A Consensus that Doesn’t Seem to Matter

I don’t recall which American humorist first delivered the line, “I’m not a member of an organized political party; I’m a Democrat” but for many years, “disorganized” was one of the kinder descriptions of the Democratic party.

Contemporary Democrats remain ideologically diverse, but these days, the divisions are far deeper in the Republican party, where extremists elected to Congress from some 80 deep-red (often gerrymandered) districts are far, far to the Right of most Republican voters.

Just how much does this fringe depart from the policy preferences of the Republican rank-and-file?  If we are talking about issues of campaign finance reform, a recent poll strongly suggests the answer is “pretty far.

Americans of both parties fundamentally reject the regime of untrammeled money in elections made possible by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and other court decisions and now favor a sweeping overhaul of how political campaigns are financed, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.

The findings reveal deep support among Republicans and Democrats alike for new measures to restrict the influence of wealthy givers, including limiting the amount of money that can be spent by “super PACs” and forcing more public disclosure on organizations now permitted to intervene in elections without disclosing the names of their donors.

And by a significant margin, they reject the argument that underpins close to four decades of Supreme Court jurisprudence on campaign finance: that political money is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. Even self-identified Republicans are evenly split on the question.

The poll confirms that most Americans–Republican and Democrat alike–reject the Court’s sunny conclusion that money does not corrupt the process or allow the wealthy to “buy” policies favorable to their interests.

The broader public appears to see things differently: More than four in five Americans say money plays too great a role in political campaigns, the poll found, while two-thirds say that the wealthy have more of a chance to influence the elections process than other Americans.

Those concerns — and the divide between Washington elites and the rest of the country — extend to Republicans.

Three-quarters of self-identified Republicans support requiring more disclosure by outside spending organizations, for example, but Republican leaders in Congress have blocked legislation to require more disclosure by political nonprofit groups, which do not reveal the names of their donors.

Republicans in the poll were almost as likely as Democrats to favor further restrictions on campaign donations, even as some prominent Republicans call for legislation to eliminate existing caps on contributions.

Perhaps if the more extreme partisans sent to Washington from safe, deep-red districts had to answer to more moderate–and more representative–Republican voters, their legislative behavior would be different.

Perhaps if a couple of the eminent scholars on the Court had ever run for or held political office, their lofty abstractions might be tempered with, and informed by, real-world experience.

And perhaps, if pigs could fly…..

21 thoughts on “A Consensus that Doesn’t Seem to Matter

  1. So, why doesn’t it matter? Why do Republicans vote the same way over and over again, putting the same people back in office? And why do Democrats do the same thing, and all of us expect different results?

  2. I recently took an on line survey to discover my inner political party affiliations; results were surpising till I realized they reflected my past years of being an Independent voter. Go to http://www.ISideWith.com and you may be surprised. With my 100% support at the polls for Democrats my results show I am 82% Green Party (know nothing about it), 75% Democratic, 51% Libertarian (know little about it), 43% Constitution Party and 37% Republican. The only question I remember which would put me even near the Republicans was that I support the death penalty in severe cases. Isn’t it the psychological MMP test that phrases the same question in different formats to seek our hidden reality – hidden even from ourselves? I found it interesting and fun; if anything political can be fun these days:(

  3. Sheila,

    The name of the humorist who made the famous quote regarding the Democratic Party was Will Rogers. What a field day he would have today if he was still around given what our political discourse has been reduced to.

  4. The money effects the outcome of elections and the public policy decisions made by those elected – including how campaigns are funded. This is going to be very hard to correct without a change in the makeup of the Supreme Court. For me this is the most important issue in the next election for President and Senate.

  5. We are tempted to look for an accounting solution to repelling oligarchy but I wonder how successful we’ll be long term with approaches that the enemies of democracy are expert at. Accounting solutions are often merely temporary loophole closers which oligarchs pay good money to work around. We end up stuck in an arms race loop with the good and bad guys alternating the lead in.

    What if we instead removed from political campaigns those elements that money can buy? Made money valueless to who wins political campaigns.

    I think we can.

    Political campaign ads really inform nobody. Just like commercial commercials they are designed to appeal to organs other than what we think with. That should not have anything to do with who anyone votes for as the most qualified candidate.

