be clear that the attention paid to the root cause of the problem that we are currently ALL lamenting in our different ways is infinitesimal compared to the attention paid to these other gasbags. The gasbags need to be held to account for their lies, no doubt - but it misses this key point:
With real campaign finance reform, the ability of the gasbags to co-opt the message and spread lies would be greatly reduced.
Exclamation point. And that's only a tiny part of why campaign finance reform should matter.
When the teabaggers were invading and astroturfing healthcare town halls across the nation, a well-meaning group of folks started the Coffee Party, a counter (a sane one) to rabid teabaggerism everywhere. I went to a Coffee Party meeting in my district. Great people - motivated, rational, reality-based, you name it. My kind of folks. But we came to one point in the initial, inaugural meeting of my local Coffee Party: we were all asked to articulate our single key primary item which bore attention. Of more than 30 people at my local meeting, I was the only one to list "campaign finance reform" as THE single most important issue on our plate.
My logic is simple - without campaign finance reform, everything else is an exercise (to varying degrees) in frustration.- We (Americans writ large) dictate the rules on the playing field.
- The current rules require money to affect any change, let alone good change.
- Money corrupts, and change becomes corrupted.
The Public Campaign is one group trying to push the campaign finance reform rock up a hill. You don't hear anything about them - almost never. I agree with much (but not all) of their ideas. Common Cause is another organization trying to stop the ridiculous influence of special interest money. The Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU Law School hosts an entire "Money in Politics" conference annually. I can't say how large each of these organizations is - but suffice it to say that they're not large enough to be omnipresent in even our consciousness.
My bottom line: Rail and flail, criticize and lambaste all you want. Pie fight each other until the cows come home. But if you keep doing all of that without acknowledging that the only REAL game changer is to get money out of politics, you're fighting losing battles.
Citizens United certainly set back the goal of meaningful Campaign Finance Reform - but maybe, just maybe, it also opened a door where this particular issue and its necessity can break into the public consciousness. I'm woe to type this out loud (as it were), but maybe Russ Feingold's loss can help bring his focus and knowledge to the issue to try to affect real, game-changing, rule-changing campaign finance reform.
I'll guarantee you this: the "better" part of "more and better" will only go to a certain point without campaign finance reform. But I'll also say - if we can struggle and fight for that day when special interests and corporate money doesn't dominate elections, our message resonates with 95% of Americans who are poor, working class, minority, disaffected, etc. etc. It will be a massive fight to affect this key, root cause change - and we'll have to swim against every powerful entity in trying to achieve it. It will take more time than we can possibly envision. But it won't start until WE start it. And imagine this if you will - elected representatives free to espouse and then follow their ideals without worrying about raising money and paybacks and raising more money to stay long enough to make some of the change you wanted.
You have the floor. Please - if you have campaign finance reform groups, leaders, resources, etc. - share them in the links so that more can get engaged in this effort if they so choose.
Update [2010-11-8 17:30:55 by RenaRF]: Ok then - Wow squared. Because I am truly surprised that a topic as dry as campaign finance reform would hit the reclist. In fact, LaughingPlanet points out in a comment that, including this diary, only 27 diaries EVAH in the history of Daily Kos have been tagged with some form of "campaign finance" AND "Recommended". Booyah.
So having said that - my stance on CFR is a simple one. It's not to limit Corporate or individual contributions. It's to eliminate them. Completely. Go to fully publicly financed campaigns. No TV advertising. No money, trade missions, gifts, meals, not even a coffee to electeds. The budget for national (Congressional, Presidential) races should be apportioned out of public monies and only specific things could be included as allowable expenses for candidates.
I'm meeting with some resistance to not necessarily the idea, but the potential of that in the comments. I welcome that - this is about fleshing out the idea to see if there's even enough to be the seed of an impetus of a movement to be found. But I would assert this, strictly as my opinion: everything that you find personally important as a matter of legislation or policy will always fall short of what you desire as long as CFR is allowed to be unattended. Everything. You will always fall farther down the list of "masters" in the current campaign finance climate. And you will always be frustrated.
I'm willing to be wrong here. I'm wanting to be wrong here. Because CFR isn't sexy. It doesn't currently meet, in my mind, the bar of a high value "single issue". Therefore, getting people together around this will be hard. Leaders won't change the rules - rules that they understand and operate within every day - unless they are MADE to change them, and only a bonafide movement can get that from thought to reality.
Just my $.02.
Update [2010-11-8 17:54:57 by RenaRF]: From srkp23 in the comments:
* [new] Lawrence Lessig (0+ / 0-)
has been organizing around CFR with his group Fix Congress First!
There are moments when the body is as numinous as words, days that are the good flesh continuing. -- Robert Hass
by srkp23 on Mon Nov 08, 2010 at 05:21:03 PM EST