Saturday, March 11, 2006

Democracy, Plutocracy, Aristocracy: Same Diff.

From today's Washington Post:

Michael E. Toner, the chairman of the Federal Election Commission, has some friendly advice for presidential candidates who plan to be taken seriously by the time nominating contests start in early 2008: Bring your wallet.

"There is a growing sense that there is going to be a $100 million entry fee at the end of 2007 to be considered a serious candidate," Toner said in a recent interview. ***

Many political operatives are expecting that the gradual breakdown of the public funding system -- federal funds in exchange for spending limits -- that has taken place in recent years will become complete in 2008. The result would be candidates in both parties racing far past old spending records, and facing new pressure to begin raising money far in advance of the election year.***

What's more, many analysts believe that 2008 will be a clash of such titanic intensity that the nominees will reject public funding -- and the spending limits that govern it -- even for the fall campaign. If so, most bets are that each major-party candidate would need to raise in excess of $400 million by the Nov. 4, 2008, election. Candidates would want to raise as much of that money as early as possible, so as not to waste precious campaign time holding fundraisers.

Steve Elmendorf, the deputy manager for Kerry's general election campaign against Bush, predicted that accepting matching funds is a "thing of the past in the primary and the general." Public funding of presidential campaigns was started in 1976 in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

A final factor inflating the pressure to raise money early is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). She has a proven ability to raise money on a national scale, and if she runs for president in 2008 she will raise the stakes for competitors in both parties.

Other Democratic contenders, such as Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) or former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner, would need to raise money aggressively to avoid being swamped by sums. Many Republicans, meanwhile, believe that their candidates must base their fundraising strategies on the assumption that Clinton will turn down public financing and set a new standard for fundraising and spending in the fall campaign.

One Republican 2008 operative, discussing campaign strategy on the condition of anonymity, said it would be "irresponsible" for a candidate to be thinking solely about spending needs for a primary election campaign without weighing "the consequences of what Hillary is bringing to the financial table and how quickly a potential nominee will have to turn his attention to dealing with her campaign."

Note that last, loaded quote from a Republican: "what Hillary is bringing to the financial table." Not "would bring if she wins the nomination," but "is bringing."

Everything this article says about the money game in the 2008 general election goes tenfold for the Democratic primary: Hillary is a 10-ton gorilla who will dominate to the exclusion of all other, potentially better, candidates:

Sen. Clinton... is expected to have little trouble raising $100 million by the end of 2007 if she runs. The Clinton backers said a legitimate challenger to her would need to raise between $35 million and $40 million to finance strong campaigns in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states.

Hillary Clinton deserves a fair shot at becoming the Democratic nominee for President in 2008. But that's not what she's gunning for, or how the system works. She already IS the candidate, or will be very soon. She has the financial support of George Soros. She has Harold Ickes spending Soros' money to data-mine voter and donor information on an unheard-of scale and has no intention of sharing that information with other candidates or the Democratic National Committee, whose chair, Howard Dean, she can barely tolerate. She has a lackey good friend chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and access to her husband's Rolodex. And she's asking her donors NOT to give money to anyone else: you're either for her or against her, a Friend Of Hillary or not.

Do you wonder why no Democrats are stepping up to take leadership of the Party while the Republicans are stumbling? Because there's no margin in it, no profit. Hillary is acting to advance her own interests as a candidate, not for the benefit of the party, and anyone else who becomes a national party leader risks becoming a target of the F.O.H.

The Republicans already know who they're running against. The leading Democrats already know who they're NOT bothering running against. And we're sitting back watching pro wrestling, naively wondering who's going to win.

Hillary has the right to run. She really does. But she does not have the right to be anointed our nominee, any more than Bush had the right to be anointed our President, because people who are anointed generally are not responsive to the people. We won't reclaim democratic government if we can't hold democratic primaries. And we can't hold truly democratic -- as in populist -- primaries if the Brown/Hackett and Casey/Pennacchio "party boss" system chooses our next Presidential candidate, as well.

More WaPo:

If the pattern of 2004 holds for 2008, the huge surge in small donations over the Internet and through direct mail will not begin until two candidates have effectively locked up their respective nominations, probably in early March 2008.

