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Apr 03 2014

SCOTUS Hands More Power to Oligarchs

The Supreme Corp…sorry, I meant Court…doubled down on their ruling in Citizens United (and the even more important 4th Circuit case Free Speech Now) and all but handed what little was left of a genuine democracy over to wealthy individuals and corporations. The New York Times reports on the ruling in McCutcheon v FEC:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a major campaign finance decision, striking down some limits on federal campaign contributions for the first time. The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will change and most likely increase the already large role money plays in American politics.

The decision, by a 5-to-4 vote along ideological lines, with the Court’s more conservative justices in the majority, was a sequel of sorts to Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions. But that ruling did nothing to affect the other main form of campaign finance regulation: caps on direct contributions to candidates and political parties.

Wednesday’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, No. 12-536, addressed that second kind of regulation.

It did not affect familiar base limits on contributions from individuals to candidates, currently $2,600 per candidate in primary and general elections. But it said that overall limits of $48,600 by individuals every two years for contributions to all federal candidates violated the First Amendment, as did separate aggregate limits on contributions to political party committees, currently $74,600.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for four justices in the controlling opinion, said the First Amendment required striking down the limits. “There is no right in our democracy more basic,” he wrote, “than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

Dissenting from the bench, Justice Stephen G. Breyer called the decision a blow to the First Amendment and American democracy. “If the court in Citizens United opened a door,” he said, “today’s decision may well open a floodgate.”

Gerry Hebert of the Campaign Legal Center, one of the top campaign finance experts in the country who spent decades in the DOJ, blasts the ruling:

The decision provides a roadmap for the wholesale evasion of the base contribution limits. Candidates will solicit million-dollar checks, contributors will write them and the pay-to-play system in Washington will only become more direct. The Roberts Court has exponentially increased the already-significant political influence of the very richest while further undermining the influence of the overwhelming majority of Americans who could not afford to write checks to politicians for even a fraction of the former aggregate contribution limit of more than $120,000 per election cycle.

The nation’s Founders believed that Members of Congress would be representative of all Americans. James Madison observed, for example, that the popular government they were forming would be one where our elected Members of Congress would be beholden to the many, not just the wealthy few. The Court’s decision today is a body blow to the principle that our democracy is a self-participatory one, where “We the People” get to decide who represents us. Instead, it’s now “We the Wealthy.”

That today’s decision uses the First Amendment as a justification makes a mockery of the Constitution. The First Amendment was intended to facilitate the exchange of ideas and information among all of us and thereby encourage our informed participation in our government. This decision turns the First Amendment on its head by enabling those with the biggest check books to gain even more influence and access to our elected officials. In doing so, it harms the ability of ordinary Americans to engage in greater and more meaningful political participation. It defies both logic and common sense to suggest that the wealthiest Americans are lacking in “speech opportunities” because of the aggregate contribution limits, which have been in place for decades.

The fig leaf the Court used to justify Citizens United was the proposition that spending by outside groups could not possibly corrupt or even lead to the appearance of corruption. It wasn’t true when they wrote it and now we have two election cycles worth of evidence to the contrary. But today’s decision in McCutcheon did not even bother with a fig leaf. An activist Court simply discarded decades of its own precedents and the common sense principle that unchecked and direct political contributions give rise to indebted – and often corrupted – officeholders and candidates.

This passage from the ruling leaves me simply gobsmacked:

Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner ‘influence over or access to’ elected officials or political parties.

He can’t really believe that, can he? That’s more than naivete, it’s delusional. And no one who has been around Washington, DC or any state capitol for 5 minutes could possibly believe it. The influence of big money in elections is the single biggest problem in this country because it prevents us from solving nearly every other problem. And it just became even worse. Serf’s up!

47 comments

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  1. 1
    sh3baproject

    ha! great pun. but shit to this ruling.

    they are changing the “peasant” to better their own futures! anyone?

  2. 2
    raven

    Xpost from Pharyngula:

    Bookforum. com;

    An ambitious study documents the long-term reign of the 1 percent

    Doug Henwood
    from the upcoming Apr/May 2014 issue

    The core message of this enormous and enormously important book can be delivered in a few lines: Left to its own devices, wealth inevitably tends to concentrate in capitalist economies.

