Campaign finance reform; a failed model

There was a time when it was very difficult to find out where political money was coming from. There was a time when attaché cases filled with cash changed hands. These were the bad old days. You know, the days when we passed things like the Wagner Act, wage & hour laws, created the SEC, FCC, FDIC, and a whole alphabet soup of agencies. These were the bad old days when we created NASA, passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and Headstart. Yes, these were the bad old days.

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Millionaires and Incumbents

Another issue worth noting about the Lieberman-Lamont match.  Their race brings together two of the less popular archetypes in American public life: the incumbent creature of Washington and the guy with more money than God.

That's not a coincidence.

Under the "one dollar, one vote" system undergirded by the "money is speech" regime set forth in Buckley, the ability to raise and spend money ranks high on the already frightful list of institutional advantages held by incumbents.  The ability to raise money is the first mark of legitimacy in the eyes of the media and political establishments who too often serve as gatekeepers between  would-be challengers and the attention of the electorate.  Ostensibly liberal people pledge fealty to the doctrine that serious candidates should be able to raise serious money.

Some millionaire candidates, of course, fail spectacularly.  Some spend enough of their dough to leave the incumbent at a significant spending disadvantage.  Some do both.

But wherever one comes down on what we should or shouldn't assume about millionaires' character and suitability to represent us, the difficulty of unseating an incumbent without being one should concern us.


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Thank You Daily Kos - I have found my NEW home

Yesterday I posted a diary on DailyKOS. You can go read it there, but if you do please come back here since I have been kicked off DailyKOS and will not be able to post any comments there anymore.

As a result of the discussion and comments about my diary I am happy to announce that I have changed my registration to the Green Party. I also canceled my Democracy Bond and will not be giving any more money to the Democratic Party in the future.

I don't know how long this diary will last on MyDD, but I think that it is an important issue involving our entire political system and the fate of our country. I will attempt to diary my experience yesterday and my rationale for switching parties for those who are interested. I will also try to respond to those that posted questions in the comments yesterday.

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RFK Jr's Message of Hope

Anyone who follows elections and politics closely knows that there are several problems with the actual process of elections in America:
  • Voter participation is down, and not equal to the levels of what should be a healthy democracy. In 2004, 60% of the American population aged 18 or older turned out to vote. While that was praised as a high number, and better than almost any other election since 1972, even that total is not good enough. Midterm elections in America now regularly see voter participation under 40%. Off-year and primary elections now regularly see voter participation under 20%. The lowest turnout rates tend to happen among low-income groups, young groups, and minority groups. That is not good for America, and it is not good for democracy.

  • Our electoral infrastructure does not guarantee that every vote in counted. In fact, pretty much every election in America will have at least 1% of the people who tried to vote not see their votes counted, and in some cases the numbers will be much higher. Through bad machines, bad ballots, cancelled registrations, "spoiled ballots," too few voting machines, challenged ballots, and many other means, in every election millions of votes are not counted in our electoral system.

  • Fundraising. Despite some improvements, large donors still hold far more sway over our electoral process than average Americans. We still need comprehensive voting reform that frees candidates from having to spend to much time raising money, prevents special access from large donors, and still allows average activists to have agency withint he electoral system.
All of these problems, voter retrenchment, campaign finance reform, and making sure every vote is counted need to be solved in order for our democracy to become healthier. We need leaders in Congress, leaders in states, and leaders in counties and precincts to make this happen. People need to believe in our electoral system, and they need to actively participate in our electoral system. Right now, that is not the case for millions of Americans, and we need to take steps to rectify the situation.

In my post last night, I offered up one solution: for progressive, grassroots activists to take charge of their local electoral infrastructure. I absolutely believe that is the most important step in helping to fix our electoral system, but I admit that is not the only step. Nationwide confidence in our electoral system is not going to increase unless local activism is gradually drawn together in a national movement and narrative of real hope to fix our electoral system. This is never going to happen unless people nationwide are willing to start talking publicly about what tens of millions of Americas already believe: our electoral system does not work well enough. Trust and accountability are not going to be restored unless people start talking about what we already believe: our electoral system does not work well enough . As Ketih Olberman said in RFK Jr.'s article:Olbermann attributes the lack of coverage to self-censorship by journalists. "You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble," he said. "You cannot say: By the way, there's something wrong with our electoral system." Depending on the election, between 40% and 80% of Americans do not believe that our electoral process is worth participating in. This isn't because they do not see a difference between the two parties. Long-term NES data shows that now, more than ever, Americans believe there is an important difference between the two parties. This isn't just because Americans think all politicians are corrupt, or that their vote does not make a difference, or that their vote will not be counted, or that politics does not impact their life. It is, instead, all of these reasons. Different reasons for different people, and multiple reasons for some.

What we need is a national movement that not only takes control of local electoral infrastructure, but also a movement that gives hope to many Americans that there are indeed good reasons for participating in your electoral system. That movement will never happen if people are not active in local politics. That movement will never happen if no one talks about the problem. That movement will never happen if the people who talk about those problems throw their hands up in the air and say that it is all hopeless because the fix is in.

By helping to break the seal on this subject, RFK Jr. is part of a new movement of hope to restore faith in our electoral system. I hope that everyone who reads his article, and is thrilled by his article, will become part of that movement as well. Take charge of your local electoral and party apparatus. Realize that people have many different problems with our electoral system, and not just one. Talk about ways to fix the system, and then carry out those discussions with action. Actively work toward real solutions, and always emphasize that real solutions can be achieved. Most importantly of all, emphasize hope over blame, and the future over the past.

These problems can be fixed, but they will not be fixed by silence, by inaction, by hopelessness, or by over-emphasis on singular causes to our problems. There can be a day when we have a transparent electoral system that really is accountable to the American populace, and RFK Jr's article is part of the movement toward that goal. Stay hopeful and active, because, as I have seen in my experience, this is a problem we can fix.

Despite MSM, Pennacchio Is Best Senate Candidate, and A Casey Defeat Will Insure Santorum Losing

This article covers two topics, first-- the uneven, preferential coverage Bob Casey has received throughout the senate race and second, an explanation of why, a defeat for Bob Casey would be the best way to win an election against Rick Santorum.

Today, two major PA daily papers came out endorsing Bob Casey, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Neither came as a surprise. They have failed miserably and irresponsibly to do an adequate job of covering the senate race, almost ignoring and always discussing the Casey competitors as minor irrelevancies. Over and over again, the daily papers across the state, with a few minor exceptions, have covered the senate race as a race between Casey and Santorum, ignoring the other candidates.  Both papers coverage of the race has been editorially disgraceful and an embarassment to independent journalism. It's why a recent poll found that only about 4% of the mainstream media are doing an excellent job.

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