In our history, Ruck.us has resisted joining coalitions. Not because coalitions are inherently bad, but because we want Ruck.us to be open to everyone, of all ideologies, to feel welcome and empowered to engage on the issues they care about. We have written many times about the transformative power the internet is stocked with. The internet continues to be the great equalizer for democracy in its purest form. A way for individuals to harness the power from larger institutions trying to hold onto it. And this is why we are joining our first coalition, the Internet Defense League, which launches globally today. The Internet Defense League stands for the singular purpose of keeping the internet open, free, and unregulated by the “powers that be”. As we all witnessed the power of the internet with the fight against SOPA and PIPA, the IDL will remain a standing structure to continue to ongoing fight to defend the internet. We hope you will join us.
A graphic yesterday in the LA Times took a quick glance at where cumulative SuperPAC spending has gone so far this year. As you can see, the numbers are startling. Total UNREGULATED money spent in support and opposition of the top four candidates thus far (Obama, Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum) is now well over $100…..in July. The troubling graphic got me thinking about what else, on the unregulated front, is looming out there for the fall? I decided to go a little further into OpenSecrets. And here is the damage:
As of July 8, 2012, 657 (yes, read 657) SuperPACs have registered with the federal government and have collected a total of $242,335,123 so far. The leading offender is the pro-Romney PAC “Restore Our Future”, having raked in a total of almost $54,000,000 to date. The largest pro-Obama PAC, “Priorities USA”, has brought in $13,500,000 to date.
So as you are watching the never-ending barrage of ads that is coming our way this summer and fall, remember that much of the main discourse will not be from candidates or campaigns themselves. Just their former aides and fundraisers that are “officially and legally” unaffiliated with them.
In 1995, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (better known as the Grammys) gave the award for Best Rock Album to the Rolling Stones for Voodoo Lounge. I challenge the reader to name even one hit song off the CD. Can’t think of one? That’s because there weren’t any. The last time the Rolling Stones made a good record was 1981’s Tattoo You. The last time the Stones made a great record was in 1972, with the release of Exile on Main Street. Exile is hands-down the definitive garage-rock record of all time. Any major critic will list it in their Top 10.
When Exile was released, it was panned by the critics and ignored by the Grammys. The reviewers said the album’s grungy, gritty aural presentation sounded like it was recorded in someone’s basement. It was. Keith Richards’ basement, to be exact. The Stones wanted to show the audience, “This is what rock ‘n’ roll is all about.” Songs such as “Tumbling Dice,” and “Happy” proved their point. The Grammys made up for ignoring such a monumentally great album by honouring the Stones decades later with an award for an album (Voodoo Lounge) which not only won’t make any critic’s list, but it would surely cure insomnia for anyone who was so afflicted.
In 2010 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars) gave the nod for Best Picture to The Hurt Locker, shutting out Avatar for most of the major awards given by Oscar that year. Avatar was not only a sweeping story that is a tale for the ages, but it was a technical triumph the likes of which had never been seen before or since. To give the award for Best Picture to The Hurt Locker made it clear to the audience that movies are not necessarily judged on the merits, but instead on the political machinations behind the scenes. Most Oscar-watchers figured that out years ago, but this was the most bald-faced example of the even-it-up politics that governs the Academy in recent history.
James Cameron had swept the Oscars about a decade-and-a-half earlier with Titanic, another spectacular example of the moviemaking art, so the Academy decided they weren’t going to give him another sweep, even though he clearly deserved it. Add to the mix that the director of The Hurt Locker was Cameron’s ex-wife (and she would be the first female to win Best Director) and the Oscar committee just couldn’t resist throwing everyone a curve and giving the nod to a movie that clearly did not deserve to win any of the major awards it did – especially when it was being compared to Avatar, which was a technical and artistic triumph.