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean caused a sensation on the Democratic side by raising $41 million by the end of 2003 for his presidential campaign, much of it in small donations from grass-roots activists. Though that was double what eventual nominee Kerry raised in 2003, that kind of money almost certainly will turn no heads in the next cycle.

Short of a grainy video of Hillary and Monica suddenly appearing on adult websites, the only way I see to short-circuit the "smoky backroom" process is for grassroots voters to put lots of money behind a single, strong challenger EARLY -- far, far earlier than the first primaries. A year earlier. Two years earlier. NOW. Dean's $41 million may "turn no heads" over a full election cycle, but it WOULD be enough to finance a serious challenger through the early primaries -- and if someone can keep up with Clinton that far, then other money will start coming in and there would be a real horserace. (And it's the horserace, not the outcome of that race, that I want to ensure).

The question is, will grassroots contributors -- who are tremendously powerful once their attention has been seized, but who have lives to lead the rest of the time -- will those grassroots contributors give their seed money BEFORE the mainstream media tells us the race has started? Because by the time MSNBC and the New York Times say it's started -- it's over.

Oh, one more thing: while we're using big words like aristocracy and plutocracy, try looking up this one, because it's what we'll get if we keep allowing big money and powerful connections to select our candidates for us, instead of demanding a return to truly democratic primaries: kakistocracy.



Anonymous said...

That Hillary would be raising money early is not so disturbing. That she would be manipulating the process by telling her donors not to give to other candidates, and setting up an apparatus run by Ickes apart from the party, turns my stomach.

You couldn't ask for a better illustration of why we need 100% publicly financed elections. Of course, we will never get that as long as the baton is being passed from one royal family to another simply because they can.

Your idea of raising money from the grassroots starting early sounds like a good and necessary one. My suggestion would be to enlist MoveOn to run this project and title it something like "the people's candidate". We will initially raise money for a candidate to be named later. Then, sometime either just before or just after the first primary, "we the people", through our membership in MoveOn, will vote on which candidate (if any) should get the funds.

I'd be willing to bet that the money won't go to Hillary. And it would certainly make for an interesting campaign - the people's candidate versus the big money corportocracy's candidate.

Cranky Daze said...

Running Hillary Clinton as the candidate for the Democrats in '08 is a recipe for's a ready-made defeat. The Pubs won't even have to mess with the voting machines.

I have no problem with the idea of a female president anymore than I would have a problem with a black president, or Hispanic or any other minority American. But this country is facing a crisis, courtesy of two terms of George W. Bush, and unless we impeach that rascal, it is only going to get worse between now and the next election. While there is nothing I would like better than to see Dubya escorted out of the White House wearing a hat made of tar and feathers, it's not going to happen. Even if Congress manages to get themselves together to the point that they can institute impeachment hearings, this country has never actually removed a sitting president, and it's very unlikely to happen with Shrub.

While Hillary is unquestionably a fighter, very intelligent and quite capable, she brings with her the Clinton baggage. She will forever be linked with her husbands misdeeds, and even though Bill is currently enjoying recognition as a pretty good prez, that will end if the Pubs have a reason to attack again. And a Hillary campaign is exactly what would feed the well-established Republican dirty-tricks campaign technique.

Democrats need to run an aggressive fighter, someone who isn't afraid to respond to Republican attacks and lies with outraged ferocity. But I believe it must be a male candidate. 2008 is not going to be the year to fight the Republican spin machine and at the same time try to overcome the prejudice against women.

This next election is perhaps the most important of our lifetime. There is so much work to be done to repair the damage the Republicans have done to our country and in order to have a realistic shot at doing that, Democrats must have a candidate that the people like and trust. That is not, unfortunately, Hillary Clinton.

Rob said...

While Hillary continues to be the darling of the media and the "undeniable front runner", the other candidates are doing what it takes to win in '08 when the rest of the world realizes what we already know: Hillary can win in the spring, but has NO chance in the fall. Look what that same article said about Sen Bayh:

Take Bayh's schedule over a week last month. After appearing on a Sunday morning talk show on Feb. 19, Bayh flew to Fort Lauderdale for a reception and dinner hosted by Mitchell Berger, a lawyer and a leading fundraiser for Kerry and former vice president Al Gore.