    There is no “natural” mechanism inherent in the structure of such economies for inhibiting, much less reversing, that tendency. Only crises like war and depression, or political interventions like taxation (which, to the upper classes, would be a crisis), can do the trick. And Thomas Piketty has two centuries of data to prove his point.

    In more technical terms, the central argument of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that as long as the rate of return on capital, r, exceeds the rate of broad growth in national income, g—that is, r > g—capital will concentrate. It is an empirical fact that the rate of return on capital—income in the form of profits, dividends, rents, and the like, divided by the value of the assets that produce the income—has averaged 4–5 percent over the last two centuries or so. It is also an empirical fact that the growth rate in GDP per capita has averaged 1–2 percent. There are periods and places where growth is faster, of course: the United States in younger days, Japan from the 1950s through the 1980s, China over the last thirty years. But these are exceptions—and the two earlier examples have reverted to the mean. So if that 4–5 percent return is largely saved rather than being bombed, taxed, or dissipated away, it will accumulate into an ever-greater mass relative to average incomes. That may seem like common sense to anyone who’s lived through the last few decades, but it’s always nice to have evidence back up common sense, which isn’t always reliable. etc.

    The book is Capital by Thomas Piketty.

    1. There is a new theory that wealth and income inequality inevitably accumulates in capitalist economies without intervention.

    2. There is data on this. It is us, the USA.

    3. I’ve only read the review, quoted above. Think about it.

    4. It’s known that income inequality societies become politically unstable. We are becoming politically unstable.

  3. 3
    raven

    1. Income inequality has been increasing in the USA for over half a century, regardless of which party is in power. There is no sign of this trend reversing.

    2. Income inequality societies become politically unstable. We are becoming politically unstable.

    3. Wealth tends to lead to political power.

    Really, we are on trend to become a poor-on-average society, unstable, and ruled by wealth oligarchies. This sounds a lot like feudalism.

    This decision today by the Supreme court just makes all those trends worse. Off hand, while they might not hate America, they don’t much care for the bulk of American citizens who live here.

  4. 4
    left0ver1under

    In some dictatorships, strict control of the populace didn’t come all at once via a coup. (Despite Prescott Bush’s desire for it.)

    Rather, it came from people being nickeled and dimed out of their nickels and dimes, their voices slowly and gradually muffled and then strangled.

  5. 5
    Gregory in Seattle

    @left0ver1under #4 – And all too often, the people cheer right up until the moment the shackles are applied.

    So this is how liberty dies….

  6. 6
    Modusoperandi

    raven “Really, we are on trend to become a poor-on-average society, unstable, and ruled by wealth oligarchies. This sounds a lot like feudalism.”
    It sounds more like the South won the war.

  7. 7
    felidae

    MONEY TALKS!–its official–the Supreme Court says so. The problem with “money is speech” is that it allows some people to talk much, much louder than others and gives incentives for elected officials to listen more closely to those with the fat wallets, leaving average folks essentially voiceless

  8. 8
    eric

    Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption.

    In a way that is true…spending large sums of money on an election does not give rise to quit pro quo corruption if there is no expectation of reelection. Set one-term term limits, and I bet the problem would largely go away. Of course so would the money, because both spenders and recipients understand that the real power of the money is not just that it gets you in the office, but that it can be shifted to remove you two years later if you don’t do what the money wants.

  9. 9
    doublereed

    @8 eric

    Uh. No. Term limits don’t solve corruption. There’s plenty of ridiculous corruption among one-term limit states. I think Florida has a one-term limit on governors? Maybe?

    First of all, newcomer elected officials can still come in corrupt. Most obviously, the Tea Party are all fresh newcomers and they have all sorts of powerful monetary backing and corruption.

    Secondly, the revolving door allows politicians to be bribed while in office to take cushy jobs while they’re out of office. Re-election is not the only thing necessary. I’m not sure why people think politicians magically become noncorrupt in their last term.

  10. 10
    Ryan Jean

    I agree with everything Gerry Hebert wrote except this: “An activist Court simply discarded decades of its own precedents…”

    That is not a meaningful argument when supporting a conservative position, and it shouldn’t be assumed to become one only because it is supporting a liberal one.