In 2000 the Supreme Court decided that it would allow itself to become involved in the Florida recount battle, and thus the Court inexplicably agreed to hear Bush v. Gore, even though the Constitution clearly states that such voting disputes shall be decided by the House of Representatives. Setting aside the sheer unconstitutionality of the Court deciding the election, I was not as distressed at the outcome as many people were, because if the law had been followed and the issue had gone to the House, the GOP majority in that body would have easily elected George W. Bush to the presidency anyway, so his ascendancy was a fait accompli.
In 2010, in another monumental case the Court handed the Right a huge victory with the Citizens United decision, which has enabled Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers to funnel almost unimaginable (and unlimited) amounts of money into super-PACs without any accountability – and with the convenient arrangement of the candidate being subject to a “wall of separation” whereby the candidate can truthfully say that he cannot control the super-PAC or what it says or spends on anything, no matter how inaccurate or lugubrious the super-PAC’s actions may be.
So was John Roberts pondering the weight of those recent history-making decisions of the Court when he decided to side with the liberal minority on the Court regarding the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare? Submitted for the reader’s consideration is the possibility that Roberts was acting in the same way the Grammy and Oscar academies have often proceeded – with political “balancing acts” as the prime governing factors, rather than the merits of the actual matter at hand.
In the interest of disclosure, I can truthfully say I don’t have a dog in the fight. I didn’t care what the outcome would be regarding Obamacare on the merits. I’m healthy and haven’t had a medical incident in over five years.
Of course I was able to see what a political setback it would have been for the President if his signature piece of legislation had been overturned. And the fact that Roberts, of all the justices, decided that he would cross the aisle to save the Affordable Care Act suggests that he recognized the gravitas the decision would have not only for this political season but for decades to come, and Roberts further recognized that the credibility of the Court was at stake. It was only two weeks before the decision that TIME magazine ran a cover story on “The Decider” Anthony Kennedy, only to have Kennedy’s vote rendered inconsequential in the final analysis. To be fair, many other news outlets agreed with TIME that Kennedy would be the “swing” vote when in fact a curve ball that no one saw coming came out of left field via Chief Justice Roberts.
Progressives, beware. If Roberts was trying to “balance the Court” by throwing a bone to the Left with the upholding of Obamacare, he now is under no obligation to do that again any time soon – if ever. Proposition 8 will be making its way to the Court’s docket, possibly even as early as the 2013 term.
If the Court’s composition remains as it is when the case is heard, it is doubtful that any more cover stories will be written on Anthony Kennedy’s supposed incredible sway over the Court. That’s a stale bit that the media vaudevillians will not be able to proffer a second time. But it should be considered that Roberts has given the unusual “award” to President Obama, Oscar-style. Now that the Supreme “Academy” has given a nod to the Progressive section of the audience, it will be more than inclined to go back to business as usual.
For Progressives who have been hoping that the Court would give a final just rendering on the issue of marriage equality, a disappointing night at the “awards show” may be in the offing. If the court decides to let Proposition 8 stand, it will no doubt be an Exile on Main Street for the millions of gays who have been hoping for a final positive decision on the matter of marriage equality.
An exile, indeed.
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of our great country. This is a time for us to not only enjoy one time outside with friends and family, but should serve as an opportunity to reflect on what this country is, where it is going, and where it came from. America has had a tough road in recent years. But what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Ruck.us looks back at our nation’s 1st leader, George Washington, for some words to think about over the course of the coming months leading to an election, and after.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
— George Washington, September 19, 1796
Washington’s distaste for partisanship/factionalism is clear. Let us all remember that we are Americans first and foremost, as we continue to look for the right path for our country. Happy 4th of July, America.
Ezra Klein, a writer for the Washington Post, has an excellent pieceabout political party groupthink. His argument is centered around the GOP switch on the individual mandate, but its equally applicable to almost any hot political issue (and equally critical of both sides). Klein’s basic point is that we, as voters and citizens, naturally tend to simply adopt the views of our political party. This is a psychological reaction called “motivated reasoning.” As NYU psychology professor Jonathan Haidt says:
“once group loyalties are engaged, you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments. Thinking is mostly just rationalization, mostly just a search for supporting evidence.”