The following day Bayh headed to Los Angeles, where he stayed for five days. He met with a Who's Who of West Coast money men, including Dreamworks co-founder David Geffen, Phoenix Pictures head Mike Medavoy, 20th Century Fox Chairman Jim Gianopulos and Artist Production Group executive Mark Canton. After spending the weekend in Washington, D.C., Bayh flew to New York on Sunday, Feb. 26. He met with prospective donors on Monday and returned to Washington late Monday night.

Sen Bayh has the Tortise and Hare approach, slow and steady wins the race. Go ahead Hillary, shine on like a shooting star... but remember... shooting stars burn up in re-entry.

Anonymous said...

One thing that frustrates me about Hillary's machinations is that they simply prove Nader right. If someone like Dean could truly take control of the Democratic Party and lead it back to its progressive roots, then we'd overwhelmingly win elections and the Rs would have to reform themselves, as well. We'd all benefit. But Hillary? Just a new singer doing a cover of the same old song.

Frankly, I'm not sure how to stymie her efforts, either. I can publicize the problem here, but I'm no Kos. (Feel free to blogpimp me mercilessly, by the way!) And I'd like for people to choose one candidate, early, and run with him, but I don't know how to generate that consensus before the primaries (by which time it'll be too late).

Our choices, I suppose, are:
(1) To do as ctpatriot suggests and get MoveOn to start an "unnamed candidate" fund (awesome idea!), or
(2) To hire someone really good at computer effects to create that Hillary-Monica video I talked about.

Anonymous said...


That's a heartening thought; I will try and believe that plugging away like Bayh is can still work. He'll need to land some huge donors, though, to back things like database creation, and he still needs to get a kazillion $4,000 donors, where Bill's Rolodex gives Hillary a huge lead.

But keep the faith, and please keep giving me ideas.

Rob said...

Remember that Bayh was 2nd to Hillary in the Money race in 2005. Those big donors are still there and they aren't all committed to Hillary. Plus are they really committed to her or are they putting money on the front runner.

More than anything else we want to win. When the bloom falls her rose, and I'm very convinced it will, those donors WILL put their money somewhere.

lucretia said...

Hillary has corporate support, ie. the oligarchs. We are almost an oligarchy now with a dictator, neo-fascist.

Without corporate support a candidate has to raise the necessary money from the voters. The only candidate who ever did that is Howard Dean and both parties sabotaged him, because the oligarchs were afraid if elected Pres., he would not have had to do their bidding. They knew he would not have gone with the Iraq war since he came out against it, knowing it's phony.

So if Bayh gets money support,it will come from the corps making him their tool. It will be the same for Biden, Clark, Feingold, etc. Democrats need to drop their illusions. This is the way it is and has been to a greater extent for years. I had to get rid of my illusions too.

I've replaced them with Howard Dean, DNC Chair, who is rebuilding the Democratic Party from the grassroots, working with County and Central Committee Chairs in all the states, particularly the southern states. He said this will take years, which is obvious because it is a big job. This will pay off for the whole country in terms of bringing back real democracy which has been lacking for sometime for the very above reasons.

Dean is a regular Democrat as many know, not DLC/DCCC/DSCC like all the other candidates. He supports universal health care; increased labor rights and good pay which helps bring up the blue collar worker and lower level white collar worker to a better economic class with more opportunities like college education; increased affordable housing; basic improvements in infrastructure throughout the country which also will provide many jobs; improved public school education including badly needed improved schools infrastructure and increased pay for teachers.

The DLC is more hardline and hawkish. There's more interest in the middle class and upward. There is certainly less emphasis on labor which is wrong, private enterprise health care and prescriptions which adds enormously to our health care costs, big military beyond needed, and most of all they like the far- right Republicans are imperialistic. Unless the latter type of foreign policy, which would be better named "grab or blackmail economicallly" is changed drastically we will never contribute to the type of world the other nations want, which is peace and commerce.

