Democratic right to buy influence

It doesn’t take long, does it, after some trumpeting of the virtues of democracy, for our attention to get drawn afresh to certain ills that have become integral to this allegedly best of all systems of government so far devised. In the news, just days after President Obama had offered Cuba’s not going democratic as rationale for its being ostracized from the Summit of the Americas, were details of the obscene amount of cash being earmarked by conservative sources to fund Republican campaigns in a full-court press to give the party majority control of the Senate. Unabashed buying of political influence; there’s your democracy in action.

Campaign finance reform, as a concept, was in truth dead on arrival in Washington, despite the presumed good intentions of a few hardy souls who thought to be advocates for a high-road prerequisite for political office. The appetite in Washington was unequivocally not (and isn’t about to be) for placing clamps on how campaign coffers were to be filled. And when even the Supreme Court (or, rather, its conservative bloc) acquiesced in letting the deep pockets hold sway in funding campaigns, politics as a blood sport became at once that much greener as well.

So here’s this New York Times report, via Jeremy Peters, detailing the plans of conservative outfits to surpass the massive spending effort undertaken in 2010 to help facilitate the GOP’s regaining control of the House. To be sure, in 2010 Democrats found themselves back on their heels, a result of that initial rush of Obama backlash whose public face was purported to be healthcare overhaul but whose racial overtones were hard to miss. It’s a bit of a different dynamic in 2012, with Republicans having now been a majority party in one of the chambers on the Hill and having some pretty bothersome stuff to defend. Stuff like a rigid determination not to work with the other side, or a cavalier attitude about bringing the people’s business to the brink of shutdown because of intransigence, or pointedly favoring big business interests over the hoi polloi whenever the twain collide.

Those big business elements tend to be well represented in the groups reportedly committing more than $100 million for television advertising for Republican candidates in targeted Senate races. The Chamber of Commerce is very front and center. Also in the mix, Crossroads GPS, masterminded by Karl Rove, whose reputation precedes him, and Americans for Prosperity, bankrolled by the stridently right-wing Koch brothers.

The state of the economy, as everyone knows, will likely be the overriding determining factor for the electorate in November, and not only the presidency but other races as well could turn on this issue. Should there be, by election time, a reasonably good feeling among Americans that their economic outlook isn’t as dire as it once appeared, it would be interesting watching whether the big-money push from the right enables them to dominate and neutralize the fairness and justice cries of the now famous 99 percent.

Ever since Obama’s election, clear, clinical analysis of behavior among the (white) voting public has made for a particular complexity. There’s no doubt that a goodly chunk of white voters willing to align with the big business point of view would do so not because of compatibility with such territory, but a visceral hostility toward the president. Middle and working class whites are very much included in the plurality of the overall public shown in polls to favor increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans or ending big-business subsidies such as the one enjoyed by the major oil companies. There’s a not easily resolved contradiction in middle and working class whites getting on board with those advocating that kind of decidedly pro-business, anti-worker plank.

True to form, that’s the blueprint being followed, according to the Times report, in the mega-bucks campaign the assorted conservative groups have so far unleashed and plan to maintain through the election. The well-known Republican/conservative talking points are sprayed all over the airwaves. Like criticism of a Democratic opponent for supporting “business-smothering regulations.” Just fascinating to see how “regulations” has been transformed, in Republican parlance, to a downright dirty word! Quite cute, too, (brazen, really) in one of the spiels, is the inclusion of a caution that a Democratic incumbent “will cut your Medicare.” This, from a Republican camp which has engendered serious fears surrounding what they seem poised to do to entitlement programs!

All of this is democracy, the purists would say…including the very rich having every right to put to use their largess in the process of garnering support for self or cause or candidate. To that one is tempted to say, with Dickens’ Mr. Bumble, “If that is the law, then the law is a ass.”

It looms as a not very good day for democracy – however we care to be expansive about what true democracy entails – if big money in this election cycle manages to obscure the king-size con job being undertaken here. Others in the fray might look for some guidance to Missouri’s Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, who has been bombarded by the right side attack ads, reported the Times, and chose a tack of excerpting some of the virulent stuff in her own counter advertisement, with this line by the narrator: “What they’re doing to Claire McCaskill is nothing compared to what their special interests agenda would do to you.”

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