Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why we need to wring the money out of our politics

Digby, at Salon.

...Whenever a powerful member of the party leadership retires or goes down to defeat, the rest of the members lose a very important resource: money. And lots of it.  The way these people ascend in partisan politics isn’t through their “beliefs” or any kind of ideological purity, it’s through their ability to raise money from big donors and industry and their strategic sense of how best to spread it around. (Eric) Cantor may have been a jerk — everyone says so.  But he was the majority leader because he had bought partisan loyalty over the years from being in bed with big money and judiciously spreading it around.

Heavy sigh.

But it isn’t just money. It’s also organization. As Robert Costa reported last Friday, McCarthy had it in spades. Not that he built it himself, mind you. He inherited the chief of staff of the most ruthlessly effective House majority leader in GOP history:

McCarthy’s office — led by chief of staff Tim Berry, who served in the same role for former House majority leader Tom Delay (R-Tex.) — methodically built their count with a numerical ranking system that DeLay had mastered. That gave McCarthy critical intelligence on who might need extra attention. And McCarthy’s top deputy whips weren’t his closest friends, but rather committee chairmen, a sign he understood how best to reach members — through their bosses.

Tom and his minions learned something from trying to kill cockroaches, obviously.  It's also now clear that we will never completely extinguish the children of The Hammer.  But back to the new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss.

Kevin McCarthy has been planning this ascension since the beginning of his political career. He’s an establishment man all the way, and in the establishment, money talks. (In fact, money’s “speech” has even got constitutional protection.) It’s how power is built and it’s not exclusive to the Republicans. Democrats do it exactly the same way.

I'd like to say 'duh' but there are still too many voters who don't understand this.  And when I say voters, I mean Democratic ones.  You know... the people who have nominated Jim Hogan this year, and in years past, Grady Yarbrough and Gene Kelly and the like.  Voting in midterm elections, especially in Texas, is a minority report, so you have to imagine that the majority -- non-voters -- just doesn't think enough about this sort of thing to care.

Weekend after next, Texas Democrats meet in plenary session in Big D to caucus and rally their partisans for a fall faceoff in which they remain decided underdogs.  I'll be among them as both reporter and delegate.  Unless, you know, somebody holding a grudge about my Green participation decides to try to strip my credential.  I don't expect that to happen, but stranger things and all that.  Still, it'll be nice to have a long weekend in another growing bastion of blue in the Lone Star State.  Dallas County elected a lesbian sheriff before Houston elected a lesbian mayor, after all.

There are Democrats who are suspicious of my midterm election year conversion, just as there are Greens who think I've sold out for access.  Here's how I rationalize it: until the liberal political party devoid of corporate influence can at least grow strong enough as an electoral threat to pull the Democrats back from the right, I -- we -- have to play in the sandbox as it is constructed.  And that does NOT mean trying to raise as much money as the GOP.  It does mean that we need to plug into Move to Amend, and support the infrastructure and local efforts to reduce and ultimately end the corrupting influence of caysh in the body politic.  In terms of minimal impact greater than nothing, some intensification of this movement in Texas sends a message to that toad Ted Cruz.

Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Tim Berry, and yes, Greg Abbott should be all the evidence you need to see that change is long overdue.

Update: Or perhaps we could just tell our Congresscritters to enforce the Tillman Act of 1907.

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