Anonymous said...

first let me say its really great what you guys are doing here. Its a great way to get grassroots support from the people. With regards to your comment about hillary if she is allowed to get the nomination even without the support of her own party then why stay a democrat? Why not start your own party with your own principles. Or just run your candidates independent. If you reach enough people thru grassroots action then you should be able to convince voters that they dont have to vote along party lines. Its obvious that the democrats and republicans are the same party, the republicrats. Seems to me neither party looks out for the people, rather they look out for their pocketbooks. Thats obvious from your post.
Just my .02 cents.

Anonymous said...

why stay a democrat? Why not start your own party with your own principles. Or just run your candidates independent.

It's a good question, and a perennial one. The simple answer is that, historically, it doesn't work, and it can be harmful.

Teddy Roosevelt got mad nearly a hundred years ago when Republicans did similar things, and formed the Bull Moose Party -- with the result that both he and the Republican nominee lost, and that the Progressives that Teddy was representing left the Republican Party and never came back.

Similarly, Nader's third-party run was a "but for" cause of Gore's loss (meaning that, while there are other reasons that also can be blamed, including the Republicans' rigging the election, the truth remains that "but for" Nader's run, Gore would be in the White House).

What made me finally reject the idea of third-part candidacies was the realization that our political parties function just like Parliaments, except before the election instead of afterward. Let me explain:

In Parliamentary systems, there are may be two main parties, but there are lots of vibrant, smaller ones as well. If a major party fails to win the majority of votes in an election, then it must join forces with one or more smaller parties until it has cobbled together a majority to actually govern. Those indispensable minority parties extract concessions as their price for aiding the big party -- for example, Socialists may side with Liberals to form a majority, in exchange for which a Socialist is appointed Interior Minister.

In our system, one or the other big party WILL win every election, even if it doesn't win a majority. (Bill Clinton, for example, won with a less-than-50% plurality in 1992 because Ross Perot split the R vote). That's why third parties only hurt the big party they're most closely aligned with.

But third parties -- or interest groups that would be third parties if we had a Parliament -- can collaborate with the big parties to help them gain a majority; they just do it BEFORE the election. That's how they can be influential: by saying, "we'll give you our support if you will give us x, y and z in return."

So, in a Parliamentary system, Nader would have been elected to Parliament as a Green, then joined with the Democrats to form a government, in exchange for being promised a Cabinet post and liberalized environmental policies, or something like that. This being the U.S., he should have done the same thing before the election: approached Gore with an offer to withdraw from the race and throw his support to Gore in exchange for being appointed Secretary of the Interior and a promise that Gore would increase EPA mileage requirements by 5 mpg, or something similar. Then Gore would have won, and Nader would have succeeded in shifting Gore's policies to the left.

I hope I'm putting it clearly enough...

Anonymous said...

always enjoy the historical context you bring and learn something new everytime I visit this site.

"Similarly, Nader's third-party run was a "but for" cause of Gore's loss (meaning that, while there are other reasons that also can be blamed, including the Republicans' rigging the election, the truth remains that "but for" Nader's run, Gore would be in the White House)."

I can sorta see the rationale for your argument above. if the votes from nader had been given to gore than gore would likely have won even with the losing votes courtesy of republican voter machine rigging and voter disenfranchisement. However, from my understanding it seems that implicit in that argument is that its bad to vote for someone outside of the two-party system. Do you think that thats a good message to be sending?

what about running a candidate that has strong support for, or even addresses some of the following issues:

* removing the influence of corporate money in politics by making federal elections publicly funded such as already happened in conn, ariz and hopefully in Calif
* removal of the use of the 14th amendment by corporations to protect and promote their profits at the expense of people and the environment
* have voting done in an alternative fashion such as instant run-off voting where candidates can be ranked. That would have certainly solved the "but for" problem you mentioned.
* committment to heavily fund sustainable energy and economic development and move away from limited fossil fuels that put millions of years of accumulated carbon back into our atmosphere in the span of a few hundred years. And we wonder why the climate is heating and the ice caps are melting?

If these for issues are addressed then every other political problem will be solved by the system(ie government). The real question will these issues ever be brought into the dialogue of american conscious. Or better yet can someone bring them in?

Just MHO.