Wednesday, September 12, 2012

About that money and politics thing

Charles rejoined today to this post of mine yesterday a few days ago.

I maintain that money is a key part of the equation here, and I find myself puzzled at the animus that some folks have to this. If we believe that doing the same thing over and over again in hope of a different result is ill-advised, then I would maintain that trying to win elections while hopelessly outgunned financially is something we have already decisively shown to be a bad idea. The hard work of organizing, identifying and registering new voters, then getting them to the polls, is not going to be done by an army of volunteers. It’s going to take permanent, paid, professional staff to do that. Communicating a message takes money, too. I’m fully aware of the corrosive effects of money in politics. I’d love to see more public financing available for qualified candidates, and I’d love to see far more restrictions on PACs and corporate contributions, but as long as Citizens United is the law of the land I have no idea how to achieve that, and I refuse to unilaterally disarm in the meantime. Last I checked, even Green Party candidates were holding fundraisers – I know, because I’ve been invited to at least two of them – so it’s not really a question of whether or not money is needed. I want the national Democratic party to spend money in Texas, which some people think may be on the horizon, and I make no apologies for that. 

Kuff's points are well-taken, and he's my friend, so let me first declare that it's not my intention to start a blog war with him. He would bury me in spreadsheets, anyway. ;^)

I thought it might be useful, though, to speak to some of his remarks above in the hope that our common Democratic friends understand my POV and personal evolution in this regard. Who knows, it might even make sense to some of them.

-- Let's begin first with the very last sentence in that TexTrib article Charles linked to.

"The thing people have to understand about the people who write big checks is that they look strategically," (Michael Li) said. "They look for a return on investment."

What ROI do you, dear reader, think that Bob Perry -- of Swift Boat infamy -- expects from the following Democrats in the Texas Legislature just this year alone (thanks to John Coby for the data):

  • Carol Alvarado, $10,000
  • Rafael Anchia, $2500
  • Garnet Coleman, $5000
  • Harold Dutton, $1000
  • Al Edwards, $20,000
  • Rodney Ellis, $5000
  • Mario Gallegos, $80,000
  • Ryan Guillen, $1000
  • Tracy King, $5000
  • Eddie Lucio, $50,000
  • Trey Martinez Fischer, $5000
  • Armando Martinez, $2500
  • Rene Oliviera, $5000
  • Carlos Uresti, $7500
  • Royce West, $2000
  • John Whitmire, $20,000

Al Edwards, of course, failed in his repetitive bid to unseat my state representative, Borris Miles, but we should still list him as ex-officio Lege member (he certainly holds himself out in the community as such). The Texas delegates at the Democratic state convention just recently managed to replace him on the DNC, after all. And D-to-R turncoats JM Lozano ($65,000), and Allan Ritter ($2500) probably represent the best investment Perry made, if you count party-switchers as a payoff. Chuck Hopson ($65,000), though, was a waste; he lost in the GOP primary.

Hey, some investments don't pan out.

I'm fully aware of the humorous bromide Molly Ivins repeated and is generally credited to either Sam Rayburn or Jesse Unruh. That's a clever dodge considering the money being invested these days. But is Gallegos really worth 8 times more than Alvarado, who is wagered at twice the value of Coleman and Martinez Fischer? I don't actually expect anyone to explain the political calculus of Bob Perry to me; he's got his own logic. And I'm certain he paid a lot of money for it.

-- Charles' POV on Citizens United is likewise valid, and no, nobody in their right mind expects unilateral disarmament on the part of Democrats. Extending the nuclear analogy a step further, the Democrats are in the unenviable position of the former Soviet Union in this regard. Barack Obama in 2008 is the exception, however, and CU's influence in 2012 is a topic written enough about elsewhere that it doesn't need to be emphasized here by me.

What do you think the future holds for money in politics if we simply throw up our hands and say we can't change the rules, so we need to keep playing by them? I don't consider politics a sport no matter how many sporting analogies are constantly thrown out. It is possible to change the rules, even if the institution itself inhibits and discourages change.

What those of us who believe as I do think is necessary is nothing short of a constitutional amendment overturning CU, and there's a strong movement working toward that. It of course has powerful and well-funded opponents, and they naturally tend to support the most vile of political candidates.

Those opponents might include the electronic media and direct mail companies -- extending all the way down to our nation's local markets -- who make big profits on political advertising and, at a time of crisis for mass media advertising generally, could be expected to have their corporate overlords oppose restrictions on campaign financing, along with all of the bought-and-paid for Republican legislators from the statehouse to the Congress. And many of the Democrats, as I have previously noted.

