With low enthusiasm expected from Democratic base voters and the new flood of money created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, Congressional Democrats are terrified that they are being dramatically outspent by shadowy, corporate-funded, outside campaigns. Sadly, instead of using their complete control of the federal government to reform this situation, they have taken to simply whining. From Politico:
Twice in the past week, House Democrats used closed-door meetings with Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver an urgent message: They’re being crushed on the airwaves by outside groups, and they need her to do something about it.
[A]ccording to an internal Democratic spreadsheet obtained by POLITICO, there is a canyon-size gap between the two parties right now when it comes to spending by outside groups.
As of Monday, pro-Republican third-party organizations had paid for a total of $23.6 million worth of ads, while Democratic-aligned groups had spent just $4.8 million on TV.
I’m very concerned about this problem, but extremely unsympathetic to the Congressional Democrats who are complaining about it. For progressives, the corrupting influence of money in politics has always been a serious concern, and I strongly wish big-spending corporations and wealthy individuals were not trying to buy our government. I deeply want to see campaign finance reform.
But I am not in sympathy with House Democrats. Despite having the power and the time to deal with this long-term, systemic problem, the Majority did nothing. Third-party spending has been a concern for decades, and the Citizens United ruling was a year ago. That was plenty of time for them to respond with hardcore campaign finance reform, with tough disclosure laws, and public financing of elections. Democrats clearly should have seen the big spending onslaught coming, yet leadership failed to even pass the incredibly weak DISCLOSE Act. (Ironically, many of the same blue dogs who did not want campaign finance reform are the same ones who will lose their seats thanks to big outside spending against them.)
In what I can only call “political malpractice,” Democrats failed to use their historic majorities to correct wrongs and reform broken systems that systematically disadvantage Democrats and Democratic-leaning segments. Instead of complaining about being outspent by shadowy corporate groups, Democrats could have joined the rest of the first world Democracies and leveled the playing field with public campaign financing legislation.
Democrats should have used this moment to fix their horrible historic mistake that has disenfranchised the mainly African American and overwhelmingly Democratic citizens of Washington, DC. They missed a huge moment in which they could have passed DC statehood, failing to even get the District a single voting member of Congress.
Instead of merely fretting about low youth turnout, they could have provided large grants to states to fund same-day registration, electronic voter registration, and early voting programs—all of which would make it easier for young people to vote.
Of course, pushing these things through against the Republican Senate minority would have required finally amending the rules that allow for a filibuster, something Democrats could do in 10 minutes if they wanted to. Instead of improving a broken system that structurally disadvantages Democrats, they have chosen to treat the shameful filibuster as sacrosanct, even as Republicans’ abuse of it has totally crushed Democrats’ re-election prospects.
This pathetic whining from Democrats about problems they could and should have fixed is deeply depressing. It is like watching someone starve to death because they are too lazy to walk to their fully stocked kitchen.