  11. 11
    Scr... Archivist

    I think the talk about corruption is a red herring. The question is not about getting a legislator to change their mind by bribing them. The point of funding the campaign is to guarantee the election of someone who already thinks the right way.

    He’s not the one you need to bribe. Instead, you need to get the proles to vote in the right direction.

    So, first, how do we get people to see through that? For example, do we need to make the sponsorship logos on politicians’ suits bigger and clearer?

    Second, isn’t a lot of this money going to advertising? And isn’t advertising commerce, in which the owner of a communications company sells his audience to the advertiser? If speech cannot be regulated, commerce can.

  12. 12
    colnago80

    Well, the broken record here repeats one more time. The total takeover of the political system by the Adelsons, the Kochs and the Hobby Lobby owners was put on steroids in the 2000 election when many deluded liberals in Florida and New Hampshire decided that Al Gore wasn’t sufficiently pure and voted for Nader instead. The two votes on the SCOTUS that decided this issue were cast by Dubya appointees Roberts and Alito. Elections have consequences and the two Supreme Court rulings that handed the country over to the 1% are the consequence of those Nader voters in 2000. I will bet that there will be many of the same ilk who, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee in 2016 running against, say Jeb Bush, will conclude that there is no difference between the two and either abstain or vote for the candidate of the Green party.

  13. 13
    rory

    @10 Ryan

    I don’t agree. I think the label ‘activist court’ is not terribly informative, but I think it’s perfectly valid to note when a Supreme Court decision breaks with a substantial body of precedent. Presumbably there should be a very compelling reason when we suddenly decide that the way we’ve been doing things all along is incorrect. If no such compelling reason exists, I think it’s fair to criticize such a decision.

    I’m open to being convinced otherwise, though.

  14. 14
    Broken Things

    @10

    During the confirmation hearings fpr Roberts, he was very clear that he would respect precedent in the Supreme Court. There is no sign that he has ever done so in cases where there was an advantage to be gained by conservatives, and so effectively lied to Congress to be confirmed.

  15. 15
    John Kruger

    The majority opinion in this ruling is profoundly naive about how politics and lobbying is actually happening in the US government these days.

    Elections are not directly bought with advertising, so perhaps there is some way to dig ourselves out of this insanity before we become completely unstable due to massive wealth inequality, but the hole has just gotten a lot deeper.

  16. 16
    fifthdentist

    All USians are equal, but USians are more equal than others.

  17. 17
    fifthdentist

    but *some* USians are more equal than others

  18. 18
    fmitchell

    Since the Supreme Court has sided with the oligarchs and power brokers, we the people must ignore the incessant advertisements and vote for candidates with our best interests … oh, hell, we’re doomed.

  19. 19
    Nihilismus

    @12 colnago80

    Well, the broken record here repeats one more time. The total takeover of the political system by the Adelsons, the Kochs and the Hobby Lobby owners was put on steroids in the 2000 election when many deluded liberals in Florida and New Hampshire decided that Al Gore wasn’t sufficiently pure and voted for Nader instead. The two votes on the SCOTUS that decided this issue were cast by Dubya appointees Roberts and Alito.

    Yes, you are bring a broken record of a meaningless song. More Democrats voted for Bush than Nader. You have no idea whether the Nader supporters took into account the spoiler effect or not. Al Gore could have focused on environmental issues much sooner. The Supreme Court was already conservative-leaning in Bush v. Gore, which is what actually allowed Bush to win. Who appointed those justices? Should we push the blame further back? What about Florida’s government — the unequal resources in different counties and the flawed certification and counting by the state? Hell, let’s blame the electoral college for making Florida a swing state and ignoring the popular vote winner. That would require us to blame the Framers and every generation since that has not amended the constitution or enacted the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

    Oh, and one more thing. There was an intervening election before John Roberts was first nominated.

  20. 20
    comfychair

    At some point (we may have already passed it) it will be less damaging to just select ordinary people via random lottery to serve as representatives, like jury duty.

  21. 21
    mikeyb

    ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
    BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.