This is to say nothing of the consultant class, which is a cottage industry in and of itself. Many of my blog brethren in Texas have gone into that business. Some political advisors have turned to blogging, of course, I suppose as a way of 'enhancing their brand'. I have no idea how well this line of work pays but it appears that the compensation is secondary to the career fulfillment aspects. Certainly the potential ones.

Good on anyone who finds a job that they love, I suppose. For me personally, I'm not ever going to look for a job in politics, even under the cloak of non-partisanship.

-- Yes Charles, Greens do raise money from small contributions from individuals in order to fund their campaigns. Money that is spent on gasoline for the car to drive to public events, the occasional yard signs, and even *gasp* VAN access. Don't exaggerate the false premise that Greens -- or any progressive candidate, for that matter, including Democrats -- are averse to fund-raising.

(It's important here to note that I have seen and heard this sneer at least since I worked David Van Os' campaign for Texas attorney general in 2006. Even unpaid, volunteer Democratic activists have been inculcated to believe that a candidate who can't raise money is a campaign not to be taken seriously. See this from a paid political consultant for the latest demonstration of this attitude.)

If you have twenty-four minutes, watch the Bill Moyers video below of Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala as they explain precisely why the millions of dollars in our one-party corporate political system is, and has been, a road to ruin.

If you don't want to take their word for it, then try on  Bernie Sanders' take. And if you don't have time to watch the video then peruse the transcript at your leisure. Here's a short excerpt from the beginning.

BILL MOYERS: I first heard of you about ten years ago when the Clean Elections Law -- public funding for state elections was up in Massachusetts where you were living at the time. And the people in Massachusetts voted two to one for clean elections, for public funding of state elections. And yet sometime later the Massachusetts legislature, a Democratic legislature, on an unrecorded vote overturned that judgment. They vetoed the public will.

JILL STEIN: It was that fight that really catapulted me into the world of political battle. I had not been a member of a Party, I had never been to a political meeting before then. And you know, to see that all these groups which had joined together, and I came to it as a mother and medical doctor, very concerned about our health care system falling apart and also about an epidemic of chronic disease descending on our kids which as a mom I took really, really seriously and as a doctor was fighting it tooth and nail, saw that money was always taking over.

A number of groups got together across labor, environment, health care, you name it, and all of us said we've got a common predator here, it's money in politics. Let's get it out. We actually passed that referendum by a two to one margin.

BILL MOYERS: It's amazing actually.

JILL STEIN: Huge. And the minute we passed it the legislature began to resist it, to try not to fund it. And then finally they wound up repealing, as you said a legislature that was about 85 percent Democratic. So it could have, you know, overridden any veto and so on. It had the power to actually clean up our political system.

And that said to me the fight here is much bigger than any one issue. It's really about a political culture. If we want to fix what ails us we need to fundamentally fix the political system. At that point I was recruited to run to office and I did it as a desperation move. Everything else was failing us and I realized it was time to fundamentally transform our political system and work with a party that was actually committed to getting money out of politics.

So Charles, we can keep playing by the rules -- especially here in Texas, where there are no limits to campaign contributions -- and expect a different result someday, or we can work to change the game.

Everybody hopefully understands which side I'm on now.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Republicans declare war on themselves

Bombing the shit out of people on false pretenses is what they're good at, after all, but this is ridiculous. First it was El Rushbo, as part of a larger rant on The End of the World as They Know It (i.e. when Obama is re-elected)...

(Limbaugh) went on to refer to MSNBC host Chris Matthews saying last week that an Obama re-election would mean the end of conservatism. “Nope,” Limbaugh disagreed, “if Obama wins, it’s the end of the Republican Party.”
“There’s going to be a third party that’s going to be orientated towards conservatism — or Rand Paul thinks libertarianism,” he continued. “If Obama wins, the Republican Party will try to maneuver things so conservatives get blamed. The only problem is right now, Romney is not running a conservative campaign.”

“But they’re going to set it up, ‘Well, the right sat home, the right made Romney be other than he is.’ They’ll try to deflect the blame, but they got who they want,” he said of the Republican Party’s selection of Mitt Romney for president.

Then it was Laura Ingraham...

During her syndicated radio program on Monday, conservative host Laura Ingraham had harsh words for the Republican Party and the way Mitt Romney‘s campaign has underperformed despite a flailing economy and high unemployment figures.


“If you can’t beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party,” she said. “Shut it down, start new, with new people because this is a give-me election, or at least it should be.”
Ingraham added that part of the blame lies with political consultants who get re-hired after each failed presidential bid. She lamented the “millions and millions of dollars that are paid to these political consultants election after election. We hire people who have lost previous campaigns, that run campaigns that have failed, who have message campaigns where the message fell flat. And they keep getting rehired. I don’t understand that. I don’t know why those are the people you hire.”

And today it's the political advisor to Todd Akin (who was the advisor to Newt Gingrich earlier in the year)...