    A simple solution then would be a set of laws that define and publically fund face to face debate among candidates. Debates run like sports with rigid rules and effective enforcement that makes cheating more costly than rule following.

    They wouldn’t cost us much. We would be rescued from endless no value campaign mud slinging that debases everything political.

    We could in a properly moderated debate actually increase civic literacy.

    We would increase our pool of would be politicians by not losing those otherwise qualified people who are adverse to selling their bodies and minds to handlers who are expert at packaging but valueless at solving real problems.

    It seems to me a win for the good guys and a blow to those who are anti democracy and freedom averse.

  6. Issues are what should be driving politics. How many people would disagree with – “Medicare-for-all” health-care system, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and a breakup of the big financial institutions, or No cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid and Eliminating corporate loopholes that allow corporations to avoid taxes by off shoring profits.

  7. I am surprised Shelia that you did not recall Will Rogers as the author of your quote. Perhaps you should wait until later in the day, when the caffeine kicks in, to write your daily homily.

    I am also surprised that only one reader provided you with the information. Does this indicate that your readers are too young to remember Will Rogers or does it suggest your readers are too old to remember much of anything?

  8. Who in the hell was Will Rogers? Does any one know why a Rooster was the symbol for the Democrats here in Indiana when we used paper ballots?

  9. Will Rogers was an extremely popular humorist, social commentator, vaudevillian, and actor of the 1920’s and 30’s. He was sort of like the Stephen Colbert of his generation but in a very home spun, common sense, way. He did rope tricks on stage among other things and was known to go after both political parties but in a good natured way. He was killed in an airplane crash with legendary pilot Wiley Post while on a trip to Alaska in August 1935. There’s lots of info on him on the web.

  10. Morton; there are numerous comments that have floated around for many years – attributed to different well known people at different times. That comment could also have been attributed to Mark Twain; he was also known for his political witicisms and he first came to my mind when I read it. We need their humerous views of this country today more than ever; we could also use many of Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Mort Sahl’s political comments…to lighten the dark and heavy mood in this political arena. How about Indiana boasting the first “Church of the Cannabis” being given tax exempt status by IRS – that is NOT a joke but part of the outcome of Pence’s RFRA law and the unfix that he is paying a PR firm from NYC to clean up his reputation before his campaign to run for governor again. Now that is to joke about; it is too late to clean up his offal..or awful if you prefer. Perhaps we need an entire book of these quotes and who actually said them…”Funny Political Quotes For Dummies”.

    And if Gopper is reading this – yes, sir or madam – I am long past the 8th grade and still using my dictionaries – please note that is plural. I use them to check spelling and meaning before using certain words (i.e. offal) because most of Sheila’s readers are highly educated and well traveled individuals and I hope not to embarrass myself…understanding that I am not always successful.

  11. I read that it was Will Rogers who said that but there’s also a quote that is supposed to be from Einstein about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different results which was checked to be from Rita Rae Brown (who ever she is).

    “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Rita Mae Brown 1983″

    Sometimes, google is your friend, sometimes, not at all. I don’t hold trivial things like her not looking up a quote author because that wasn’t the whole meaning behind the post. I’m pretty sure that “IT automation” posts her stuff and that her son set it up like that. I doubt she writes it first thing in the morning and posts it immediately. I enjoy the blog. Let her be.

  12. @AgingLgrl

    “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”

    Not that it’s a big deal, but I’ve been using that quote on my webpage for about a decade. And always have attributed it to Albert Einstein. Which appears to be the overwhelming position on the web.

    According to Wikiquotes in the past it has been misattributed to Rita Mae Brown who used the phrase in her book: “Sudden Death” in 1983. Brown is a very successful fiction writer.

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  14. @Michael

    The problem for you is that you don’t have a copy of the full report since it is coded. To have that, you must break the code in “The Chamber” by John Grisham. Break the code and you will understand that there will be provisions for senior career post(s) in the “accident and emergency departments.”

    Also, I might suggest that you first watch a rerun of the movie: The da Vinci Code.

  15. @Michael

    I’ll give you a hint: The code used by John Grisham, a southern Baptist from Mississippi, is similar to the one that Agatha Christie employed in her book: “Then There Were None.”

  16. Money is to politics what force is to reason–and equation one should never allow or forget.

  17. Money is to politics what force is to reason–an equation one should never allow or forget.

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