This would be fine if our party were pursuing ideologically consistent agendas. But, of course, they don’t. Political parties are designed to win campaigns, not necessarily champion any particular ideology, and as a result, we get stuck with intellectual mushiness on both sides. While we might expect that of our political leaders, Klein points out that the real problem is us – regular Americans – who adopt party orthodoxy despite the intellectual inconsistencies. Perhaps most interesting, this behavior is starkest among the most well-informed.
I would love to discuss this piece more, as it articulates the rationale behind Ruck.us better than anything we could say on our own. Ruck.us, as readers of our blog know, is about helping people move away from parties and just organize around the 1, 3, or 5 issues that are most important to them. We believe a political organizing regime based around issues instead of party loyalties will not just deliver a more rewarding experience, but it will help reform a system who toxicity has almost rendered it incapacitated.
I hope you will give it the five minutes it takes to read the entire piece.
“Howard and I have been friends for 30 years,” said Marc Nathanson, a cable TV magnate and investor who founded the super PAC and has given it $100,000. “It’s a friendship beyond what I call political friendships — it’s a personal relationship. When it was clear he needed help, I figured out a way to do that.”
This is a quote from the lifelong friend of Howard Berman, a congressional Democrat from California who is now being supported by “The Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman” in his campaign for a new redistricted seat. And it is just that easy now. If you have means and desire, the $4,600 contribution limits (primary and general) that apply to 99% of us are no longer applicable. Just start a SuperPAC, move as much money into it as you would like, and help your buddy. Other egregious examples of mocking federal contribution laws include:
- In the High Desert east of Los Angeles, for example, Republican Paul Cook was aided by more than $200,000 worth of ads and mailers from two super PACs in the newly created 8th Congressional District. The groups were formed by the same lawyer within a month of the primary and have not yet had to disclose their donors.
- In Texas, Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons has dumped $1 million into two super PACs focused solely on the GOP Senate primary there. One group is running ads supporting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) while the other is attacking his tea party opponent, Ted Cruz.
And this does not begin to look at the presidential race, where unregulated spending has already dwarfed actual candidate spending. After all, why would we want to hear from the actual candidates or campaigns?
The question that lingers is who will do anything about this? While the current President ran on a political reform platform in 2008, he is now one of the chief receivers of SuperPAC “assistance”. Is there any indication he would do something about this in his 2nd term? We shall see, but remain dubious.
There is no shortage of analysis in the wake of Gov. Scott Walker’s crushing win last night. On the Democratic side, most pundits are explaining this away as the result of being outspent 10-1. Scott Walker and his allies raised and spent $63M, making this by far the most expensive recall in our nation’s history. The problem with money arguments, though, is that while they demonstrate correlation, they don’t evidence causation. We can’t say for certain that Walker was successful because he raised the money or whether he raised the money because he was successful.
Republicans on the other hand will point to last night as proof that organized labor is in a decline, and they will encourage more Republican Governors to strip away long-held union protections. They will also find joy in internal Democratic divisions, several of which became glaringly obvious in the final weeks of the campaign.
While its difficult to parse through the exit polls to determine exactly what was on voter’s minds, my gut tells me last night was the result of something deeper and simpler.
As much as the political industry is loathe to admit this, and despite the best efforts of the cable television echo chambers, most Americans are not partisan. But its more than that – they disdain partisanship. Candidates who are overtly partisan, disingenuous, or appear to be playing the game, make the voters recoil. Whatever you think about the merits of collective bargaining, this recall smacked of partisanship, and that’s why the Democrats lost. Walker didn’t commit a crime or reveal some sordid side of his personal life. He merely followed through on his campaign promises. The issues at stake in the recall were decided in 2010, and even many Democrats didn’t think it was right to re-litigate them a year and a half later.
This is borne out by the exit polling. 6 out of 10 Wisconsin voters – i.e., some of the people who voted for Barrett – said that recalls are only appropriate if there’s been malfeasance or criminal behavior. Only 27% thought recalls were appropriate for any reason.
