Welcome to this weeks edition of The Daily Banter Mail Bag!!! Today, Bob, Ben and Chez answer readers questions on the effect of Super PACs on the Democrats, what single issue grass roots movement we would support, and superstar Mayor Cory Booker's unfortunate snub to Obama last week.
You guys have talked about how the Republicans, as they stand, are on the threshold of irrelevance. That the party is doomed. But what if Mitt Romney wins the presidency in November - and by extension, the GOP wins both the House and Senate? Won't that mean the Super PACs have done their job, and that we're at the tip of the iceberg on a new reality where unlimited corporate money will keep the Republicans infinitely alive to do what they please? And that the Democrats are the ones doomed for irrelevancy?
Bob: It's very likely that corporate money will continue to be a part of American elections for the near future, but the Republicans are absolutely becoming increasingly marginalized and regionalized. A potential Romney victory won't remedy that because most of the Republican Party is controlled by the far-right, and Romney isn't really considered to be part of that faction. That said, he'll try to govern that way and, sadly, the American people sometimes need to be clobbered over the head with a bad thing before they get the picture. In this case, they'll see firsthand -- and once again -- how piss-poor the Republicans are at governing. If I was forced to guess, I would say that we're looking at another party shift in the not too distant future in which the Republicans will split in two. It's unclear which of the two halves will win the day. Let's hope it's the reasonable David Frum half and not the radical tea party half. All told, the Democrats have been raising significantly more in donations that the Republicans, and there's no sign that will end -- at least during this campaign, that is.
Chez: Jonathan Chait summed up nicely what would happen if Romney and the Republicans scored an across-the-board victory within the next couple of years and there's no doubt at all that it would do severe damage to the progressive agenda -- potentially stymying it for years to come. It would hurt -- badly. But the end result is going to be the same if the Republicans continue to follow the path they have for the past few decades: Eventually, they're going to be demographically pushed out of existence by the very people they've tried to keep the country from. It's inevitable -- the question is simply how long it takes. The SuperPACs obviously have a huge impact, but if there's no audience there for their work -- no receptive electorate -- then they won't make ass much of a difference as you'd think. Admittedly, there needs to be a concerted effort to get money out of politics. Good luck with that, though.
Ben: Hi Chris, sadly I think you'll just see the Democrats shift further into line with the interests of the rich in order to compete with the Republicans for Super PAC money. It's happened already as both parties raise their money from the same sources. In the short term Super PACs benefit Republicans, but in the long term, it just corrupts the entire political system. If Mitt Romney and the GOP take over all branches of government, we'll see pretty much the exact same thing we saw during the Bush years - the complete collapse of the country on every level. The thing is, the Republican party is not just ideologically bankrupt, they can't actually run anything either. The extreme Right controls the party, and to put it bluntly, they aren't that bright. If Romney and the other goons get in, Super PACs will probably shift over to the Democrats who are far better managers than Republicans, despite their allegiance to corporate interests.
Every time I think hard about the political system in America, I get depressed. Structurally, it's virtually impossible to get anything done, and because money now plays such a big part, serious democratic change is nothing but a pipe dream. If you were going to head up a grass roots movement to enact real change, what would you focus on? I don't think the OWS guys are focused enough, and I think it could be their downfall. The Left needs to get organized and pick a topic and stick to it if you ask me.
Chez: New media and social networking has helped the left get a little more organized and attack an issue through the death-by-a-million-cuts philosophy, and that can be a good thing. But yeah, as I've written and talked about quite a bit lately, I have days when I just completely tune out politics because it's just that depressing -- and personally I spent a lot of time being depressed over the past few years and now that I'm out of that hole I'm incredibly reluctant to piss myself off again for any reason at all. The left's problem has always been a lack of organization, simply because your average liberal prides him or herself on being an independent thinker and not following the pack -- even going so far as to think of being a "follower" as some kind of heresy against the liberal mindset. The issue with this, of course, is that progressives sometimes have a tough time rallying around anything -- any one subject -- because each person's tendency to want to show off his or her own free-thinking and lack of adherence to authority turns any movement into a fucking mess. This is the problem with the Occupy movement. Occasionally, a little bumper-sticker sloganeering -- the kind of robotic nonsense the right is famous for -- can be a good thing because it's effective. The left needs to learn this.
Ben: If it were up to me, I'd organize an entire grass roots movement around campaign finance reform. If there was a way to get money out of politics, we would eventually see politicians who supported the interests of regular people rising up through the system. Public financing is the only real way to ensure a functioning, reasonably fair democracy, and as long as private money floods into elections, we won't see anything resembling that.
Bob: Actually, our system works pretty well from an historical perspective. Yes, things move slowly, but that prevents radical shifts in leadership and policy. You might be thinking we've seen some radicalism here, but not compared with other nations with multiparty systems and multiple post-war constitutions. Our system has remains rather stable, all told. I agree that there are absolutely infuriating aspects to our politics, but I find that has more to do with the press, the voters and the strategy of the parties than it does with the way the system is set up. Ultimately, if we don't like how things are working (or not working) then we can replace the entire government if we choose. Unfortunately, we don't often do that and we settle for incumbents that survive in Congress way past their expiration date. Much like television and entertainment, we get what we ask for.
Man, what is with Cory Booker? Is this guy some sort of corporate hack? Defending Bain Capital? I really thought this guy was different but I think he's just another centrist Democrat with no new ideas.
Bob: It was a blunder and a miscalculation, but as I wrote here, he's still a big star for the future of the Democratic Party. And I don't think he's a centrist. He's in the process of trying to appeal to a national constituency -- introducing himself -- and he doesn't want to paint himself into a liberal corner. Yet. I assure you, this guy will go very, very far and one day soon we'll totally forget about his false equivalence and defense of Bain Capital.
Ben: I was definitely disheartened by Booker's statement regarding Bain Capital - I think it was a major mistake, and he realizes it. Booker is the genuine article in my opinion - a real progressive who understands the political game with the same type of shrewdness Obama does. He's an African American Democrat, so he has to be very careful with what he says to avoid being labeled as a Black Panther Communist. Believe me, the Republicans are watching him like a hawk because they know how much potential he has, and they are waiting for him to say something remotely controversial so they can smear him like they did Obama. The President barely did anything to suggest he was a Democrat, let alone a radical socialist when arriving on the political scene, yet the Republicans pounced on anything they could to prevent his ascent to the Presidency. I think Booker was trying to play the middle ground and appear above the fray, but he chose the wrong topic and the wrong time. He's being punished for it accordingly, and I don't think he'll make the same mistake twice.
Chez: Knock off the melodrama, please. He said something you, me and a lot of other people disagree with wholeheartedly. He's done his walk of shame. Let it go.
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