    Justice Roberts

  22. 22
    timpayne

    @ 19 Nihilismus

    Here’s Ed Brayton from Jan. 2010: “I know a lot of liberals are very upset by yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v FEC, but frankly I think it’s much ado about little.” Sometimes people say the stupidest things, and your assertion that the Nader candidacy was not responsible for the Bush victory is certainly one of them. Gore lost the US presidency by 500 Florida votes, where Nader got 97,000 votes. Ironic that the Green Party is directly responsible for the most environmentally irresponsible administration this country has ever had.

  23. 23
    Nihilismus

    @22 timpayne

    Sometimes people say the stupidest things, and your assertion that the Nader candidacy was not responsible for the Bush victory is certainly one of them. Gore lost the US presidency by 500 Florida votes, where Nader got 97,000 votes.

    It’s not that Nader wasn’t a cause in fact of a Bush victory, but that he’s hardly the proximate cause. There are so many other “causes” of Bush’s victory that singling out Nader seems misguided. Gore did not technically lose by 500 votes, as counting after Bush v. Gore (and thus, counting that did not “count”) showed that Gore had more votes, even in the relevant Florida counties. The decision in Bush v. Gore depended on conservatives on the court, which depended on them being nominated by past presidents, which depended on them being elected by prior electoral colleges.

    And as I mentioned in the earlier post, more Democrats voted for Bush than Nader. Also, the focus of my prior post wasn’t on what caused Bush’s victory, but what caused Citizens United. Bush’s Supreme Court nominations happened in his second term, so Nader is even less to blame.

  24. 24
    jesse

    Um, why does anyone blame Nader for losing Florida? Nader had far more votes, proportionally, in NH, and if the people who voted Nader there had voted for Gore Florida wouldn’t have mattered. Remember, FL brought Bush from behind.

    Heck, if Al Gore had carried his home state Florida would have been moot, and NH as well. Gore would have been the very first candidate to win without carrying his home state since Nixon (depending on whether you see him as a Californian or not). Prior to that you have to go to Woodrow Wilson.

    To reiterate, let’s look at the math: Nader got 22,000 votes in New Hampshire. If those folks voted Gore then he wins the state hands down (he got 266,348 to Bush’s 273,559).

    Anyhow, I was thinking of an interesting experiment: this ruling, even though it concentrates on campaign finance law, could be used to strike down every single law against outright bribery.

    Why? Because if your fundamental argument is that money and speech are equivalent, or even that one is an expression of the other, then there’s no difference between my giving a million dollars to someone for a campaign and telling him “vote this way on X bill and you will get a million dollars.”

    If I were so inclined, and had a load of money, I might try that. Give a politician as much money as I could and fund his legal defense, and tell the courts that yeah, you just eliminated any anti-bribery rules. See how that flies, and if it goads anyone into action. Man, if only I had George Soros’ number… :-)

  25. 25
    Nihilismus

    @24 jesse

    Because if your fundamental argument is that money and speech are equivalent, or even that one is an expression of the other, then there’s no difference between my giving a million dollars to someone for a campaign and telling him “vote this way on X bill and you will get a million dollars.”

    To restate the point another way, there is no difference between thanking someone for voting a certain way using words and thanking them with money. In fact, giving them money is just a way of stressing how thankful you are — really, really.

  26. 26
    jaybee

    Nihilismus @ 19 said:

    The Supreme Court was already conservative-leaning in Bush v. Gore, which is what actually allowed Bush to win. Who appointed those justices?

    Between 1969 and 2009, 15 justices were confirmed to the court. 13 of them were from Republican administrations, and two were from Democratic (specifically Clinton’s) administration.

    Obama has appointed the two newest members, of course, but arguably they both moved the court further to the right as well. Had two of the far right justices been replaced, things would have been very different.

  27. 27
    lorn

    Money is speech is just a few iterations from the seldom spoken conservative/capitalist dogma that money is freedom. Which inevitably leads, in the capitalist games of Monopoly, where it always end with one having all, to everyone but the one experiencing the corollary: No money means no freedom.

    Related: one man, one vote versus one dollar, one vote.
    The best government money can buy.