This leaves is with some good news and bad news for the presidential candidates, who are desperate to find meaning in last night. Walker’s victory does not mean Romney will win WI in November (exit polls in fact still give Obama a lead). It also doesn’t mean that unions have been rendered impotent. Last night was about partisan politics, and voters want none of it. None of this will be news to readers outside D.C., but its going to be a hard reality for most of the 202 to swallow.
As Americans head to the polls this November, their values and basic beliefs are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years. Unlike in 1987, when this series of surveys began, the values gap between Republicans and Democrats is now greater than gender, age, race or class divides.
This is one of the chief findings from a new research project by Pew on partisanship in the last two terms. To summarize what we all already know, partisanship is getting worse under our two most recent Presidents. Does that mean we are becoming a more partisan country? No. The opposite. Actually fewer of us belong to parties than ever. However, for those still remaining in the parties, they are becoming more homogenous and ideological than ever. And this is the clear problem in America (and more specifically Washington) today. Pew later finds:
In recent years, both parties have become smaller and more ideologically homogeneous. Republicans are dominated by self-described conservatives, while a smaller but growing number of Democrats call themselves liberals. Among Republicans, conservatives continue to outnumber moderates by about two-to-one. And there are now as many liberal Democrats as moderate Democrats.
You can read the entire Pew findings here:
Mitt Romney won another primary last night, clinching Texas. With this victory, Romney has officially (though still not nominated) become the GOP nominee and will face Barack Obama in November. In lock step, Politico today reported that “outside” (read, unregulated) conservative groups plan to spend $1B on the November election. Again, that is $1,000,000,000.
Republican super PACs and other outside groups shaped by a loose network of prominent conservatives – including Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – plan to spend roughly $1 billion on November’s elections for the White House and control of Congress, according to officials familiar with the groups’ internal operations.
That total includes previously undisclosed plans for newly aggressive spending by the Koch brothers, who are steering funding to build sophisticated, county-by-county operations in key states. POLITICO has learned that Koch-related organizations plan to spend about $400 million ahead of the 2012 elections – twice what they had been expected to commit.
How do we put this into perspective?
Just the spending linked to the Koch network is more than the $370 million that John McCain raised for his entire presidential campaign four years ago. And the $1 billion total surpasses the $750 million that Barack Obama, one of the most prolific fundraisers ever, collected for his 2008 campaign.
Tough time for those of us that think money in politics is the root of our problems.
I ate oatmeal this AM, and then I found a ticket on my car. Therefore, eating oatmeal was absolutely the wrong call.
OK that is a bit of a stretch, but one of the most profound things I have realized in my life is this: Doing something one way, and not having it work out in the end, does NOT mean it was the incorrect move (the inverse is also true). If I train for a marathon for 6 months and come up a half mile short, does that invalidate all the training I did? No. One of the most common misconceptions in politics probably stems from there only being a binary ending to a campaign….. You win, or you lose. So every losing candidate (and campaign) was some how fatally flawed and made blundering mistakes, and every winning candidate is a shooting star and their campaign was therefore brilliantly executed. In reality, this is an absolute falsehood. I have seen extraordinary candidates surrounded by extraordinary campaigns lose (and badly sometimes). I have also seen politicians elected that would mess up making a ham and cheese sandwich (and the campaign to boot). Part of this comes from the binary ending, and much of the over-analysis is the product of an overreaching press corps, dying to have the most insightful and thought provoking analysis of a race. This comes with the industry, and I have taken my share of undeserving applause and misplaced blame.
I write this today in defense of Americans Elect. Americans Elect has been quite the punching bag this week, after failing to nominate a candidate and essentially closing up shop. So Americans Elect was a terrible idea, right? No. It was a bold idea. A grand one with a tough path to execution. Are they going to challenge Barack Obama or Mitt Romney this fall? No. However, were they right to try to challenge the current electoral system and process? Yes. And I applaud them for their effort. And I hope their effort will incentivize many more to continue not to settle, and continue to be the challengers that this country needs.