(Rick) Tyler replied that, if Obama wins and the GOP fails to retake the Senate, “I think that this Republican party will have to completely, utterly and totally revamp its thinking, its strategy, what it stands for, how it trains, what it speaks about, how it recruits and the total abandonment – actually the professionalization of the party – and the abandonment of the grassroots.”

“If we lose the race, we only have ourselves to blame and I think there will be a revolution in the Republican party,” Tyler concluded.

So the talking points went out first thing Monday morning. Everybody outside of the establishment is on board. And the message is the same old, same old fear and loathing.

I'd like to pop some corn and just watch the implosion, but as much as I want it, it's not going to happen. This is just how the GOP motivates its base.

They have to stoke the xenophobia every week -- preferably every day -- and as ignorant as the people who listen to Limbaugh and Ingraham are, even they occasionally get wise to the manipulation. Besides that, it's difficult to come up with a new conspiracy theory every week.

"Pallin' around with terrists like Bill Ayers and Saul Alinsky", Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the birth certificate, no hand over his heart as the National Anthem is played, bowing before other world leaders, Fast and Furious, Soshulist/Muslim/"Arab"/Kenyan/Marxist/Communist and back to the start again. Did I leave anything out? Oh yeah, un-American, destroying this country, and worse than Jimmy Carter.

It's tiresome just typing that. Imagine how you'd feel constructing a rant around it every single day for the past four years. From the aspect of repetition, it's amazing that it's not winning.

That has to do mostly with the quality of Obama's competition.

Sheryl Harris, a voluble 52-year-old with a Virginia drawl, voted twice for George W. Bush. Raised Baptist, she is convinced -- despite all evidence to the contrary -- that President Barack Obama, a practicing Christian, is Muslim.

So in this year's presidential election, will she support Mitt Romney? Not a chance.

"Romney's going to help the upper class," said Harris, who earns $28,000 a year as activities director of a Lynchburg senior center. "He doesn't know everyday people, except maybe the person who cleans his house."

She'll vote for Obama, she said: "At least he wasn't brought up filthy rich."

White lower- and middle-income voters such as Harris are wild cards in this vituperative presidential campaign. With only a sliver of the electorate in play nationwide, they could be a deciding factor in two southern swing states, Virginia and North Carolina.

Reuters/Ipsos polling data compiled over the past several months shows that, across the Bible Belt, 38 percent of these voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who is "very wealthy" than one who isn't. This is well above the 20 percent who said they would be less likely to vote for an African-American.

The above is not just the last nail in the coffin of Romney's presidential hopes, it's also why the GOP isn't going anywhere, IMHO. Oh, they'll fuss and fight and scream and cry 60 days from now just as loudly as they did in mid-November of 2008, but they will always have Texas to fall back on.

John Cornyn won't even get any blowback from screwing up a Senate capture. He'll just pivot right with the rest of the establishment and blame Romney for being a weak-as-rainwater candidate.

He'll be correct.

If this nation survived George W Bush, it can surely survive Barack Obama. Besides, the decline is incremental no matter who gets elected. You know, we're all frogs in the boiling pot, anyway.

Now, if the Republicans nominate Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich in 2016... then we can talk about the end of the GOP.

Nine Eleven Wrangle

On the 11th anniversary of the national tragedy, The Texas Progressive Alliance stands in solemn remembrance of the fateful events of that fall day in lower Manhattan. Here is a selection of photographs and a panaromic slideshow that display the area we call Ground Zero, as its transformation into a open-air shrine to those who were lost is nearly complete.

Here is this week's roundup of blog posts from the best of the left of Texas from last week.

Off the Kuff says that the state of Texas has clearly demonstrated the ongoing need for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

BossKitty at TruthHugger sees this election year faced with critical health issues hurting working class people, when bubonic plague and Legionnaire's disease and hantavirus still occur in America: are we Unprepared, Careless and Incapable In 2012?

The GOP's plan may have backfired; by intentionally discriminating they may have actually saved the Voting Rights Act. Because, as WCNews at Eye on Williamson shows, The Voting Rights Act is still working as designed.

Neil at Texas Liberal saw Mitt Romney's jet plane in Cincinnati last week. Neil offered up his view of what the letters on the tail of the plane were meant to convey.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos reminds us that it is easy to throw the low-level supervisors to the wolves when scandal strikes, but we should not forget where the fundamental problem lies. Are you listening, Rick Perry and Republican legislators? Check out Behind the Drug and Rape Kit Scandals.

Rick Perry wants Texas women to get pap smears at colonoscopy clinicsCouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme didn't think that even Rick Perry was that stupid.

Update: Here's my post from last year, on the tenth anniversary. It does seem as if the raw sensations have ebbed since then.