    Deeply enlightened, and very funny, observations along the same lines:

  28. 28
    laurentweppe

    Left to its own devices, wealth inevitably tends to concentrate in capitalist economies.

    Let’s be more blunt: left to their own device, agrarian societies will Always engender parasitic castes of hereditary nobility.
    Even if we lived in a perfect meritocracy, the elites who reached their position of wealth and power through talent and hard work would soon realize that most of their offsprings will not be talented and hardworking enough to earn their parent’s positions on top of the food chain and will be tempted to rig the competition in their kids’ favor. Some will resist this temptation, but many will actively try to sabotage the very meritocracy which allowed them to thrives because they don’t want the janitor’s kids to become richer than their own offsprings.

    The problem is that for decades western progressives were so afraid of being accused of demagoguery that they shied away from openly saying that the one and only goal of standards bearers of dynastic wealth was to reestablish the rule of the parasite lords.

  29. 29
    matty1

    the one and only goal of standards bearers of dynastic wealth was to reestablish the rule of the parasite lords.

    I think that’s giving the wealthy too much credit for long term planning and class loyalty. They want to keep their particular privileges for themselves and their children not work towards some grand plan for the benefit of all the other billionaires.

  30. 30
    democommie

    I’M 64; I’m pretty certain that I’ll be dead BEFORE they start making SoyLent Green–but just in case, I think I’ll get the tattoo on my chest that I used to kid one of our many local dermagraphologists about:

    “Do NOT open. Burn this after reading”

  31. 31
    caseloweraz

    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for four justices in the controlling opinion, said the First Amendment required striking down the limits. “There is no right in our democracy more basic,” he wrote, “than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

    This, in context, is easily seen to be a transparent rationalization. There is nothing impeding American citizens’ right to participate in electing our political leaders. (Well, except the occasional purges of voter rolls by Republicans.)

    The habit of regarding any limits or criticisms as oppressive restrictions must be catching.

  32. 32
    barryd

    eric: “In a way that is true…spending large sums of money on an election does not give rise to quit pro quo corruption if there is no expectation of reelection. Set one-term term limits, and I bet the problem would largely go away. Of course so would the money, because both spenders and recipients understand that the real power of the money is not just that it gets you in the office, but that it can be shifted to remove you two years later if you don’t do what the money wants.”

    Wrong on several counts:

    1) Spending large sums of money on elections tends strongly to put sympathetic people in office, and get rid of opposing people.

    2) The sympathetic people, even if leaving office after one term, might be running for another office (see term limits in California).

    3) Sympathetic/bribeable people can be paid off *after* leaving office for the ‘private’ sector (heck, look at the current system, and where ex-politicians go).

    4) When term limits are established, power shifts to the bureaucracy and lobbyists.

  33. 33
    colnago80

    Re Jesse @ #24

    If you bothered to read my comment @ #12, you would have seen me cite New Hampshire in addition to Florida as a case where Nader voters outnumbered the margin between the two candidates.

    Re Nihilismus @ #19

    The statement about Democrats who voted for Bush in 2000 is a total irrelevancy. It is not at all uncommon for conservatives who call themselves Democrats based on their history to vote Rethuglican in Southern states like Florida. They are what are sometimes referred to as blue dog Democrats. Presumably, most of the Democrats who voted for Nader did so because they found Gore to be insufficiently pure. They were engaged in teaching the Democrats a lesson. I strongly suspect that if Clinton runs against Jeb Bush in 2016 there will be deluded Democrats in purple states like Florida, Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire who will do the same, I have been there and done that. In the 1968 election, I declined to vote for Humphrey for president, as did thousands of other Democrats in California, more then enough to hand the state over to Nixon. Yeah, the Democrats learned their lesson and nominated numbnuts George McGovern in 1972 who proceeded to have his head handed to him.

    Re jaybee @ #26

    It’s a little early to say that Sotomayor and Kagan are more conservative then Souter and Stevens . They are certainly well to the left of Roberts and Alito and I would venture to say that, had Gore been elected in 2000, his appointments to replace O’Connor and Rehnquist would also have been well to the left of Roberts and Alito.

  34. 34
    pocketnerd

    On the other hand, the party loyalists who vote Democrat no matter whose name appears next to the lever have led to problems as well. Specifically, for the last 30 years the Democrats have tried to win elections by being Republican Lite™ — since a large bloc will ALWAYS vote Democrat, why not woo those elusive “centrists”? (And who CARES if a few granola-munching hippies on the far left sit out the election?)

    As the Democrats have slid right — and the Overton window along with them — the neoconservatives have had less and less reason to hide their true goals. Gunboat diplomacy, contempt for the lower and middle economic classes, pro-plutocratic economic policy, and religious hegemony were all things the right wing had to discuss with code words and dogwhistles in 1984. Today, three decades later, these are naked pillars of the GOP platform… not least because there’s no opposing voice. The proles get to choose between “Cut taxes! Screw poor people!” and “Cut taxes slightly less. Screw poor people slightly less.”

    Hillary Clinton looks like more of the same — more “triangulation,” more lickspittle appeasement of the rent-seeking oligarchs who abolished the social safety net, who like unemployment because it keeps inflation down and labor costs low. Will she take a stand on civil liberties and the effective suspension of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments in the Bill of Rights? Probably not. Extend the same rights and protections gay men and women are only beginning to enjoy to transfolk and other members of the queer community? Doubt it. Push for justice against those who lied us into a decade-long, multi-trillion-dollar war? Not bloody likely. Roll back the radical extensions of executive power under Bush and Obama? Don’t bet the farm on it, John-boy.

    These are core issues to me, and unless the Democrats radically change tack in the next two years, their candidate won’t represent me. So exactly why should I, once again, pull the D lever? Why does “elections have CONSEQUENCES!” mean I should vote in lockstep with the party, rather than meaning the party should actually represent its base?

  35. 35
    freehand

    Coinago80 et al – yes, the most ideologically pure always blame the insufficiently pure more than the alleged enemy. North Ireland, apartheid South Africa, etc saw many atrocious attacks on those who were trying to bridge the gap between sides. As for the Bush regime, I blame those people who voted for Bush, whether they were True Democrats® or not
    .
    The worst of all of this is that we face very real dangers from the natural world (remember that?) which are not going to wait until we get fed up in 20 years and have a revolution, then a second revolution to get the right people in charge, then a generation to sort things out. I fear this will be the death knell for humanity. Tropospheric ozone, marine ecosystem collapse, hotter and longer drought, more devastating rainstorms, stronger hurricanes, mass migrations, global wars, and a resurgence of fundamentalist religions (including new ones).
    .
    NASA comments on this:
    http://climate.nasa.gov/news/1010

  36. 36
    barryd

    pocketnerd: “So exactly why should I, once again, pull the D lever? Why does “elections have CONSEQUENCES!” mean I should vote in lockstep with the party, rather than meaning the party should actually represent its base?”

    Have somebody who’s not a Green or a Naderite explain the last decade and a half to you.

  37. 37
    timpayne

    Nihilismus & jesse

    Don’t mean to go on and on about Bush v Gore, but it pisses me off when people glibly dismiss the very real damage caused by liberal third party candidates. Nader knew he couldn’t win long before the election, and he knew perfectly well the only effect his candidacy could have on the election would be to help Bush. Noted progressives and environmentalists implored him to withdraw, and he would not do it.

    But forget about Bush/Gore. I live in Maine with a disastrous Republican governor who thinks attracting business means weakening environmental standards and labor laws. He won with about 37% of the vote, the independent and the Dem sharing the other 63%. Now Cutler (the independent) is strong on the environment and generally a pretty smart, decent guy, but he can not win. But he plans to run again, and there is a very good chance he will once again put shithead Paul LePage back in office. One thing for certain, environmentalist Cutler’s campaign will be heavily funded by Republicans who detest environmental regulations.

    Here’s my prediction for 2016 elections. There will be money poring in like we’ve never seen before, but media markets are already completely saturated with adds for the major party candidates. I’m betting enormous sums will now start supporting third party campaigns that will tend to divide the Democratic vote. And if progressives fall for that shit, we can count on another Bush presidency.

  38. 38
    pocketnerd

    Thus Spake Zarabarryd:

    Have somebody who’s not a Green or a Naderite explain the last decade and a half to you.

    That’s not an answer to my question, that’s a repetition of the original assertion.

    Maybe if more people jumped ship rather than just holding their noses and voting Republican Lite™ we could get some genuine liberals running for national office. Why is the obligation only one way? Why is the DNC’s Chosen One somehow entitled to my vote, but I’m not entitled to a candidate who represents my views?

    I ask all this as somebody who has consistently voted Democrat in every national election since I was old enough to vote — but I’m beginning to suspect I’m part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  39. 39
    eric

    @37:

    Nader knew he couldn’t win long before the election, and he knew perfectly well the only effect his candidacy could have on the election would be to help Bush.

    The typical goal of “unwinnable” third party candidates is to try and shift one of the other candidates to be more like them. So no, the “only” effect Nader was trying for was not to help Bush win, the effect Nader was probably going for was to shift Gore’s policy positions. But Gore didn’t shift enough to pick up the Nader voters, so he lost. Though ultimately I side with @35 on this – if you’re going to blamestorm, it really should be the people who voted for Bush you blame for Bush’s victory, not the people who voted for Nader.

    @38:

    Why is the DNC’s Chosen One somehow entitled to my vote, but I’m not entitled to a candidate who represents my views?

    It would be interesting to see the greens and more left liberals adopt the same strategy as the Tea Party. IOW, forget trying to put up a Presidential third candidate. Focus on Congressional primaries, with the goal of getting more greens/liberals to the be Democratic candidate in the general election. To include running primary candidates against incumbent Democrats. I think, pocketnerd, that that may be the only realistic way you can get a candidate that represents your views.

  40. 40
    Nihilismus

    @37 timpayne

    Nihilismus & jesse

    Don’t mean to go on and on about Bush v Gore, but it pisses me off when people glibly dismiss the very real damage caused by liberal third party candidates.

    I can’t really speak for jesse, but as I’ve tried to explain, I’m not saying third party liberals can’t cause damage, but that specifically Nader can’t reasonably be given all the blame for McCutcheon v FEC. That’s like blaming Gavrilo Princip for the Apollo 1 disaster. Sure, you could explain how his actions started WWI, whose consequences led to the Russian Revolution and WW2, whose consequences led to the space race — but there are so many other combined and intervening causes that it’s pointless to state the connection.

    Even from reading jesse’s post, the point seems to be that not just “Nader in Florida” but “Nader in New Hampshire” and “Gore’s poor performance in his home state” can also be blamed. Any one of those things, if different, could have changed the results of the election, so it seems odd to single out one thing in particular, and then blame that for everything that happened since, even after an intervening election in 2004.

    I disagree with pocketnerd @34 because the consequences of voting for a liberal third party are often worse than the unrepresenative Democrat winning. I can see the logic of trying to pull Democratic candidates to the left so that THEY (the candidates) can try to avoid the consequences of losing by appealing to the liberal voters. But the time to do that is in the primary elections, not the general election. The Tea Party has been pretty successful in waging primary challenges, but for the most part, they have not tried to spoil general elections when they didn’t win the primary.

    That said, I think the threat of the spoiler effect can be used as a tool to enact electoral reform, but only if used in the right areas. All third party candidates, conservative and liberal, should temporarily unite behind the common cause of electoral reform. Liberal candidates should run in swing districts (that only lean slightly left) in states with Democratically-controlled legislatures/governorships, and conservatives can also run in slightly-right leaning swing districts. The liberals should point out to the Democrats that the liberals’ presence might cause the Republicans to win whatever race they are in, and that the only way to avoid the spoiler effect is for the Democratically-controlled legislature to pass a law before the election that requires instant-runoff voting, or (ideally) single-transferable voting. That way, the spoiler effect is no longer a factor. The Democrat will probably win, but over time, as voters realize it is “safe” to vote for the liberal third party (and that they can designate the Democrat as their second preference), eventually the third party might win. If not enough Democrats in a position to vote for electoral reform are willing to do so, the Republicans who are scared of the conservative third parties’ spoiler effect will be willing to join in a bipartisan effort with the threatened Democrats.

  41. 41
    colnago80

    Re pocketnerd @ #34

    Shorter pocketnerd: No difference between Clinton and Jeb Bush. Just like your compatriots in Florida and New Hampshire in 2000 claimed that there was no difference between Gore and Dubya. How did that work out.

    By the way, if pocketnerd lives in a red state like Texas or Utah or a blue state like Maryland or Massachusetts, a protest vote for the Green Party candidate is just fine with me. It’s in the purple states where the election will be decided that is not fine.

  42. 42
    pocketnerd

    Thus Spake Zaracolnago80:

    Shorter pocketnerd: No difference between Clinton and Jeb Bush.

    … Except that’s not at all what I said. Your deliberate misrepresentation of my argument suggests you don’t think you’re capable of making a persuasive counter-argument.

  43. 43
    colnago80

    Re pocketnerd @ #42

    Well gee, considering that you presented an entire paragraph bad mouthing Hillary Clinton, I took it that you would not vote for her if she ran against Jeb Bush. If so, then one can only conclude that, in your mind, they don’t differ. How about if she ran against Rick Santorum?

    And my argument is very simple. Since I consider Supreme Court nominees to be among the most important thing a president does because the influence of their decisions lasts long after he leaves office, I give it great weight. All we have to do is compare Alito and Roberts with Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer, and Ginsburg. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing more to be said.

  44. 44
    pocketnerd

    Thus Spake Zaracolnago80:

    Well gee, considering that you presented an entire paragraph bad mouthing Hillary Clinton, I took it that you would not vote for her if she ran against Jeb Bush. If so, then one can only conclude that, in your mind, they don’t differ. How about if she ran against Rick Santorum?

    Your conclusions do not follow from your premises; you’re committing the fallacy of the excluded middle. My statement that I’d prefer a genuine liberal to Hillary Clinton does not imply there’s no difference between Clinton and Jeb Bush. I’m also reasonably certain you’re smart enough to know this; you simply aren’t arguing in good faith.

    I voted for Gore. I voted for Kerry. I voted for Obama. In all likelihood, in a Clinton-versus-anybody-the-GOP-would-nominate 2016 election, I’ll vote for Clinton. I’m merely starting to think that attitude may be part of the problem with modern US politics.

  45. 45
    colnago80

    Re pocketnerd @ #44

    Fair enough. I rescind my previous charge. I too would greatly prefer many of the
    Democrats who have been mentioned as possible 2016 candidates, particularly Elizabeth Warren. Unfortunately, the recent SCOTUS decision means that any challenge to Clinton faces an even steeper climb as she is heavily favored by the mountebanks of the Democratic Party. From what I have read, Andrew Cuomo would be even worse then Clinton.

  46. 46
    pocketnerd

    Thus Spake Zaracolnago80:

    Fair enough. I rescind my previous charge.

    Well… I wasn’t expecting that. Thank you, sir. I retract my statement that you aren’t arguing in good faith.

    I too would greatly prefer many of the Democrats who have been mentioned as possible 2016 candidates, particularly Elizabeth Warren. Unfortunately, the recent SCOTUS decision means that any challenge to Clinton faces an even steeper climb as she is heavily favored by the mountebanks of the Democratic Party. From what I have read, Andrew Cuomo would be even worse then Clinton.

    You’re not wrong. And McCutcheon v. FEC just made it even harder to find a Democrat who won’t pander to the robber barons.

    If anybody has any bright ideas, now’s a good time.

  47. 47
    colnago80

    Re pocketnerd @ #46

    The only Democrat who has been mentioned who might have a chance to raise enough money to compete with Hillary is Virginia Senator Mark Warner. Warner, representing a conservative state has been a moderate Democrat, not a Blue Dog but also not an Elizabeth Warren. On the other hand, consider Senator Gillibrand of New York who was a Blue Dog Democrat representing a conservative Upstate New York district as a congresswoman but subsequently moved to the left after being appointed to the Senate seat. Warner might well undergo a similar shift if he were to run for the Democratic nomination. Of course, he has to retain his Senate seat in November first. I just don’t see Warren or Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, both of whom would be considered to the left of Hillary, being able to compete financially with her. But, of course, the same thing could have been said about Obama in 2008.

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